Through The Barrel
Through The Barrel5 mins 157 5 mins 157
If you were from the 21st century, you’d see the strange metallic carts and vegetables and think you were in some futuristic vegetable market. But you’d be wrong. No market has a tomato the size of a pumpkin. Or a pumpkin the size of a grape. Or a grape as long as a noodle. Such creations could only exist in a 56th century art exhibition.
Like every year, the Platinum Vege-Art Convention had some extremely stringent entry criteria. Bio-engineers worked for decades with vege-artists in trying to be eligible for this extraordinary convention. They manipulated genomes, coaxed the right pairings and sometimes even tried to match the right bee with the right flower. Sure the bees would sting. But that had never stopped any vege-artist truly dedicated to their craft.
Hence Sujita Brurti was nervous. After a strenuous 16-year process, she had made her first vege-art. This accelerated development as an artist was in itself a great feat. But as a daughter of the greatest vege-artist of the century, Sujita felt that her creation could only be a little slice of imli to her father’s famed all-mango - a mango that morphed into every other mango including an haapus. That’s the sort of genius Vikrat Brurti possessed. In the face of that, whatever Sujita did would never be good enough.
And yet. Like every artist that has ever lived, Sujita loved her creation. To be given grades for something in which she put her very soul was an unsavoury prospect. What could she ever gain from that grade? How much more would this world keep testing her? And after all this what is it that they think she would do?
Get back to work of course. Make her next vege-art. What else really was there for her to do? Sure, Sujita had many friends and numerous interests. But she knew that if she didn’t make vege-art she’d soon lose interest in everything else.
So even when Sujita hated such events she loved them. She loved to discover the work of other artists. At times there would of course be intense pangs of jealousy. And some pieces of art would just feel wrong to Sujita. But she liked these feelings. She liked knowing that art could always be something different.
That’s why Sujita had done the riskiest thing ever. In a sense it really was a process of letting go. But it took Sujita a lot of effort to not interfere, to just let her work take its own shape.
Now she would have to present it. Sujita observed the panel of judges passing by each piece of vege-art. Exhibit A was a cactus with diamond bristles. Exhibit B was a crawler shaped to form the words of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Somewhere in the corner was exhibit H, a more minimal experiment that Sujita felt was closest to her artistic outlook - Just a rose but with no thorns.
After an excruciating half an hour that felt infinitely longer to Sujita, the judges stepped in front of her vege-art. With the deepest sense of satisfaction, Sujita noted their confused expression. Slowly the judges grew more and more agitated.
‘What nonsense is this participant Sujita?’ exclaimed the hip young judge.
‘You call this vege-art? How horrendous!’ Spoke an anguished elderly panellist.
Sujita felt even more satisfied. Without trying to hide her pride, Sujita spoke ‘Honourable judges, I value your feedback. But this is my vision. Maybe you just can’t see it.’
The dazed and infuriated critics walked away in a huff. After all they had many more exhibits to examine. But it would be a lie to say that they did so with a complete sense of certainty. That after many years they did not in fact question whether they really knew everything.
Now the Platinum Vege-Art Convention was finally open to a general audience. Many of them were here only to get their 3D holograms clicked with a vege-art and share it on their broadcast network. But Sujita knew that it was too easy to look down on them. After all didn’t artists too seek fame and attention? A beautifully clicked hologram was also art, thought Sujita.
Now that her work was done Sujita turned towards the exit, feeling both the high of having finished with a project and a certain emptiness. But she knew better than to quickly begin working on something else. Sujita knew that she needed to immerse herself in life as well.
In the now crowded convention, a teenager walked past the Shakespeare crawlers, the rainbow-coloured apples, the dancing grapes and even the musical brinjals. But when the teenager came to Sujita’s exhibit, he paused.
This would have pleased Sujita.
In front of the young man was Sujita’s vege-art, a growing young sapling. It had no genetic mutations, no splicing, no fancy shapes or moves. But unlike everything else at the convention, Sujita’s vege-art told a story.
This was something vege-artists had seemingly forgotten about. They had spent the last few centuries in making things more and more complicated. They played with ribosomes, nucleic acid and mitochondria, presenting these dazzling tricks that said nothing. After all what’s the point really of a mango that can look like every other mango?
But Sujita’s art did say something. On a soil in the cart was placed an old gun barrel and through this cylindrical tube, grew a young sapling. A gun was now spouting life with only the sun, the breeze and some water to guide the sapling’s growth.
In a world where anything could be made, the miracle perhaps was that the world still seemed to have something deep within itself, a yearning to live, to grow despite all odds.
Is that what she wants to say? The teenager wondered. But he wasn’t sure. That’s the other thing. We can never be sure about what an artist wants to say. Perhaps we never will.
What we do know is that a sapling can grow through a gun’s barrel.