A Guide to Image-Making Inspired by the Vishnudhamottara

I propose for an image-making workshop inspired by the Vishnudhamottara that contribute to the dialogue on participatory design. Using the rules on image making prescribed by the Vishnudhamottara, how would the members of ACCESS interpret the visual form of a given subject and narration?

The Vishnudhamottara is a quintessential Hindu text from 6th century India, which prescribe rules on Indian painting and image-making of Gods and Goddesses. It deals not only with the religious aspect, but also, and to a far greater extent, with its secular employment. The text follows the traditional pattern of exploring the various dimensions of a subject through conversations that take place between a learned master and an ardent seeker eager to learn and understand. The Vishnudhamottara prescribes textual narration but is void of visual guidance.

The Vishnudhamottara enables imagination by prescribing the form and keeping the rest of the representation vague. This amount of prescription leaves the image-maker to imagine and have their inspiration, creativity and intuition complete the image. The Vishnudhamottara is also an excellent vehicle for making inquirers aware of their own understanding and design assumptions. The conversation between the Master and the student creates a discourse.

As graphic designers, architects, interior designers, artists, writers, performers and photographers, we too must contribute to this discourse. We are at time when collaboration between professions is seen as innovative and more accepting. We are able to explore discourses within different professions interchangeably – something the Vishnudhamottara claims for. The collabor- ation of different professionals, or open design has been described to enrich and make somehow stronger or more interesting when it is completed by participatory design. As image-makers and visual enthusiasts we need to embrace different aspects from different fields to enrich our work and teaching. Vishnudhamottara argues for such collaboration across different fields but remaining mindful of the importance of expertise within our own profession. Vishnudhamottara being a text about a particular art is a testament to the
value of expertise.