The turn of the 20th and the 21st century is a very interesting period for humankind. On the one hand, there is a growing internationalist tendency which makes us look for common values and universal culture. On the other hand, the centrifugal tendencies lead to the revival of new forms of nationalism and national identity. Integrative tendencies are an unquestioned fact of every aspect of societal life. In this case, Art & Culture make an appearance as the centrifugal tendency and national identity.
Culture is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that define a group of people, such as the people of a particular region. Culture includes elements that characterise a particular peoples’ way of life. Present-day Anthropologists use the term to refer to the universal human capacity to classify experiences and to encode and communicate them symbolically. This may be considered as the integral element to get a visual or intangible identity of a community or a particular nation like India.
The word culture is derived from the Latin root cultura or cultus meaning to “inhabit, cultivate, or “honour. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “Culture is a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organisation.” In general, culture refers to human activity; different definitions of culture reflect different theories for understanding or criteria for valuing human activity.
Art is the vast subdivision of culture composed of many creative endeavours and disciplines. The arts encompass visual arts, literary arts and the performing arts. It influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time.
Research has shown that Art affects the fundamental sense of self. Art in this sense is communication; it allows people from different cultures and different times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories. It is often used as a vehicle for national identity. It can give voice to the politically or socially disenfranchised. A song, film or novel can rouse emotions in those who encounter it, inspiring them to revive the sense of change and, in a broader side, it calls for unity and ultimately leads to the sense of nationalism.
In many cases, it is often considered that nationalism, in general, comes into existence in the aesthetic consciousness. It calls for the revival of the inherited national heritage which is forgotten or ditched somewhere between events or time.
Art is essentially grounded speculations upon an emotional/corporeal community or nation. In most cases, nationalist sentiment remains within the realm of self-consciousness because nationalism is ultimately a feeling of common identity not based entirely upon rational or intellectual reasoning.
Art is an aptly suited medium to describe this aesthetic consciousness of nationalism. As a result, the tangible object such as the bordered nation-state or a work of art plays a central role in establishing a national identity and produces a tangible expression of the intangible community or nationalist sentiment. In other words, artistic representation and visual culture facilitate the creation of a sense of community and are aptly suited to describe and interpret nationalist sentiment within the nation.
However, in today’s world, it’s often considered that with the globalisation and the liberalisation processes, the inherited culture of a nation is getting diminished or not given utmost focus upon. The new generation isn’t accepting the inherited culture of a community or a nation as their national identity or a token of their existence as a community. However, it somehow remains as a cosmopolitan element tying up the roots of the community with the newer generation, as a medium of communication.
It’s often seen in the forms of songs, films, plays and different indigenous instruments. However, these too have fallen into the cycle of modernisation to an extent and ultimately lose its significance as the identity of a nation or community. Though the “folklore” reduces its significance, with the digital platforms, these are reviving and promoting innovatively to give a sense of the roots of one’s culture to the newer generations.
In the book Social Identity Theory, it’s said that people determine their identity based on who they are not and what makes them different from others. In the usual circumstances, in this capacity, they rely on stereotypes about their community and that of others. To achieve this positive identity, groups will tend to compare themselves positively with contrasting out-groups. In this case, inherited Art & Culture contains the core element with which people can relate to and find dear to them. It helps them to make an identity of their own, based on the common cultural values and aesthetics.
When we look for the example of Poland during WWII, though it was dominated by the Nazis, it didn’t leave its national identity as Polish rather tried to revive it after getting freedom. Same happened to the countries which were under the vicious colonisation process.
As a case study, we can look upon the case of India, where Art & Culture truly defines its values and ideals that are imbibing in its very essence. For instance, earlier, Hindu temples, customs and rituals displayed its age-old traditions and ideals upon which the nation was known. Later, the inclusions of various communities into the mainstream and with the synthesis of the foreign and indigenous elements, it took a secular form. And, now all these make the very identity of India as a secular nation in both cultural and national identity.
By examining the development of artistic discourse in the definition of the intangible national community of India, the particularity of the Indian people is taken into account, producing a truer image of India as a nation. Because art and visual culture, in general, indicate a collective identity and create an imagined community, the reactions of Indian artists to the introduction of Western aesthetic ideals during the colonial period and into the present create an artistic discourse which mirrors the overall political situation of the country.
The nature and evolution of the artistic contact between national and foreign influences in India mirror the efforts of the administrative state in establishing a sense of nationalism among the individual citizens of the country.
Art not only creates unity among individuals but also tangibly indicates an intangible community. In Hegelian philosophy, art is the idea as shaped forward into reality and as having advanced to immediate unity and correspondence with this reality. In Hegel’s view, art realises historical processes and ideas in a tangible form.
By viewing art as a tangible indicator of the larger historical process, the history of a nation is interpreted through the creative process that entails an individual reaction to historical events. Hence, nationalism is ultimately a feeling of common identity not based entirely upon rational or intellectual reasoning, art is an aptly suited medium to describe this aesthetic consciousness of nationalism.
As a result, the tangible object such as the bordered nation-state or a work of art plays a central role in establishing a national identity. It produces a tangible expression of the intangible community or nationalist sentiment.