TUSHAR JOAG: THE ARTIST & THE CYNIC
By Rudradeep Bhattacharjee
It was ironic, I thought, that I was interviewing Tushar Joag on the day of the BMC elections.
Here, after all, was someone who spent his waking hours doing things like developing a special vending cart for hawkers that, on the approach of raiding BMC officials, folds up and morphs into a 'Shanghai Couch' - a contraption more "acceptable and up to the standards of the planned makeover of the city"! Or designing Commuter Attachment Systems (CAS!) - foothold accessories for hanging by the door, accessory seats, folding tables for playing cards - in order to ease the inconvenience of train commuters during rush hour!
The Public Works Cell - Counterpoint of the Public Works Department?
Tushar Joag calls himself a public intervention artist. I was intrigued by his 'art', and equally disturbed by, what seemed to me, the cynicism that ran through his work. Believing there is no place for cynicism in art, I was ready to ask some tough questions. I began by expressing my curiosity about the name of his organisation: UnicellPWC.
PWC, he informs me, stands for Public Works Cell - in the spirit of the notorious Public Works Department; UNICELL is short for unicellular. It is a single-person organisation run under an assumed identity of a corporate. The aim - "to create works of art that seek to make interventions in the urban space, by designing and producing objects that while being functional and aesthetic bring into focus the various concerns of the immediate situation."
The Turning Point...
Tushar traces back the reasons behind starting UNICELL to Open Circle, an artists' initiative co-founded by him. As part of Open Circle, he was instrumental in organising study circles, public actions, protests and other interventionist strategies of art making and amateur activism. The experience left him dissatisfied. Being an amateur activist was all right, but his field was art. As an artist, he found his creativity restricted. He wanted to do more than merely design placards and posters.