Designer Challenges Art World Status Quo with 'All That Blue' Magazine
New Delhi- Among the multiple art magazines adorning the shelves, from cozy home corners to the grand halls of museums, the eyes might notice a resemblance in their aesthetic. They seem to cater predominantly to a particular caste and class, reflected even in the names of the featured artists, often sharing a common last name—an indication of the access to social capital. This realization has irked Siddhesh Gautam too, better known by his Instagram handle ‘bakeryprasad’, an advocate for Ambedkarite principles and a visionary designer. Determined to challenge this status quo, he embarked on a journey to bring his vision to life, conceptualising 'All That Blue' Magazine. The cover page of the inaugural edition has been released on social media, garnering positive response from everyone.
The magazine aims to provide a haven for art advocating for equality, dignity, and the fight against caste discrimination. Led by journalist Bhumika Saraswati, photographers Anurag Banerjee and Jaisingh Nageswaran, and artist Shrujana N Shridhar, it promises to capture the essence of the equality movement. The debut edition, scheduled for an April release to coincide with Babasaheb's birth anniversary, pays tribute to activist Babytai Kamble, blending art, activism, and advocacy into a tapestry of inspiration.
The Mooknayak spoke to the designer and the one of the editors of the magazine, Bhumika Saraswati about the need for the magazine, the necessity to look at art through the lens of caste and the challenges that they have been facing while bringing the project to completion.
An evening conversation led to the designer spilling the tea of the ideas that have been brewing in his mind, owing to his observation of the industry. Gautam revealed, “I've long felt a void in the publishing world, particularly within art magazines, which often seem to promote projects from a specific community and showcase a certain type of work. I wanted to create a platform that celebrates artists doing unique and unconventional work, breaking away from the mainstream. Despite initial confusion about how to proceed, I eventually realized that I needed to take matters into my own hands. I gathered a diverse team of editors and a skilled book designer, and together, we embarked on the journey of creating 'All That Blue' Magazine. Once the team was in place, things moved forward rapidly as we brainstormed ideas and defined the publication's ideology. It was a concept that had been brewing in my mind for a while, but it gained momentum quickly once we had the right team in place.”
Bhumika further delved into the goal that the team hopes to achieve from the magazine, while acknowledging the responsibility to feel a gap in the media. She added, “Our magazine is primarily visual, which is somewhat rare in India and South Asia where most magazines are text heavy. We noticed a wealth of visual literature in various communities, from autobiographies to other forms of visual storytelling, yet there wasn't a dedicated platform for it. So, we decided to create one. We wanted to provide a space for visual artists, such as photographers and illustrators, whose primary medium is visuals rather than words.”
“We aim to showcase ideas that may not find space in mainstream publications, challenging the dominance of a certain aesthetic or class in art spaces. Our goal is to bring together a diverse range of visuals under one roof, honouring them by publishing them in a tangible print magazine. We want our magazine to be something people can hold in their hands and display in their homes, celebrating the richness of visual art in a visually impactful format.”
The award-winning journalist turned editor further spoke about beautiful stories the inaugural edition will be covering. With a passionate voice, Bhumika opened up by saying, “Our submissions reflect a range of experiences, from stories of pain to tales of resilience. For instance, Jenny shared a compelling photo essay documenting their journey, showcasing not just suffering but also strength and survival. Similarly, photographer Ajay captures moments of resistance, resilience, and celebration, such as gatherings like Chaityabhoomi. Our magazine celebrates diverse narratives under the sky, emphasizing resilience and the collective power of storytelling. While we feature artwork from various communities, including the queer community, even contributions from dominant caste communities focus on personal struggles and challenges, rather than appropriating the pain of marginalized groups. We strive to provide a platform for anyone to share their story honestly and visually, ensuring authenticity and inclusivity.”
Bringing out a print magazine is a herculean task which requires a lot of capital. Unfortunately, like every other industry, even the world of art grows through networking and connections which are again based on caste-class privileges. A very common question in everyone’s mind will be the funding and investment for such an Ambedkarite magazine. On being asked the same, founder Siddhesh remarked, “I haven't figured out funding yet because managerial tasks aren't my strong suit, and multitasking isn't easy for me. However, I've learned to work within my strengths and focus on creating a high-quality product first. Now that we're nearing the end of the design and production phase, I'll need to seek assistance and navigate the process of development and printing. It's challenging, but I believe that if we have a great product, we'll find a way forward.”