Sex education on canvas

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(With Pix)

Raj Kumar Sharma

New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) Fictional superhero Superman isnow promoting the message of safe sex through an artexhibition here aimed at spreading AIDS awareness and sexeducation among youth in India.

A new exhibition featuring oils on canvas by artistduo Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra addresses the themes of safesex practices and increased sexual activity among Indian youthagainst the backdrop of traditional perceptions of sexuality.

"Superman is every girl''s man. He wears latex andsaves the world. He is a larger than life character and wehave used him as a metaphor to promote safe sex," says JitenThukral.

The exhibition "Put it on, Again" continues from theirsolo exhibition "Put It On" held in 2007 in New York and is ondisplay at the Nature Morte gallery in Delhi till February 26.

"We live in the age of Internet where we can see pornfilms but can not talk about sex to elders. We thought itstime to analyse our behaviour towards sex through art," saysSumir Tagra, calling their effort a behavioural changeexercise.

Different schools in Delhi have been invited to sendchildren to the exhibition.

"There is no sex education for children in schools.

Our work will be like an educational programme helping them inunderstanding about sex," says Thukral.

With their characteristic use of pop culture imagery,graphic pizzazz, colours, sardonic wit and insightfuljuxtapositions, the duo has tried to address deadly serioussubjects in a humorous way.

They are using their medium of art to reach the placeswhere conventional campaigns on HIV have failed to reach.

Apart from exhibiting their work at the gallery, the artistshave tried to take the safe sex message through slippers tograss root level called ''Pehno''.

"We have printed condoms on bathroom slippers. Whenpeople wear them everyday at home, they are constantlyreminded of having safe sex," says Tagra.

"To spread message of safe sex more comprehensively,we need to use new mediums that move in private spaces ofpeople and make an impact. Slippers are something that acommon man wears everywhere," he adds. .

Their installation work "The Beautiful Game," first created for the India Art Summit last month is also beingpresented during the exhibition. Winners of the game will getthe merchandise that will educate them about safe sexpractices.

"The form of the billiards game itself will act as ametaphor for both the anxiety associated with sexual awakeningand the thrill of the amorous adventures. By creating theatmosphere of a gaming hall in the context of an art gallery,we will try to lure the public into a dialogue about a subjectthey may usually do everything to avoid," says Thukral.

It''s not the first time that an issue of socialimportance is finding a place in their work. In their Brisbaneexhibition, they worked on immigrant Indians living inAustralia while in their Beijing project, they handled theissue of ''holiday wives'' in India.

"Our art is for masses and we believe that art canchange people''s views and lives. We will continue to work inthis direction," says Tagra.

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