Gerhard Richter, the German painter, said, "Art is the highest form of hope." During this pandemic, we have suffered the collective rise of seriously terrifying Instagram artists who baked strange floral breads, decoupaged everything in their home (barely missed the sleeping baby) and posted horrendous art hoping you’d click the heart icon and offer gushing comments about their creativity.
Apps like Picasa made everyone believe that Da Vinci missed painting their portraits by a few centuries. Filmmakers succumbed to shooting about isolation and some of the good ones made it to Netflix too. Even I gave in to the temptation and started a YouTube channel called Caferati Studio for poets and storytellers.
Thankfully, there are fabulous documentaries and films on Netflix that offer a great pause to this ‘express yourself’ culture and show us how true artists create some of the best art today.
The first season of Abstract: The Art of Design will show you how our surroundings dictate design. Imagine the thinking that went behind the signature Michael Jordan Nikes! Who and why and how are cars designed. Is it just aesthetics or is it science? But, it is the second season that fascinated me more. From Olafur Eliasson’s awe inspiring waterfall, and his use of mirror and colour to show us how we perceive art.
It is a simple thing really: There may be one rainbow in the sky, but we each perceive the rainbow differently. And interpret the rainbow according to what we are feeling at that moment.
As Olafur Eliasson says, "Art is the world’s ability to investigate and have a relationship with itself."
As you watch the series, you discover how architects have had to rethink their idea of buildings according to the weather and the geography of the place. Although they do not mention India, if you have stayed anywhere in the Konkan coast, you would have experienced a certain coolness inside the homes built with the local ‘Chira’ or laterite stones. I love the red oxide flooring which requires a skill that is sadly now very rare… These buildings and structures that use light and materials which make ecological sense are simply amazing.
Not everything in the art world is kosher, though. Made You Look is a super fun and an eye-opening documentary on thieves who replicate great artists' impunity. While some of us may let a Matisse stay neglected in the attic because you think it’s your great aunt’s art class canvas, and others copy a Rothko or a Reza and try to pass it off as an original. They will even weave a narrative around the fake: He was getting wet in the rain, and I asked him in. He recovered from fever and in his delirious state painted this…
Art is everywhere. And if you are impressed with clever Tintin murals on walls of buildings in Brussels, you will love The Posterist. This documentary tells you the story of movie posters in Hong Kong. Hand painted and visualised, they are the essence of action films that came out of that city.
If that’s not enough, be prepared to get into the minds of these animation greats. How did they create these awesome anime characters? What was the thinking? Are these guys completely crazy?
Print the Legend will make you want to throw away that boring old printer that eats ink cartridges for breakfast, and invest in something much, much cooler: A 3D printer. It’s technology which can help you create art. It’s technology that is being used today to design arms and legs and joints for people who need that body part. The joy on the child’s face when he catches a ball cannot be compared with the smirk of a self-proclaimed anarchist who has just shot from a printed gun. But they both exist and the law that is slow to understand technology and even slower to implement will come into force some day.
Why should anyone watch this documentary of a bunch of nerds using laser and plastic to create toys? The song ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’ (Tears For Fears) which plays during the end credits is a fitting ribbon to tie the package of friends who start a company in the basement of their parents’ home and then grow and grow only to implode or fall apart because something is lost when the money comes in…
What fascinated me is how ‘open source’ ends up closing its doors when investors come in and the company begins to grow. It was wonderful to watch the quintessential nerds come together with amazing ideas and how they face up to the pressures of delivering products. Investors end up teaching them life lessons! Drown in design and tell us where your ‘that’s amazing’ moment lies!
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.