Superficial v.01: Marking the Aesthetic Territory

I’ve been extremely charmed and completely taken by Jacques Rancière’s esoteric philosophical doctrine on ‘aesthetics’ and its relationship with the realm of politics. His conceptualisation of the ‘aesthetic regime of the arts’ acts as a handy heuristic device to identify the role and influence of the arts in the public sphere.

The (high)art world is generally tied in with power and money; inaccessible to common uncultured senses; reliant on the largesse of rich, private patrons. Ofcourse, there are countless examples of those that have broken free from the specific rules, hierarchies, genres that have come to bind art forms but as a society we still find it difficult to articulate the value of art beyond the financial.

Recently, I was introduced to an interesting project called Superficial v.01(planned as a 10 part series) by an Indian artist, Vaibhav Raj Shah aka The Beauty Inspector. As part of this project that began in 2012(to be confirmed), Shah surveys different sites in Mumbai and leaves behind a graffiti tag or gives out sheets of paper commenting on the space, person or objects’s exterior aesthetic merit. His tags, in particular, serve as a sarcastic reminder and critique of the “marks”or performance-obsessed Indian society/mentality and exemplifies the everyday unruliness brought to you by local Indian artists through a new language of political graffiti adorning public spaces – all this at a time when cleaning up and beautifying public spaces has been high on the political agenda of the current Government but low on execution.

“I award marks out of a 100. To me, it’s a form of abstract satisfaction when compared to 100, a subjective idealism, would derive an equally abstract derivation of beauty. It is a subjective point of view, taken by objectifying everything around me.”
– Vaibhav Raj Shah 

Shah’s work is really intriguing and as an emerging artist on the Indian landscape I thought it might be a good idea to understand the conditions under which he chose to produce this. Stay tuned for my next podcast where I will be interviewing Shah and throwing in my own two cents about his work as an example of the aesthetic regime of art at play.

Until then, I leave you with a few pictures from his project that I found on the interweb (published without permission).

50589-1421314529-Vaibhav Raj Shah, Landscape Photography Breach Candy, 22x34 in50588-1421660302-Vaibhav Raj Shah

50587-1421314444-Vaibhav Raj Shah 92 100 Superficial, Acrylic on Canvas, 6


PODCAST: Gauging the Modern-day Homo Sacer in the Land Down Under

Reducing Bare Life to Bare Life Asylum Seeking Children as the Modern-day Homo Sacer in the Land Down Under

References: Agamben, G. (1998) ‘Part two: homo sacer’, in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, pp. 71-115.

AM with Michael Brissenden, (2015) ‘Father says 5yo daughter tried to commit suicide in detention’ ABC Radio, 28 March ONLINE (Last accessed 30 April 2015) Available at:

Barrett, R. & Barlow, K. (2014) ‘Immigration detention inquiry: Government tried to cover up asylum seekers’ mental health problems, inquiry told’ ABC News, 31 July ONLINE (Last accessed 30 April 2015) Available at:

Chalmers, M. & Graham, C. (2015) ‘Inside The Department: The Explosive Leaked Transcripts From The Moss Review’ New Matilda, 13 March ONLINE (Last accessed 30 April 2015) Available at:

Walker, P. (2014) ‘Australian asylum seeker policy may contravene torture convention – UN’ The Guardian 28 November ONLINE (Last accessed on 30 April 2015) Available at:

Music credits: “Teller of the Tales” Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 Picture Credits: BBC Archives (1999) ‘Dispersal for asylum-seekers’ 6 December ONLINE Available at: