Categories of Art (1) – Primitive, Classical, Vernacular, Modern, Contemporary and More

A painted Shiva in a house, Jamui, Bihar
A painted Shiva on the wall of a house in Jamui, Bihar

Categories of Art is a 6 months course in arts that I begin this month. My earlier training is in biotechnology and that has always left me feeling a bit deficient in my understanding of arts. This course as I see it might help me in identifying and articulating my perception and experience of art forms. Plus, it just complements my travel in many interesting ways.

This post is from the first session of this course where we fill in a self assessment form. The contents of this form is supposed to help instructor gain a sense of understanding of the backgrounds that the participants come from. Also, it sort of helps one get a flavour of what the class’ perception of self, modern, art etc is. The questions ask for simple information about one’s family and structure. The information is a proxy to know the participants and in a very generic sense estimate how they identify themselves with society, gender, art and abstract ideas like modernity. It also would offer a probable explanation of why they believe the way they do. As the instructor suggests, “you are taught (usually) to look at other people. This presents an opportunity for reflecting upon yourselves.” As for that question exploring the language of instruction of the participant she argues that the English world offers a different kind of intellectual and creative space and the vernacular offers a different one. One needs to be cognizant of this.

The questions of the form are shared below, including my responses to them. It would be interesting to see it again when I finish the program. It would sure reflect the distance that I am likely to cover during this engagement with art and its categories.

1. Do you know your caste? Does your name reflect your caste?

Yes. Yes.

2.  Are you from a village, town or city?


3. Have you ever been to a village, town or city before joining the university?


4. In which language medium were you educated?


5. Write a sentence in English about the class structure of your family.

My family is characterized by a migration from practicing priests as an occupational class to a family of professionals employed in various services (or service class?) in the government, over a period of five generations (with me as fifth).

6. Write the same sentence in a vernacular language.

7. Do you cook?


8. Who cooks food in your home?


9. Does your mother work outside the house?


10. Does your father do housework?


11. Which classical art form, if any, do you engage with on a regular basis?

Carnatic and Western classical music

12. Which folk art form, if any, do you engage with on a regular basis?

Hindi Poetry of the rural variety

13. Which popular art form, if any, do you engage with on a regular basis?


14. What does modern mean to you?

Modern to me is an expression of self and the manner of relating to contemporary processes which construct a sense of identity in an individual (or groups).

15. Do you read books for pleasure? How many a year? In what languages?

Yes. About 45 a year. English (very few Hindi)

One thought on “Categories of Art (1) – Primitive, Classical, Vernacular, Modern, Contemporary and More

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.