Artist Pritwish Daw presents and discusses his layered mixed-media project, recently included in EAS’s Calling Across the Distance exhibition. Here he reflects on issues and questions embedded in the work--opening awareness while provoking deeper looking, re-consideration and understanding.
What does it mean to ‘Call across the distance’?
‘Distance’ is such a word which, after hearing it, you have to take a pause or a sudden break. In our society today, there are many such distances or invisible walls which we always maintain--some are absolutely unnecessary and yet exist. The social media storm has eradicated any distance between two people who are absolutely unrelated yet connected. Funnily though, the very medium has created distance among those who actually are in close proximity at ever increasing rates.
Distance also means the lack of understanding or the ability to grip a concept that exists in society. For example, we still shun away from eunuchs but ask for them to be acknowledged as the "third gender" on social networks -- that is quite the "social distancing". Our education system, that gives us our basic education, is weak. It does not have enough strength to even help us bridge our own minor gaps in understanding.
But never lose hope. All the small changes in our society, that we get to know, are the achievements of the educated that can lead to enlightenment.
What is the life of a sex worker?
Prostitution is the oldest business that was ever conducted and does not have any form of social respect. It is such a profession that can never be shut down, even if tried at any and all levels. Prostitutes are members the society will always be separate and never acknowledged as a part of the societal construct. The hunger of the flesh and the lusty desire of many draw them to those who provide this service. This has been going on, to the best of my knowledge, since the beginning of the East India Company in the heart of the British capital, Calcutta or Kolkata, known as a Sonagachi. We have two responses, when we face them in the eye of society, to walk past in shame or just look and not respond. No civil man, from any walk of life, can deny the subtle enjoyment they derive when they behold their revealing flesh, but they lack the courage to do anything further than walk away. North Kolkata’s Sonagachi district is Asia’s largest red light area. Many movies, documentaries, web series and books have been spawned to articulate this realty, but one can never really fathom what the life of sex worker is truly like.
What does ‘education’ really mean?
The term ‘education’ doesn’t have one universal meaning for all. Bookish and social knowledge both play a big part in how we grow up to become functional members of society. Those who we consider educated people sometimes commit acts that are absolutely unimaginable from such a person. Education can be an allegorical term that is not understood by everyone. India possesses both highly qualified individuals and mediocre individuals who have protested for many issues but never, in true essence, for education.
We have imitated many things from the West and others but have not been able to grip the base of what education really means.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Prithwish Daw lives in Kolkata, where he earned a BFA from the Indian College
of Art and Draftsmanship. His work has been shown in numerous group shows,
including a group project at the Kochi-Student Biennal, as well as
Emergent Art Space’s 2017 “Translations” exhibition in Kolkata and
2020 international online exhibition “Calling Across the Distance”.