Can’t put a finger on it

He paraded around in a perforated schoolboy uniform and a little red umbrella at the recent United Art Fair. The torn outfit subverted the sanctity given to institutionalised knowledge. Another umbrella poked full of holes, beachsized and black, is anchored by broken bricks at the Devi Art Foundation. Set under a light, the beams that filter through give the impression of a starry night. “I got the idea while watching light reflect off lumps of coal tar a worker was beating into the roads at night. Everything comes from these workers, from these streets.”
A large banner next to it, bearing a Duchamp quote, has been crumpled up and kicked around like a football. “We can play around with all the great things, change them. If there is no playfulness in art, how will anyone enjoy it?” he says.
Performance is not theatre for Salim; it is a far more intimate setting. Holding court in a small group, he becomes larger than life. There is no room for embarrassment, or propriety as he makes everyone part of his public performance. “Right now, as people listen to us talk, we’re performing. I could go whisper ‘I love you’ to people on a busy street and watch them react. That is art,” he says, leaning in to confide a secret.
Aradhna Wal is a Sub Editor with Tehelka.
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