Artistic expressions in India: from the people to the people
(South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University)
Paper short abstract:
In today's India different artistic forms of expression connect the artist-citizen-ethnographer to specific urban 'sites and labs' of investigation and production. In particular, Art Activism shows evident social outcomes as well as significant findings for contemporary anthropological researches.
Paper long abstract:
The 'ethnographic turn in art' taking place always more firmly from the 1960s, acquired renewed value and meaning thanks to a simple but revolutionary idea conceptualised by H. Foster in The Return of the Real (1996). By addressing 'The Artist as Ethnographer' the author identified essential elements of commonality between art and anthropology: studying alterity and culture in determinate contexts among interdisciplinary fields, both practices eventually pursue their self-critique in complexed theoretical terms. Contextualising the research in various Indian contemporary artistic environments, the paper asks: what has art done for society? How does anthropology intervene in the discourse? The initial theoretical speculations will be further analysed with interesting examples of Street Art in today's megacities of India: proper considerations on the citizen-artist-ethnographer will be explored in a fundamental relationship with the anthropological site-specific work in the opened urban reality. In addition, the study investigates principal concerns of Art Activism in the subcontinent: the colourful range of different artistic forms of expression selected will demonstrate crucial themes and concepts according to the interpretive anthropological methodology adopted. In particular, the attention focuses on the sites of artistic production and activist intervention as 'fields and labs' (R. Sansi, 2014) of investigation. On one hand 'community art' can be understood as mark of cultural identity and on the other political subversive models are explained by 'problematizing the minor in art' (D. Achar, 2002). Final comments regard women art as the most representative socio-cultural agency within the current discussion on gender in the country.
Conflict and Activism