ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Concrete Labour and Corporeal Aesthetic

The art of lavani as an aesthetic labour involves a contradictory sense of the self. At one level, self-realisation of an artists assigns them a complete autonomy on aesthetic production, while at another level, it also generates a sense of self-exploitation which is social and structural. 


The idea for writing this article emerged in the context of the International Conference on Rethinking Labour and the Creative Economy, held by Rustom Bharucha between 27 February and 1 March 2015 at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

The focus in this article is limited to three issues that have a direct bearing on the question of labour and the aesthetic. First, thinkers have argued that productive labour when invested in material substance, with its power, tends to produce meaning that assigns creativity, and hence an aesthetic to labour. Labour becomes a source of creativity and hence the aesthetic. Taking a cue from John Locke, one could argue that labour when engaged with soil produces an aesthetic (Rusell 2004: 309). Hegel considers creativity as the core of labour. Second, although active and productive labour is a necessary condition to create the world of the aesthetic, it is also necessary to have the labouring body behind such creative transformations of the world of the aesthetic. However, designating distinctive meaning to the object that gets produced with labour power is an ideological project. This ideological project introduces a pernicious division between creative and non-creative labour. It does not consider all labouring bodies as the source that produces the world of the aesthetic (Dallmayr 1993: 50). Specifically, ideology driven both by caste and caste patriarchy produces hierarchal meaning, thereby producing a vertical fragmentation in a cosmology that seeks unity of the erotic, aesthetic and transcendence. This fragmentation is represented in labour as divided into the canonised and grotesque, beautiful and ugly. Third, it is the grotesque that produces a cosmology uniting all the three aspectseros, aesthetic and transcendenceat the horizontal level. Nature, labour and subject immerse with harmony into each other.

Lavani, as embodied labour, not only transforms the world of the surrounding aesthetic but it also transforms the performer from an erotic object into an aesthetically attractive subject. The emerging aesthetic is transformative, in how it assigns power, and seeks to transform what is considered as repulsive into attractive (Dallmayr 1993: 54). One can also portray labour chiefly as an advance in consciousness and reciprocal self-realisation.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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