A common question that all artists are often confronted with, from viewers, critics and peers alike is- from where do you get the ideas for your work? Or who has inspired you?
As authors and creators of cultural artifacts, the act of being linked to a lineage of creative predecessors is a common effort. Across centuries, literary theories have sought to address the complex process of creation. The idea of a creative genius – the free and autonomous human being who creates unique works of art unhindered by external influences – is a product of the humanist ideas of the Enlightenment period in 18th century Europe. Prior to this artists were seen as members of a specific group of artisans but the desire to move the artist and more specifically the writer to the marketplace where his work would draw an economic value and yet not be evaluated on the basis of manual labor demanded the attribution of the creative process to a singular mind- the “genius”.
However, cinema has been continually confronted with the problem of determining who the actual author of a cinematographic work is primarily because films see the confluence of technology, art and economic factors. Films are the product of a collaborative effort and at the same time, filmmaking has been influenced by technology. However, technology is not a neutral force but requires economic, artistic as well as political decisions.
Persistence Resistance 2010 brought these issues on a common platform through extensive discussions with the following filmmakers: Bishaka Datta, Avijit Mukul Kishore, Manjira Datta, Kesang Tseten, Supriyo Sen and Saba Dewan. Each of these filmmakers had a different experience to share regarding their creative processes and deconstructed their art of filmmaking.
So while Abhijit Mukul Kishore’s work has to a large extent been dominated by his relationship to his camera, Bishaka Datta’s chance encounter with another documentary “Life and Times of Harvey Milk” marked her fascination with the form of documentaries. Manjira Datta’s encounter with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s literature was an instrumental factor in deciding the form of her film. Saba Dewan’s development and creative process as an artist has been dictated to a large extent by her forays in to rural India, her engagement with landless peasants and agricultural economies. And Supriyo and Kesang both provide different interpretations of the art of ethnographic filmmaking.
While Supriyo’s film “Way Back Home” domesticizes ethnography in order to glean narratives of Partition, Kesang’s process of filming crosses the lines of observational filmmaking, investigative journalism and story-telling.
It is difficult to pin down notions of creations, inspiration and authorship to a singular arc. What is however true is the fact that there is no brooding romantic genius at work here but from the discussions it is evident that authorial positions and the act of creation can in fact change within the lifetime of an individual. In fact, an artist’s life and work needs to be approached from this cultural standpoint rather than an individualized, isolated process.