Form-Play, January 2019
We are forms. We live within the universe of forms. Each of us may have a different understanding of it.
Not always, are we aware of the ‘form’. And not that everyone is conscious of the nature of form. A philosopher, an artist or a scientist is known to be sensitive to form in its subtleness and obviousness, vividness and dullness. They can see through the form in their own ways and further create possibilities for others to see and reflect on it. As Prabhakar Barwe, a critically acclaimed visual artist shares in his book, The Blank Canvas,
the artist sees these forms in a very special way, quite different from how most people see them in daily life. What matters to him most are their interrelationships, the configurations that arise out of their juxtaposition..”(1)
An understanding of form cuts across disciplinary boundaries. It exists in ‘mutual interactions’ between mythical narrative and scientific work, suggests George Levine. Levine, while reflecting upon science and narrative form in Darwin and Dickens respectively, writes,
I want to consider the mutual interactions between scientific thought and the fictions the culture creates, and to regard scientific thought as, in a sense, one of those fictions. Science, Michel Serres has argued, has its source in the mythic, the bridging of the gaps of consciousness. There is a residue of the mythic in all literature, however realistic; that residue is detectable in the enterprises of science, too. For Serres, the great transformation in the nineteenth century was in the movement from the Newtonian-mechanical model of the world to the model of thermodynamics, the explosion of energy one sees in Turner’s paintings, for example. I want to argue that there was a parallel, biological transformation, whose presence in the consciousness and in the assumptions of nineteenth-century English writers was pervasive.(2)
Perception of form may vary from time to time and from space to space or can simultaneously exist in different time and space. In Bhakti tradition of the Varakaris, god is given a human form by addressing him/her in first person and second person singular pronoun. The Lord Vitthal/Pandurang of the Varakaris lives among them, bringing a sense of oneness. As Dilip Chitre writes,
God remains in their act of poetic remembrance and verbal expression, their deity dwells only metaphorically in Vaikunth or ‘heaven’. Pandurang, for them, is the cosmic spirit that is present simultaneously within all space and time, and also beyond.. the two forms cohere just as Shiva and Shakti cohere to create a cosmic creative resonance.(3)
Sant Tukaram’s writing complicates nature of form further when Tukaram writes:
I do not
Have to live
I do not
Have to die
I have no name
I am neither active
Nor passive. (4)
Thus, form is not just the construction of the text from within. It is also a construction by being responsive to the world outside its own and in the Bhakti tradition such as Varakari, where the inside and outside are not distinct but blurred. Taking ahead Tukaram’s tradition of oneness of form, Dilip Chitre has built his amazing poetic form by writing:
Tukaram in heaven,
Chitre in hell,
Sing the same song
Their bone derives
From the same stone
That stands erect at Pandharpur
In the shape of a god
It is Vitthala
who creates Sun and rain:
And Chitre’s pain
Are two faces
Of the same coin.
Counterfeit and divine. (5)
Form gets evolved through its engagement with context: real, historical, temporal or spatial. Therefore, supposedly timeless, universal nature of any kind of form cannot be achieved at the cost of cultural, political or historical readings. Thus, ‘close reading’ of the dynamics of form demands investigation from different view point. Mahatma Jotirao Phule in nineteenth century provided a newer and deeper understanding of looking at form. In his open Letter to the Conference of Marathi Authors (11 June 1885) or Marathi Granthakar Sabha, published in an issue of Dnyanodaya, was a response to the invitation sent to him by the Meet of authors to attend the meeting. In this letter, Phule questioned the validity of existing literary practices and forms for the society, which had been exploited by the dominant castes. He writes, “The feelings expressed in our meetings and books do not appear in books written by them or in their meeting. How will people with their heads in the clouds understand what adversities and troubles we have faced?”He further writes, “Your literature and our literature can never come together. Therefore, we will develop our own literature and will hold our own conferences.” In his attempts to carry forward the new form of expression for the society that denies its right to live, Mahatma Phule founded Satyashodkhak Jalsa. We are happy to have re-published two chapters on the nature of Satyashodhak Jalsa in our current edition of Form-Play. Phule’s alternative ways of looking at hierarchical human life and narrative forms, can be seen mirroring modern writings and visual arts practices in India. One such example is the fictional work of Marathi writer, Rajan Gavas which draws from the lives of devdasis, a tradition in Maharashtra. As Ashutosh Potdar proposes in his essay, ‘Field of Narrative’ (कथनाचे मैदान), we can’t just be qualifying the form because of its post-modern, non-linear, fragmented narrative structure. The linear narrative form, if explored powerfully, as Gavas does in his novels, can speak for multiple unheard voices in the mainstream society.
Thus, form is not singular or rigid, it moves. And, its reflections can also be seen in Hakara’s current edition of Form-Play.
In all, the ‘Form Play’ edition of Hakara is an attempt to present diverse ways of practicing and appreciating form. Locating the journey of form through the human mind, various societies, and from the contested history of time and space , this edition tries to cover a range of artistic, visual and narrative practices. We hope our viewers and readers would enjoy this edition of Hakara.
- Jesal Thacker, Gazing at Third Apple:Decoding Prabhakar Barwe’s Visual Cognition
- George Levine, Dickens and Darwin, Science, and Narrative Form, Texas Studies in Literature and Language,Vol. 28, No. 3, Literature of the Nineteenth Century (FALL 1986), pp. 250-280.
- Dilip Chitre, Earth and Bhakti, http://tukaram.com/english/articles/earth_chitre.htm.
- 222, Says Tuka, Trans. Dilip Chitre.
- Dilip Chitre, Tukaram in Heaven; Chitre in Hell, Indian Literature, Vol. 53, No. 6 (254) (November/December 2009), pp. 17-21.
Published before as Hakara Journal Editorial