Underground – that which runs parallel to what is above ground – sometimes in proverbial darkness, oftentimes subversive and secretive. Think of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states with the help of those sympathetic to their cause. Think of underground parties – pop ups dotting the urban landscape, known for their last minute locations in warehouses and mills, pulsating with music, and the promise of mind-altering substances. What does the Underground mean in the context of art and art movements? So much of what is produced by artists is deeply political in nature – the origin of street art, very often produced under the cover of darkness, by artists who chose to remain anonymous; or performance art speaking out against fascist and authoritarian regimes, taking place spontaneously; fleeting in its presence so that a statement is made, with the artwork vanishing shorty after. Think of underground movements – quiet and steady, mobilizing people for or against causes through art. When we posed this theme for October, we were curious to see what ideas were evoked through the idea of the underground. These articles are in no way representational of the entire spectrum of the phrase “underground” and its association, but rather, look at different understandings of the idea. We present three varied propositions – looking at kitsch, which began as low art but is now a part of mainstream pop-culture as desi-cool; alternate spaces or “other grounds” providing legitimacy to voices that emerge from under the routine; and finally, a look at women’s protests and movements against violence in Northeast India using a multitude of “weapons” – including song, poetry and even their own bodies as sites of resistance. Read these stories through October.

Image credit: Nandita Jaishankar
Reverie & resurrection, m.v. zola | Infinite walls