P30


Insideout: art crafting substance, (bio)graphy and circulation 
Convenors:
Manuela Ciotti (University of Vienna)
Mani Shekhar Singh
Aditya Bharadwaj (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva )
Chair:
Roma Chatterji (Delhi University)
Discussant:
Roma Chatterji (Delhi University)
Location:
Sankskrit Conference Room
Start time:
6 April, 2012 at 8:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
2

Short Abstract:

This panel explores emerging artistic constellations crafting new tropes of being and belonging through an array of aesthetic expressions ranging from representations of biogenetic substance, territorialised ritual painting, to objects circulated within the realm of auction houses and art fairs.

Long Abstract

This panel explores emerging artistic constellations crafting new tropes of being and belonging through an array of aesthetic expressions. These range from artistic experiments and representation of biogenetic substance like human DNA, embryos and cells as reconstituted 'transection' of molecular 'life' as inherently aesthetic; territorialised ritual painting and its winding career between the compulsions of commodification and the intimate relations of its making; to objects being circulated, bought and sold within the realm of auction houses, international exhibitions, biennales, and art fairs.

The panel illuminates cosmologies of being through stories of creativity, liberating imaging of the body/mind, and of the turbulent ménage between neoliberal capital and (postcolonial) cultures. From the standpoint of art production as aesthetic aspiration to belonging, the panel charts the unexplored avenues of local, global and 'universal' imaginations and their incessant co-constitution.

The panel invites papers on aesthetic expressions across regions, and in particular those contributions which seek to destabilise art taxonomies around the adjectives of the 'native', the 'indigenous', and 'folk' and recast the above expressions transcending fixed notions of place, identity, and nexuses between forms and belonging. Moreover, the panel wishes to explore the productive tension between the commodity form and the infinite possibilities, and unintended consequences, opened up by this very status - at times, but not only, the aesthetic expression's actual raison d'être - with the new media enlarging their life-spaces. Overall, the panel wishes to contribute towards the anthropological rethinking of the agency of maker and object.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Aditya Bharadwaj (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva )

Paper short abstract:

The paper takes as its point of departure erasure of the anatomical form from the cohabiting domains of the artistic and bioscientific. Drawing on feminist technoscience, spearheaded by Donna Haraway, the paper explores the artistic and tropic representations of biogenetic substance such as DNA and embryos. The paper argues that aesthetic and epistemic expressions are as much about visible disappearances and erasures as they are about (re)creation and expression. The paper describes ‘aesthetics of erasure’ as ‘multivariate’ and explores a constellation of conceptual interpolations ranging from life and death, movement and stasis, space and temporality, form and content.

Paper long abstract:

The paper takes as its point of departure erasure of the anatomical form from the cohabiting domains of the artistic and bioscientific. Drawing on feminist technoscience, spearheaded by Donna Haraway, the paper explores the artistic and tropic representations of biogenetic substance such as DNA and embryos. The paper argues that aesthetic and epistemic expressions are as much about visible disappearances and erasures as they are about (re)creation and expression. The paper describes 'aesthetics of erasure' as 'multivariate' and explores a constellation of conceptual interpolations ranging from life and death, movement and stasis, space and temporality, form and content.

Author:

Mani Shekhar Singh

Paper short abstract:

Departing from the representation of Maithil painting as a “folk” art form, I explore how young Maithil artists engage with tradition and find their own voice within that tradition. Thereby demonstrating their awareness of aesthetic choices in positing their work as art and not as craft.

Paper long abstract:

Since its "reinvention" on paper as commodity art in the late 1960s, Maithil painting has been presented to the metropolitan art world as a traditional "folk" art, which women inherit and practice within domestic-ritual settings. What is implicit in such a presentation - most clearly articulated in the policies and programmes of the All India Handicrafts Board and its various agencies - is that children and adolescents (as in vast majority of handicrafts) are merely born into a tradition. And, furthermore image-making practise that they inherit cannot be learnt outside its traditional setting. Such emphasis on "authentic" pictorial practice, which also finds resonance in much of the writings on South Asian folk arts and crafts, takes us to the heart of issues related to poetics and politics of inheritance, learning, and art making. Moving away from an understanding in which novices are destined as passive carriers of traditional templates transmitted to them by the older generation, in this paper I embark on a journey in the company of young Maithil painters; a journey that explores how these youngsters find their own voice within that tradition. I will explore how these artists seriously engage and experiment with received knowledge about art making in the process of producing their paintings. Such engagements offer insights into their intentions and motivations, both as individual artists and as members of their communities. And their pictorial activities display their awareness of techniques and aesthetic choices in constituting the paintings not as craft objects but as art work.

Author:

Atreyee Sen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore the ways in which Naxal women political detainees in 1970s Calcutta gathered objects within prison compounds (buttons, sari borders, pieces of paper, needle and thread, shards of glass and pieces of wood) to craft together items for entertainment and secret communications. I argue that the performance of collective happiness related the creation and circulation of these objects resisted ‘the smell of death, desolation and despair’ in incarceration.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore the prison memories of former female cadres of the Marxist-Naxal movement in 1970s Bengal. It will specifically focus on the oral histories of women who were once captured, incarcerated and brutally beaten by prison officials in the women's correctional facility under the surveillance of the Alipore Central Jail in Calcutta. My ethnography highlights the ways in which women political detainees enacted everyday happiness in the face of torture and anguish, primarily to carry on resisting (their imaginings and understanding) of a violent, elitist, and self-serving state. By playing loud music with pots and pans, and making puppets with sari borders, buttons and soap wrappers to entertain the children of ordinary convicts, groups of women political prisoners refused to allow police guards and interrogators, the lowest rung of a state machinery, 'to break their bodies and their spirit'. I argue that this coordinated performance, especially after a bruised woman prisoner had been returned to her holding cell after 'questioning', exhibited an affective and resilient political aesthetic, which in turn contested repressive cultures of confinement. My analysis attempts to contribute towards a contemporary anthropology of urban prisons. It underlines a particular indigenous narrative of survival within a detention system which enacts routine violence on the bodies of 'others', and yet remains camouflaged by its abstract location in the wider public imagination.

Author:

Manuela Ciotti (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the exhibition ‘The empire strikes back: Indian art today’ held in 2010 at the Saatchi Gallery in London as an entry-point into the analysis of how neoliberal capital produces ‘culture’ in a postcolonial setting.

Paper long abstract:

Arjun Appadurai has argued that 'the materiality of objects in India is not yet completely penetrated by the logic of the market' (2006:18). However, the entry, and the visibility, of modern and contemporary Indian art into the circuits of the global art world and market increasingly challenge this statement. That of modern and contemporary Indian art is a story of inscribing local objects and their 'Indianness' into the above circuits - while market value is created in the process. If the globalisation of the art world provides a conceptual and material arena where objects are circulated, bought and sold through auction houses, international exhibitions, biennales, and art fairs, this paper analyses an event that epitomises the forces at play in this arena: the exhibition 'The empire strikes back: Indian art today' held in 2010 at the Saatchi Gallery in London. An artistic cum business instantiation of 'India in Europe'- and one that challenges the visual and aesthetic canons 'traditionally' associated to India - this exhibition is an entry-point into the analysis of how neoliberal capital produces 'culture' in a postcolonial setting, and into the tension between the symbolic and financial value of art.

Author:

Ravinder Kaur (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

The notion of 'adda' is etched within the 20th C nationalist imaginary as a marker of quintessential India. While its gradual disapperance is yet a subject of constant nostalgia and melancholia, it has recently begun reappearing in new forms and new locations. The most prominent adda, sponsored and celebrated by the Indian state, is now held at the annual gathering of big businesses and governments. This paper explores the new formations of global Indian adda woven in the logic of free market and cultural commodification.

Paper long abstract:

The notion of 'adda' is etched within the 20th C nationalist imaginary as a marker of quintessential India. While its gradual disapperance is yet a subject of constant nostalgia and melancholia, it has recently begun reappearing in new forms and new locations. The most prominent adda, sponsored and celebrated by the Indian state, is now held at the annual gathering of big businesses and governments. This paper explores the new formations of global Indian adda woven in the logic of free market and cultural commodification.