Now an obscure figure in the history of Indian classical dance, Shanta Rao was once among its most visible representatives, touring the globe and appearing on stages from the Peking Hotel to the Museum of Modern Art. In 1955, she performed live on CBS television, twice, with millions watching.
Namaste USA, was an illustrated lecture presented by Alexander Keefe, which explored the context behind these television appearances, including a landmark 1955 MoMA exhibition titled Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India, as well as a third television appearance by Rao that same year in New Delhi at the Indian Industries Fair. What did it mean for Indian classical dance to be broadcast on early network television in this way? What did it mean to stage Indian classical dance inside a modern American museum?
Following the presentation, Keefe engaged in a conversation with the artist Chitra Ganesh on their shared interest in the history in the US of South Asian art on stage, in museums, in archives, and the media
Alexander Keefe writes about art, media and aesthetics in the US and South Asia. His recent projects on David Tudor, Pandit Pran Nath, the Dia Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg, and early video art have appeared in Bidoun, Cabinet, East of Borneo and other publications. In 2014 he completed Sarkari Shorts, a year-long online excavation of documentary films produced by the Government of India. A 2010 grantee of the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program, he has also received a Fulbright for research in India and currently holds the Inaugural Alan Erasmus Fellowship in Unpopular Culture at NYU’s Colloquium for Unpopular Culture.
Chitra Ganesh was born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, and is currently based in Brooklyn. She completed her BA in Comparative Literature and Art—Semiotics from Brown University (1996), and her MFA from Columbia University (2002). Ganesh has exhibited locally and internationally, including at Berkeley Art Museum, Bronx Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Baltimore Museum. International venues include Fondazione Sandretto (Turin), the Saatchi Museum (London), with solo presentations at PS 1/MOMA, the Andy Warhol Museum, and Brooklyn Museum. Ganesh has most recently been awarded a Hodder Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.