research seminar: contemporaneity in south asian art


Patterns of Dissent in Contemporary South Asian Art

Gandhi, Camera, Action: Popular Visual Culture and the Graphic of Iterability

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

17.30, Research Forum South Room

Speaker(s): Professor Christopher Pinney (Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Emilia Terracciano and Zehra Jumabhoy with Professor Deborah Swallow (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Christopher Pinney is an anthropologist and art historian. From 2007-09 he was Visiting Crowe Professor in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. His research interests cover the art and visual culture of South Asia, with a particular focus on the history of photography and chromolithography in India. He has also worked on industrial labor and Dalit goddess possession. His latest book Photography and Anthropology, published by Reaktion, was released in 2011. His talk at The Courtauld will start with observations concerning the neo-Gandhian Anna Hazare's  presence in contemporary India, exploring the enduring relationship between politics and media. If, as is often claimed, Hazare is in some sense 'repeating' Gandhi, can we also detect a more widespread repetition and citation at work which embeds contemporary Indian politics in something akin to what Jameson termed 'Third World allegory'? The burden of India's colonial history will be explored from this perspective, and the concept of the 'media fold' analysed. It is hoped that this will explicate the layering and bricolage which characterizes much popular Indian visual culture.

The ambiguous, even paradoxical, position of Indian ‘modern and contemporary’ art has been widely recognised. Today, contemporary art is firmly established in India, has numerous practitioners, some critics, is supported by a number of commercial galleries and has a growing number of collectors. Outside India, on the other hand, despite the efforts of a few western collectors, a growing market within the so-called diaspora and its inclusion in some public institutions, it has not been recognised as a 'functioning or exemplary' part of the global art world. Until a couple of years ago, contemporary art from India had a significantly lower profile than contemporary Chinese art.

The lacuna in knowledge regarding modern and contemporary Indian art in western academic institutions is becoming increasingly evident at a time when the sharp rise in prices of contemporary Indian art – not to mention numerous survey shows – has focused attention on it.  This Seminar Series offers a platform for artists, curators and scholars to discuss urgent issues concerning the Subcontinent. What, after all, does the term “contemporary South Asian” mean?

The Seminars take place once a term, usually on Tuesday evenings at 5.30pm in the Research Forum. The papers are followed by an informal discussion with refreshments.

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