Anoop Keshari – On influencing the world to be a kinder place through digital art

Anoop Keshari, 23, is an illustrative designer, a digital art enthusiast, and a postgrad student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He owns a digital art sharing platform, Impractical_1 with over 350k followers on Instagram. He believes in finding ways to help people have an uplifting experience through art. He actively advocates for Ecological Sustainability and Conservancy. He wishes to contribute to the same and help transform the world – cleaner, greener, and healthier. He believes in humanitarianism and equality while advocating for the same. 

Tell us more about why you started the Instagram page @impractical_01?

I started impractical_1 back in 2016 as a way out into the world, becoming part of the meme culture and looking cool among my friends. During the first few weeks, I posted anything with the potential to go viral. One odd day I posted something related to body shaming, and it received a lot of negative comments. It was an eye-opening event for me. I realised the complications of a meme lie in what the people find appropriate to express an opinion, regardless of how simple or pointless or toxic it may be. Impractical_1 is about expressing change and connectivity; built by combining art and cultural concepts across digital and international boundaries.

Since the page has a clear feminist take. Can you tell us more about how feminism has shaped your life?

Yes, the page has a feminist take, as Feminist Art does not geographically discriminate but instead connects the voices worldwide. Coming from a conservative background, Working on Impractical_1 completely overhauled my way of thinking and understanding an average human’s issues and struggles in life. Through my interaction with the artists, I not only explored gender identity through art but also the racial, queer, and other aspects of identity that inform the diversity in the world. The platform also allowed me to work with people from the body positivity movement, women empowerment groups, menstrual health activists and mental health awareness initiatives that have significantly impacted my views and shaped my ideas.

Why have you chosen Instagram as a medium to express your opinions and art?

As we know, Instagram is primarily a visual platform with hundreds of million monthly active users, which is absolutely perfect for art. Instagram as a medium provides a socially-engaging space to tell your story, share your opinions and inspirations. Sharing art via Instagram not only helped get aesthetic admiration but has incited the viewer to question the social and political landscape. And, through this questioning, possibly affect the world to bring change toward equality and inclusivity.

Do you think social media can play a positive role in shaping the youth, especially with diverse narratives in the play?

Yes, social media has a very positive role in shaping our opinions. Social media has diversified and democratised activism, opening participation to anyone. By removing the barriers of distance and geography, social media facilitates public dialogues and creates a platform for awareness and change. Youths worldwide utilise social media and hashtag campaigns to generate awareness and immerse themselves in various movements. But at the same time, I think one has to remain cautious; social media can also be an echo chamber. It can amplify any of our views to the extent that one starts to deny all the opposing narratives.

Tell us more about the causes you are passionate about?

I’m keenly interested in politics and political drawings to address social issues and stigmas. I’m most passionate about mental health stigma operating in society. These get internalised by individuals and act as a barrier to who may seek or engage in treatment services. I want to better understand and mitigate the dimensions of mental health stigma and help create a positive environment for anyone seeking professional health. Apart from that, I want to contribute to campaigns to eradicate the myths and misinformation about menstrual health in India. I believe in humanitarianism and equality and advocate for the same.

Where do you see the page @impractical_1 going in the next five years?

I want to branch it out into two main categories. The first one is to be dedicated to social campaigns and rooting out stigmas from society. And the other to help monetise the artworks, thereby generating an ecosystem that can sustain itself just by a network of artists and volunteers. Currently, we have a reach of 25-30 million users annually on Instagram, and we want to increase its reach by 10 Million new users every year.

How has the pandemic shaped the body positivity movement?

Yes, I think the pandemic has dramatically impacted the body positivity movement both in the good and the worse. We were all confined to our houses. The daily chaos of commuting had been restricted so was the physical movement. Weight gain was a natural response to the stress and changes experienced in the pandemic. Feeling good in our own bodies is not an inherently easy task. And feelings of self-consciousness are only compounded by increased social media consumption, toxic “summer body” imperatives.

At the same time, the conscious effort of the body positivity movement by various social media accounts enabled us to accept our bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, and physical abilities. It has helped people celebrate diversity in bodily aesthetics and extend our narrow beauty standards. Most importantly teaches us that all bodies are worthy of care and respect. Body positivity should be understood as the transition from limiting body shame to proper body pride. However, various companies and social media users have increasingly commodified the movement for self-serving economic gains.

How has your page helped people cope with the pandemic?

The pandemic posed a severe global infodemic and mental health crisis. All the social media platforms manifested endlessly with coronavirus-related news feeds. Through the impractical_1, we altogether avoided putting out any unverified facts and information. We focused on helping people cope with their mental wellness by establishing dialogues and posting content to help audiences develop a healthy routine and reconnect with themselves. In later stages, with the help of audiences, we were able to connect people in need of various medicines and equipment and financial assistance to multiple vendors and donors.

Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna
Vidhi Bubna is a freelance journalist from Mumbai who covers international relations, defence, diplomacy and social issues. Her current focus is on India-China relations.