Artist Tushar Joag died on Tuesday reportedly after suffering a heart attack. He was 52.
Joag described himself as a public intervention artist, according to auction house Saffronart. He founded the Public Work Cells, an organisation that worked “to create works of art that seek to make interventions in the urban space, by designing and producing objects that while being functional and aesthetic bring into focus the various concerns of the immediate situation”.
In recent years, he had concentrated on teaching at the Shiv Nadar University, in Greater Noida, where he and his wife Sharmila Samant helped establish the department of art.
In 2015, Joag was among the artists who withdrew from an international festival organised in Vadodara after the arts department at MS University had allegedly faced attacks from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other right-wing groups.
Joag graduated from the Sir JJ School of Arts in 1988. He was one of the co-founders of the artist collective Open Circle that sought to engage with contemporary socio-political issues, according to Mojarto. He curated international events, screenings and exhibitions.
Over the past few weeks, Joag had been helping to assemble a forum called Artists Unite, which on Monday issued a statement signed by 450 painters, writers and filmmakers warning that “democracy is not a majoritarian project to identify enemies and enforce uniformity of language, behaviour and culture”. It added, “Democracy is the celebration of a collective will for peace, of living together with dignity and equality.”
The group is working to organise a massive event at Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan on February 16 and 17, and smaller events in more than a dozen other places across the country.
Here is a video of a talk in which he explained his ideas about putting aesthetics into politics.