What is common between performance art and political rally?
Opportunism through media gaze?!!!
Take recent two instances.
Firstly the Russian all women music band called Pussy Riot which was sentenced to jail for two years for performing a protest- art against Russian president Putin. Band argued that they have the right to express their artistic view in a democracy. Rightly so.
Secondly two major political rally performances that staged violence in the city of Mumbai within gap of 10 days ; terrorizing the city for a political motive. Both the organizing parties argued that in a democracy they have right to protest against issues close to their heart. Again Rightly so.
Who is Pussy Riot? An unknown female band came in public limelight for being jailed for two years for singing protest songs against President Putin in a Russian church. This all female member punk rock band established in 2011 conducts political protests in various parts of Russia through their music and staged art performances. Although their music is hardly to reckon with and is often called childish , amateurs and cacophonic . What Pussy riot is famous for is their bizarre ways of protest performed in public spheres. Which includes setting fires to police cars, simulating sexual acts in shopping windows , disrupting public events and finally singing protest songs in church . All their acts are documented and released in public platforms like youtube and other forums by which they generate media attention. As per wikipedia "Pussy Riot’s performances can either be called dissident art or political action that engages art forms. Either way, their performances are a kind of civic activity amidst the repressions of a corporate political system that directs its power against basic human rights and civil and political liberties."
This is an instance of art 'performed as' politics. or what is called political art. Result today Pussy Riot is recognized world wide. All so called rich and famous are supporting the band members and their art.
Lets look at Mumbai rallies. On 11th August Raza academy called for a protest rally to register their protest against killing of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. A well scripted event went violent after some incited speeches and the crowd went violent. The crowd who had come prepared with arsenal attacked police, media OB vans and public property. 2 Persons died and many police men got wounded.
This was act no 1.
Why I call it performance?
Here clearly and cleverly 'violence' was performed '. You may take any meaning out of it. Plight or might? whatever. There was no doubt August 11 rally in Mumbai was pure political performance.
Then comes act 2. If August 11 showed people's strength on street at 12000 people. August 21st rally drew crowds estimated to be 50,000 odd people. Organised by Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) headed by Raj Thackeray. Everything of 21st August party was a political theatre at its best. Right from police denying the permission and making it illegal gathering, then granting permission last minute. Thackeray's defiance. His quintessential dramatic speech which lasted for 20 minutes, (but had all the trappings of a bollywood entertainment of 3 hour movie. Paisa vasool) . A policeman offering rose at the end of the speech to Thackeray. Everything was scripted , performed and executed to perfection. People clapped. Skeptics vowed. As columnist Shobha Dey said it was a political master stroke, and with a class entertainment.
This is an instance of politics performed as art or theatre.
Result today MNS and its head Raj Thackeray is a powerful entity in Mumbai. Raj Thackeray has achieved his goal in shunting the top cop out of Mumbai and has sent the message to masses he is the NEW boss.
What seems common in both events is provocation as a strategy. Strategy that seems work perfectly through media. I do not intend to make any judgement by saying whether Pussy Riot deserved to be jailed or MNS chief needs to be applauded or condemned for his provocative stance. What I want to point out is the 'performative' aspect of a political and artistic practice which remain at the level of 'symbolism'. In today's media defined reality, art and politics are two sides of same coin. Both work on one principle.
Stage . Perform. Enjoy.