Do What You Will

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    1987

    Perceiving Fingers

    Swaminathan: As we have already said, from our standpoint, we define

    contemporaneity as a simultaneous validity of co-existing cultures, as is the

    validity of the simultaneity of events on the matrix of infinity. (p. 37)

    1989

    Review of Magiciens de la Terre

    Lewison: claims to be the first truly international exhibition. Magiciens sets out toshow that contemporary art is also produced within less developed countries andthat in the same way as western artists work within, develop and deviate from a

    tradition, so too do their 'third world' counterparts.

    The purpose of the exhibition, therefore, is to supply 'third world' art with acontext and a framework in which it may be under- stood by the western visitor.

    Indeed viewing western art in such company allows us to re-evaluate its im-portance.

    It becomes immediately apparent how much we rely on inherited traditions andcontext in the understand- ing of the art of our own culture, as the organisersadmitted when they made their selection.

    1998

    Other Masters: Five Contemporary Folk and Tribal Artists from India

    What does this exhibition do? First, its cultural politics challenge the demand

    that anthropology and the museum have made on the tribal and the folk in India.

    It does this by showcasing artists who belong to large collectivities, in this case

    folk or tribal, as contemporary artists in what is a national crafts museum.

    The idea of emphasizing individuality and authorship over group identity and

    inherited knowledge is remarkable. By doing this, it wants to challenge how we

    think of a tribal or a folk person.

    What it does not do is actually find other ways of thinking art making. Because it

    is focussed on the person of the artist, it has the problem of highlighting practice

    as heroic behaviour rather than large scale, structural experience.

    Ties the art to large-scale history of Indian artists, that is art history, in an

    ahistorical way. It flattens the different systems in which artists worked in order

    to arrive at the idea that artists were recognized and not anonymous. But

    interesting thing that he develops is the idea of anonymous individuality and

    individuality as a sign of a certain intellectual intention. What he or she could

    not do is establish an identity as an artist in the face of the increasingly

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    powerful tide of trade and commerce-based crafts manufacturers. Crafts in a

    commercial context or minor arts in a cultural context.

    2002

    New Art from India: Home, Street, Shrine, Bazaar, Museum (where is the gallery)

    GS: Most exhibitions on contemporary Indian art till recently have focused

    exclusively on urban modern art with the conspicuous absence of other visual

    cultures. Folk or rural-tribal objects defined as pre-modern or traditional,

    were either excluded or confined to the ethnographic basket of crafts, popular

    ephemera termed kitsch was avoided in preference to objects of artistic value

    and permanence. New Indian Art would like to take a different view. The

    initiative here is to present a spectrum of cultural practices using markers of

    Home, Street, Shrine, Bazaar, Museum as sites of art. To achive an interface-urban modern art with the pre-modern rural and tribal crafts and aspects of the

    urban popular are placed on a common platform. The curatorial view springing

    from the vantage point of urban modern endeavours to expand its loci and

    address issues arising out of a holistic perception.

    The purpose is to raise issues of what is within and without the existing

    territories of art: of the collective and individualised expressions, the

    stereotypical axis of traditional and modern located in the rural and urban

    sectors and the overt or implicit hierarchies therein. Crossing borders implicate

    both sharings and divides: transgressions kindle their own tensions, even

    conflicts. Juxtapositions of conventional and experimental materials and

    mediums from the use of dyed grass to digital softwareswould also pose

    questions of their relevance in the times we live in. Thematic plurality as well as

    linguistic, questions notions of timelessness, the definitions of an overarching

    historical framework, and reveal personal, regional national, international

    moorings which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    Jain: Adapting new techniques and materials to innovate, adopting customs from

    dominant groups in the quest for upward mobility part of tribal societies

    On Sundaribai, Jain says It is astonishing that having entered the formalexhibitory spaces of contemporary art, Sundaribai has evolved a sense of

    personal identity as artist and has learnt the language of abstraction and

    transformation of the common place into an object of personal expression.

    On collective and individual expression: There are several forms of artistic

    expression in which within the general technical and iconic parameters of a

    collective tradition each individual produces a work clearly bearing a mark of

    individuality.... Alternatively, there are situations wherein the work itself is

    produced collectively by several individuals on it together as a team. In this case,

    usually there is one leader who loosely directs the project.

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    2005

    Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India

    Chaitanya Sambrani: Places himself in the Other Masters legacy.

    Despite a systematic segregation between folk/tribal and modernist art, Adivasi

    and folk traditions have remained a point of reference for a number of urban

    artists, whether as a recollection into modernist gallery spaces of the artists own

    rural origins, or as a voluntarist invocation of folk forms in combination with

    modernist techniques as a means of generating indigenous modernism.

    Ashish Rajyadaksha: Visuality is denotative and connotative; it denotes in that it

    designates and makes visible a place or a person and confirms it this is so and

    also trangressively connotes because it is designed to be extra-verbal and

    escape and bypass so that the person or place cannot or will not represent what

    you want him or it to be. Visuality as the production of the national-citizensubject as well as the production of national public space.

    Subaltern non-universality, privileging its capacity to create divides between

    those who are in the narrative inside the space and those who are outside,

    looking in.

    Kajri Jain: The show deals primarily with a modernist processing of the visual

    culture it seeks to represent, rather than offering that visual culture up in the

    raw.

    Like many other aspects of postcolonial modernity, the modern vernaculars thatmany of the works in this show draw on are subject to a kind of spatiotemporal

    warp, so that even as they form an integral part of contemporary experience,

    they are also cast in the modern(ist) historical imagination as marginal,

    anachronistic, teleologically prior, or at the very least about to disappear in the

    face of globalization. This unsettled status of the vernaculars, I want to suggest,

    has the effect of ambivalently situating the works that draw on them between

    engagement and distancebetween memory, nostalgia, and critical historicity.

    What separates them are the disjunct yet overlapping aesthetic and economic

    frames within which they circulate: on the one hand, those of the vernacular

    bazaar, which resists divisions between religion, commerce, kinship, aesthetics,

    and politics, and on the other those of a largely Anglophone global arena whose

    ongoing project is the assertion of a post-Enlightenment bourgeois ethos.

    2005

    Identity Exhibitions

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    Greenberg: The reading room also materialized the absence of a separationbetween political projects in and outside the art world.

    Lamoureux demonstrates how the dis avowal of difference in Magiciens throughan installation of "neighboring" or jux taposition soothes viewers in what shecalls, in an earlier version of her essay, an "aesthetics of mending."

    Lamoureux contrasts the taming effects of presenting the "frightening other" inwhat I call a cohabitation installation strategy with the unsettling self-reflexivityof Documenta, where installation is predicated on a destabilization of theexpectedand the known. Lamoureux's extensive examina tion of the functions ofthe fetish through psychological, anthropological, and economic paradigms is animportant contribution to understanding exhibitions about identity, the relationof installation to interpretations of the other, and the construction of affect as anexhibition effect.

    2005

    Lamoureux

    As philosopher Yves Michaud has indicated, Martin's endeavor with Magicienswas to replace the cosmopolitan rationale of the international art scene with aplane tary paradigm that would no longer allow ioo percent of Westernexhibitions to systematically ignore 80 percent of the surface of the globe.3 Theambition entailed a significant shift, since to suspend, albeit temporarily, untilthe show's opening, the drawing power of the metropolis in favor of a moreglobal repre sentation further displaces the modern figure of the artist-as-exile inorder to promote the "curator as explorer."

    It is also worth pointing out that the curator-as-explorer emerged in thecontemporary art world at the close of a decade that registered the rise of theanthropological turn, under the aegis of what Hal Foster was soon to coin as theartist-as-ethnographer" paradigm.5 This conflation of figures between curatorand artist not only worked hand in hand with a possible fetishization of otherness, but also manifested, on the curator's part, a definite claim of authorship, aclaim that challenged, despite the expected denials, the locus of artistic enunciation insofar as it displaced the focus of reception from the individual works to thevery project of their gathering in an exhibition.

    Foster's argument proposed that in "Primitivism," the encounter with the other

    was negotiated and ultimately refused through a severe decontextualization, adressing-up and erasure of differences provided by the formalist agenda.

    once again, difference, both recog nized and disavowed, is reframed in aproduction of sameness.

    The fetishism of exhibition displays is a factor at play even when an exhibitiondoesn't involve the representation of an ethnographic other, even when the disconcerting other is none other than art itself that has to be made palatable, morefamiliar, and not too disquieting, for the widest possible audience, in a visualregime of spectacular entertainment. Martin

    Exhibitions exhibit variations, details, and modalities not in but precisely towarda context of fabricated homogeneity and sameness.

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    Magiciens legitimized its curatorial choices through a cult of individualexpression as the reliable standard of artistic excellence, whereas Documenta 11sought to give voice to the "multitude" (a concept openly borrowed from Fanon s

    The Wretched of the Earth).

    The first resided in the prevalence, in the Fridericianum, of textual and archivalmaterial, stressing series?gigantic, endless series?over single pieces,

    second and certainly the most determinant attack on any sense of totality wasthe extensive selection of media and time-based material.

    blockbusters and biennales (namely size) and radicalized it with dura tion,making it not only an impossible show to see in its entirety but a literallyincommensurable show that exhibited precisely this very impossibility.

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