Sights and Sounds: India

When 29 May 2015 - 25 Jun 2015
Where Jewish Museum
1109 5th Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
United States
Enquiry (212) 423-3200

Sights and Sounds: India features new work by Ranbir Kaleka, Ayisha Abraham, Gigi Scaria, and Sahej Rahal, selected by Nancy Adajania.

While media art in India is often said to have emerged in the 1990s, I have argued for a more substantial genealogy or “prehistory” for Indian contemporary video-art practices. I have charted this prehistory through the experimental films and photographic experiments of Akbar Padamsee, Nalini Malani, Tyeb Mehta, MF Husain, and Krishen Khanna during the late 1960s and early 1970s; as well as in Dashrath Patel’s transdisciplinary installations and exhibition designs for international expos and grassroots activist projects from the 1960s to the 1980s. To my mind, the explorations of sensorium and sociality that characterized these earlier works are recursively renewed in the media practices of the 1990s and after.

Much of the video art produced in India is perceived as a response to the transformations of the decade of the 1990s. Economic liberalization ushered in new technologies—video, twenty-four-hour television, and the Internet. At the same time, an increasingly aggressive tendency within the Hindu majoritarian political formation posed a major challenge to India’s liberal and inclusive public sphere. The response to these seismic political shifts by artists who embraced new media had radical consequences for the nature of authorship, the circulation of images, and the role of the viewer.

However, the spectrum of video art in India should not be reduced to a mere reactive praxis. Therefore, instead of selecting works that directly address the political, as narrowly construed, I have chosen those that deal with unpredictability and expansiveness. In Sanskrit terms, these works invite us to explore subjectivity as it oscillates between the scale of the kshana (infinitesimal moment) and the kalpa (aeon). The artists gesture toward reserves of replenishment even in hostile environments; they investigate lost ecologies of belonging, often disclosing a gnosis through dream states, archival investigation, and unforeseen encounters.

Nancy Adajania (b. Bombay, 1971) is a cultural theorist and independent curator based in India. She has written and lectured extensively on media art, public art, and transcultural art practices. Adajania was Joint Artistic Director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012) and has taught the curatorial-practice course at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts (2013 and 2014).

Photo courtesy of the organiser/s

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