The Foundation Thukral & Tagra, founded by the artists Jiten Thukral and Sumar Tagra in 2009, aims to spread awareness about the transmission of HIV and to dispel misinformation about AIDS. By employing the multi- disciplinary creativity, playfulness and humor that are hallmarks of their art istic practice, Thukral & Tagra explore new avenues of communication and education to bring the issues of HIV and AIDS to the public. Their efforts are predominantly targeted towards the urban, middle-class youth, as this demographic group now enjoys leisure time, a measure of privacy and a disposable income, all of which contribute to increased sexual activity at an earlier age. The goal is to break through the ingrained embarrassment associated with talking about sexual activity so that the subject of safe sex practices can be introduced. By positioning their imagery and products at a variety of points in the consumer society (in art galleries, upscale malls and low-income street markets, on wearable items, printed give- aways, and expensive paintings) and collaborating with health care organizations who are already working in the field, Thukral & Tagra hope to create situations where parents and children, flirtatious teens, and inexperienced peer groups are coaxed into addressing the subject and are educated so that they can make responsible choices.
As the media and consumer landscapes of India become increasingly Westernized and over-heated, so too does the prevailing imagery employed become increasingly sexualized. This may often seem at odds with the perceived conservativeness of Indian society, where extended families continue to live together and arranged marriages are still the norm. Adolescent courtship, pre-marital sexual activity and trans-gender experimentation may not be subjects one learns about in school but they are increasingly visible on the televisions and cinema screens of India. The space of fine art, with its emphasis on freedom and curiosity, may be an appropriate platform to educate young people about life and death subjects. Thukral & Tagra look back to the “golden age” of Indian art, specifically the famous temples of Khajuraho, with their blatantly promiscuous sculptural facades illustrating all manner of carnal activities. These randy couples and groups, touristic clichés like the infamous Kama Sutra, are transplanted to the modern, middle class bedroom, swathed in the sentimental pastel tones of the boudoir and “sheathed” in a blanket decorated with the diagrammatic program of how to apply condom to penis. Thukral & Tagra’s message is two-fold for the youth of India today: do not be ashamed of the pleasures that are historically yours but act responsibly in regard to our contemporary dilemmas.
Related Links: www.tokyo-gallery.com/btap