Most of us are perpetually caught up in a hurricane of questions; questions that tease us, haunt us, keep us tossing and turning all night. We chase them around and around, rising and falling in their dizzy dance. At the eye of the hurricane lies a single question, blinking innocently at us in its stillness. As we enter it, all the rest fall away, and we are left with the only question worth answering: What is real?
This is The Question; the one that philosophers, artists, writers and monks have struggled with through the ages. It is the tapeworm that eats through your brain, and it is the white flash of enlightenment. The questions of illusion and reality are inextricably linked, for they are a single question, feeding on itself like an ouroboros: What is real?
In the sacred Hindu and Buddhist texts, we live in a world of maya – the mist of illusion that veils reality from us – and we must learn how to see through these illusions if we are to ever arrive at the truth. According to Plato, we live our lives like prisoners chained up in a cave, only able to see shadows cast on the cave walls and hear echoes of sound, ignorant of the fire of truth roaring behind us.
Plato also held that all art was imitation, and, therefore, illusion. The question of reality versus illusion is one that every artist grapples with, each expressing their answers in their own unique way.
New media artist Surabhi Saraf introduces us to the illusion of sound. She incorporates everyday auditory stimuli into her work; familiar sounds we tie to specific places or moments. She then gathers these strings and weaves a web of illusion, leaving the audience balanced precariously on the edge of meaning.
Singer-songwriter Rachel Varghese challenges the concept of the musician's persona, shape-shifting through various performances and genres. With a vocal range that can stir up the pulse or soothe the soul, she shatters illusions from the moment she opens her mouth.
Artist Gayatri Shantaram swims in a sea of illusions that blossom across her canvases. Elusive motifs slip in and out of her work, as textures talk and colours sing. Each painting appears to be guarding a secret, but her little birds keep their beaks firmly closed as they spread their wings.
Illusions are everything in the multidimensional works of Raghava KK. Two-headed tigers take on the world while familiar visages explode with roses and whales. We lose ourselves as we fall through the rabbit-hole of his imagination, and, as we sift through the layers of incredibility, we find ourselves too.
Like the freed prisoner in Plato's Cave, we may never be sure which side the reality lies on – the fire, or the shadows it casts. Perhaps nothing is an illusion. Perhaps everything is.
Every sunbeam, every strain of music, every sapling and starfish is ultimately the regeneration of a previous something, a collection of somethings, taking on new shape. At the most indivisible level we can comprehend, all life is nothing more than atoms and molecules dancing their way through various forms. And if everything comes from something, it stands to reason that everything must go to something as well.Read More