If you make a pun that nobody gets ...

A colleague and I were in an art gallery in Virginia killing some time before we went to a restaurant when I ran across this piece:
The writing on the piece is the Tamil alphabet, almost like the alphabetaries or samplers used in Early American cross-stitch.

The title of the piece, "Senthamil" is a pun. It could mean "written Tamil", as opposed to spoken Tamil (more than most languages, written Tamil is very formal and spoken Tamil is very informal: they are referred to as Senthamil and Kochaitamil respectively). The word "sen" in Tamil also means "red". And red is the predominant color in the piece.

So, here's what I'm wondering: Why would an artist who creates a fusion piece by marrying an Indian script with an American folk art form decide to give it a title that would make sense only to a small minority of his viewers? After all, what was the chance that any Tamil-speaking person would ever see that piece of art?
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1 comment:

  1. when i do such things it's because a) they entertain the first and most important member of my audience, i.e. me, and b) because i utterly resent the idea of catering to the eurocentric ignorance of my supposed audience.

    not to mention, if artists took out everything in their work that would only make sense to "a small minority of their viewers", the results...well, even the dogs playing poker paintings require some cultural knowledge.