INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: A Curator By All Means Necessary
Adarsh Chandran meets Johny ML, a renowned art curator who has his roots in Trivandrum.
On Jul 18, 2010


He may not come under the classic term of genius, but surely he has sparks of it.

Johny ML is all about art, words and thoughts. The Delhi-based contemporary art curator comes across a genuine human being--one who values one's roots and relationships.

It would not be fair to term Johny as just an art curator. He is a writer, a culture critic, a journalist and a translator. He is a pioneer in Video Art in India.

Johny hails from Trivandrum--he was born and brought up in a backwater village called Vakkom, near Attingal. He first came to Trivandrum city for his studies. “We people are blessed to be born in that time (in the 1970s). It was a period after a turbulent political turmoil, a period of creative revolution. The cultural and literary life of Kerala at that time was rich in character. I am thankful for those formative days," says Johny.

He has presented many programmes in ‘Aakashavani’ (AIR) and ‘Doordarsan’. He has also served as a teacher in several parallel colleges.

During his student days itself, he showed great enthusiasm for arts and literature. Reading has always been his life-long passion. A student of English Literature, Johny was passionate and determined about chasing his dream of a career in art.

After completing his Post-Graduation in English Language and Literature from the Kerala University, he went to the prestigious MS University in Baroda to pursue a degree in Art History. The aesthetic charm and theoretical difficulties of art history refined and moulded him to be a creative man. "After completing my Post-Graduation in Art History, I went to Delhi. There after, I got an opportunity to study in the UK under the Charles Wallace scholarship.”

INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: A Curator By All Means Necessary
Johny in Paris

After returning to Delhi, he concentrated on a different medium--Video Art. That time ‘Video Art’ was little known in the country. He made some valuable contributions in collecting and retrieving the new modern art forms in India and made a creative space for this special art form in the country. He could rightly be called a pioneer of modern ‘Video Art’ in India.

Johny is encourated by the response to the new art form. "It is a new medium, which gives a lot of space to the artist to experiment. It envisages the artist with all the technological possibilities. I have been constantly curating such kinds of video art across the country and the response from the spectators is overwhelming."

Last month Johny was in Trivandrum to curate the video art titled ‘Black Cube’ as part of the 3rd International Documentary and Short Film Festival, and he felt comfortable enough to host an exhibition, which is new to Malayali audience.

"All that happened very fast. One of my friends telephoned me to curate a show as part of the fest. So I took it as a privilege to host an exhibition here. But the time limit and step motherly attitude from the authorities made things difficult in the beginning," he adds.

He is sure that as a new art medium for self-expression, Video Art will get due respect from the festival authorities the next time. He also has many plans to experiment the medium using the buildings and monuments of Trivandrum.

INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: A Curator By All Means Necessary
Johny in front of the Kairali theatre, Trivandrum, when he came to curate 'Black Cube'
INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: A Curator By All Means Necessary
Johny in front of a painting by KM Madhusudanan

Johny had a different take on the attitude of common people towards modern art and cinema here in the state. He feels that it is the artists who should be blamed for making the audience move away from modern art. “It could only be changed through proper education and relentless efforts in making them aware of the importance of these art forms,” says Johny.

The modern day life is continuously being subjected to changes, and a new cultural space is evolving out of this. New terms are being coined among the public and it is making a new wave in our day-to-day communication.

“I find that the viewers here are enjoying a new realm of visual experience. They are physically participating in a creative way. We cannot silence them at the theatres. They are all reacting to the situation instantly." He also points out that it would be really interesting to study the behavioral pattern of the audience.

Even though he was transplanted to a big city where life is at a faster pace, his heart is with Trivandrum. He has a deep-rooted bonding with the city, which has played a significant role in making Johny what he is now. He is thankful to the people of Kerala for their great support for him as a writer.

“After completing my studies I had no idea as to where and how to begin my life. S Jayanchandran Nair sir, editor of ‘Samakalika Malayalam’, I regard him as my mentor, gave me an opportunity to write in the weekly and appointed me as its Delhi correspondent. Also my translations of some famous books were well received in Kerala.”

In the era of lost values, Johny feels that writing and reading are the two things a creative person needs to sustain. His passion for writing reflects in his blog - ‘By All Means Necessary’. It can be accessed at www.johnyml.blogspot.com. It is a comprehensive and authentic web page exclusively for the modern-day art writings. Even the latest posting based on the theme ‘Burqua Images’ gives you an insightful knowledge of the contemporary modern-art form.

Johny has a number of projects in his kitty and his book, a collection of poetry, is near completion. He is also working on a Malayalam translation of a book by the famous writer Rober Bolano. He also plans to create a cyber space for the artists spread across the country for day-to-day get-togethers.

He lives with his companion Mrinal Kulkarni and two children, with many plans for Trivandrum.

Adarsh Chandran

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