Dec 11, 2009 - May 3, 2010

Where in the World

Devi Art Foundation

Devi Art Foundation

Where in the World
Curated by the students and faculty of the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi featuring: A Balasubramaniam, Atul Bhalla, C. Nanaiah, Sheba Chhachhi, Krishnaraj Chonat, Nikhil Chopra, Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Nicola Durvasula, Sheela Gowda, Probir Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Sonia Jabbar, Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana, Susanta Mandal, N. Pushpamala, Jeetander Ojha, Jagannath Panda, Srinivasa Prasad, Ashim Purkayastha, Gigi Scaria, Mithu Sen, Tejal Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, T.V. Santhosh, and Navin Thomas.
Where in the World
Where in the World, the second exhibition at the Devi Art Foundation examines the impact of globalization and economic liberalization on contemporary art in India. 'Opening out' to the world has brought a range of new influences, opportunities, audiences, forms of circulation and means of production to Indian art in the last ten or fifteen years. 
Where in the World
What does the new Indian art look like? Whom does it address? And how will we remember this era in the future? These are some of the key questions that this exhibition addresses through its sections.. The first section, 'Export,' traces the strategies used by artists asked to enact 'Indian-ness' in their work. The following sections, 'Outraged' and 'Outrageous,' examine the ways in which artists engage with issues and the larger public beyond the art world. And finally, 'Uncollectable' considers the movements of objects through markets and into collections.
Section 1: Export
As artists from ‘elsewhere’ show their work in biennales and art fairs across the globe, international audiences expect to easily understand their work and concerns. One formula suggested for international success is to use local content but house it in post-modern forms. New genres and media and spectacular scale are used to re-make icons from visual tradition or to re-state current events from the artist’s home. This has been called ‘self-ethnologizing’ or presenting ourselves as others would wish to see us.This section of the exhibition suggests that there are many, and more complicated, relationships between location and mobility in the works of well- traveled artists from India. Through the past few years of global visibility, the expectation that art from India will look ‘Indian’ has become not just a formula to be followed, but is a field for artists to explore.
Untitled, Sudarshan Shetty
Mild steel & aluminum, multi-part installation, wall 168 inches x 28 inches x 84 inches & Video, 5 min 32 sec, 2007.

Over the years the Taj Mahal has become an icon of immortal love. This is a work, composed of rows of miniature steel Taj Mahals which function as bricks that create a huge wall – a visual obstruction.

Sudarshan Shetty asks us to consider what the making of a cultural icon does to the object that is iconicized. The monumental wall is composed of hundreds of souvenir Taj Mahals.

Rani, Subodh Gupta
Fibreglass, acrylic paints, 65½ inches x 38¼ inches x 38½ inches, 2001.

Rani, the cow is a symbol from his rural past. But her slick surface, covered in hot pink at the collector’s request, turns her from nostalgia into pop; it suggests a developing emotional distance that will allow the artist to mine his own past for imagery that is ripe for similar transformations.

High life II, Subodh Gupta, 
Steel cans on a frame, 55 inches diameter, 2002.                                                                                                                                         

Subodh Gupta first used the vocabulary of steel vessels at his solo show at Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, in 1998. The steel works are all about the instant impact of monumentality and sheen.

High Life II transforms Indian middle class utensils into spectacular and magical installations. Outside India, Gupta's chimtas and lotas recall the history, from Warhol onwards, of using mass-produced objects to make art.

The Other Thing (Chimta), Subodh Gupta
Stainless Steel, 81 inches x 83 inches x 25 inches, 2005-6.

Subodh’s work is an observation on bourgeoisie and material culture and it addresses the issues of commodification in this age of globalization.

Outside India, Subodh Gupta's chimtas and lotas recall the history, from Warhol onwards, of using mass-produced objects to make art. The familiarity of Subodh’s art-language might have a role to play in his reputation in the international market.

Untitled, Jagannath Panda (left) & Future Tales in Automation 1-10, Navin Thomas (right)
Fibreglass, metal frame, paper, 60 inch diameter, 2007 (left) & Print on archival paper, 51.1 inches x 35 inches (each), 2005 (right).

Navin Thomas trained as a cinematographer and graphic designer is sensitive to the alterations in the life-style of the work force engaged in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

Automation, voice and accent training and sleeping patterns determined by the call-centre industry prompted Thomas to make a series of photographic and comic strip collages, allegorically deploying parrot beaks and telephone receivers.

In Future Tales of Automation, the parrot beak recurs. The parrot here alludes not to the parrot-storyteller in Indian myths, but to a bird which is able to imitate the sounds that humans make, compulsively and repetitively, without understanding the meaning of the words uttered.

There is nothing that globalization has left un-touched, including the figural imaginations of an Orissan artist, Jagannath Panda. His experiences are stretched from the minutely local to the pervasively global.

Resting on the floor, this spherical dictionary has an unsettling sense of motion, as if it is about to roll around and perturb the existing order of the words on the surface. The dynamic inherent in the spherical form is symptomatic of the condition of globalization, not only in the signification of the globe, but also in its sense of movement.

This is not a globe on which terra incognita is denoted by lost and found contours, but it is a ‘terrain of cognition’ informed by satellite technology and electronic media capital, all unified in one language.

Love, Sudarshan Shetty
 Aluminum & brass, electric wire, 108 inches x 109 inches x 21.5 inches, 2006.

In this metal sculpture by Sudershan Shetty depicting the interaction of two bovine skeletons, one creature lying on his back appears to support a female alter-ego standing above.

Even though the creatures share minimal contact there is intimacy in the representation of love as the reflected self in ‘the other.’ Several of Shetty’s kinetic works are characterized by the use of the skeleton; the exposed framework of the being thus becomes an important signifier.

Where One Hand Claps/Signs That Betray Its Meaning, T.V. Santhosh
Oil on Canvas, 48 inches x 48 inches, 2002.

Santhosh works with pictorial ready-mades. Drawing on magazines, television, art history and world cinema for source images, he renders them on immense canvases.Where One Hand Claps/ Signs That Betray Its Meaning is the earlier work, executed when Santhosh was working with images with straightforward historical references.

It is based on a journalistic photograph of sadhus or Indian ascetics captured at the Kumbh Mela. An event like the Kumbh Mela which occurs once in twelve years attracts an international media presence and the images of naga sadhus coming for a holy dip in the sacred river, Ganga, becomes an stereotypical symbol of Hindu spirituality.

Untitled, Susanta Mandal
Single motor (2RPM) with iron - steel structure, air pump and soap solution, Variable size, 2007.

In this work, Susanta’s machinery is intended to create one bubble that goes through its entire life cycle in a matter of seconds. A mechanical arm drags a pipe through the soapy water and then pushes air through it.

A single bubble forms at the tip. Moments later, another arm brings down a needle to the bubble’s edge. Will the needle burst the bubble? Will the bubble survive?

The unfolding theatre of the bubble’s fate absorbs us, and makes us fear for it.

Section 2: Outraged
One way for art to intersect with the larger world is through an engagement with social and political issues. This section considers works that do so, often expressing outrage at the state of the world. Frequently this art re-frames issues that we have already received through news media. What does it mean to make a comment, however perceptive, through an artwork, which will be viewed in the limited circuits of the art world? The most persuasive argument suggests that art allows for a slower, more reflective dwelling on the issues that flash past us in the media-scape. In that sense, while the media may offer us information on crises, art can fill the information with meaning.
Atul Bhalla, Death, The River and Me (left), Sunset In the Valley, Krishanaraj Chonat (right)
Photographs, 63 pieces, 5 inches x 7 inches each, 2005 (left) &  Acrylic on canvas, stainless steel stand, binoculars, fake pearls and silicon, stand: 60 inches (ht), Canvas: 31.5 inches diameter, 2007 (right).

Death, the River and Me consists of 63 photographs that form a single, coherent narrative. In them, Atul Bhalla is seen on the banks of the Yamuna, marking the river’s death by having his head shaved in a mourning ritual practiced throughout India.

In these images the camera is not static, and the cameraman clearly moves around the place of the ritual, recording the loss of hair. The changing angles of the camera prevent the photographs from being monotonous, and at the same time break the axis of viewing.

Krishnaraj Chonat’s installations play with materials and textures to create a sense of unease. In other works, he has covered entire furniture ensembles with fake pearls, or fleece, or made cakes out of cracked earth.

By calling this work Sunset in the Valley, Chonat suggests that we are about to see a pleasant sight.

What is on show however, is a canvas depicting cracked, parched earth, which we should connect with the idea of famine, hunger and despair.

When the Gun is Raised, Dialogue Stops, Sheba Chhachhi and Sonia Jabbar
Black & white photographs, text, iron, sheets, wooden rihals (book stands), bricks, earth and rice, 360 inches long, 2000.

This collaborative installation by Sheba Chhachhi and Sonia Jabbar shows us the complexities of women’s lives in Kashmir in times of war and terrorism. We see women as doubly ‘victimised’ in this situation, as Kashmiris and as women.

Chhachhi’s photographs of individual women from Kashmir are paired with their testimonies and personal notes, collected by Jabbar over six years of research.

Questioning dominant discourses that tend to homogenise experiences under binaries such as Hindu-Muslim or India-Pakistan, the artists create an alternative that transcends such classifications.

This space is characterised by the uncompromising rejection of violence as a solution to any of these problems. The struggles of these women, from within patriarchy, condemn hyper-masculinity and the violence that accompanies it.

The Rice House, Probir Gupta
Plough, bricks, bamboo, 70.8 inches x 59 inches x 118 inches, 2003.

Six inverted wooden ploughs are tied together to make the skeleton of a storage house for rice. With no land to till and no rice to harvest, ploughs no longer in use are used to make a memorial that is intended to disturb our willful amnesia.

This work derives from Probir Gupta’s long-term engagement with human rights groups concerned with those who are displaced by development. Rice House reminds us of the forced dislocation, the loss of indigenous knowledge systems, the threat to the agrarian economy, and the deep, pervasive violence that underwrite our modernity and progress.

Section 3: Outrageous
Since the 1960’s counter-cultural movements in Japan, Europe and the USA have produced works of art or anti-art calculated to shock the public. Artists purposefully make works that are subversive, sacrilegious, sexually graphic, or physically dangerous to artists and/or viewers. Artists claim that this kind of work forces society to confront its taboos and its conventional understanding of right and wrong. More cynically, it is also suggested that this art is pure sensationalism, and is calculated to draw attention in an overpopulated art world. This may even be true of the art of shock from the last ten years, which seems not to resist commodification, but to attract it. 
Soap/Lick, Anita Dube
Sculpture with ceramic, velvet and metal, 7 inches x 14 inches x 36 inches, 2002.

Every autumn, Kali is worshipped in a popular festival in Bengal, where communities sponsor clay images that will be immersed in water after ten days of worship. There is a multiplicity of ways in which the deity can be imagined. Anita Dube participates in this multiplicity by creating her own representation of the goddess.

For Soap/Lick, Dube stacks a column of seven soap dishes. They are identical, apart from a small protrusion in front that grows progressively larger from top to bottom. This small change is crucial to the work, as this protrusion looks like a tongue, a symbol of Kali.

Covered with red velvet, the soap dishes lose their everyday connotation. The colour red is also associated with divinity, with Kali who spills the blood of the demon and with divinity in general due to the use of kumkum (vermillion) during worship.

How to Draw a Line Without Dots, C. R. Nanaiah
Print on newsprint paper, 15 inches x 22 inches (each), 2006.

C. R. Nanaiah’s posters serve as an ironic counter to the profusion of canvassing material that one is surrounded by at the time of elections. During an artists’ residency, Nanaiah inundated public space with these cheaply printed posters, plastering them on walls alongside other election campaign posters.

Shifting the emphasis from the candidates who aspire to be leaders in public life, to the ‘dots’ or the voters who create these leaders, Nanaiah’s poster shows the ink-marked finger of the voter who has already voted.

B for Bapu, Atul Dodiya
Oil on canvas, metal shutter, 98 inches x 66 inches, 2001.

In 2000, Atul Dodiya began to paint on storefront metal shutters. Most of these works are dialogic diptychs, in which the image on the shutter can be rolled up to reveal another image, often one that offered a startling contrast to the first.

In B for Bapu, instead of an opaque shutter, Dodiya uses one with a honeycomb screen. Whether the shutter is up or down, we can see the image of Bapu, the father of the nation. Dodiya’s image of Gandhi is based on a photograph that shows him sipping honey and water at the end of a fast.

Untitled, Mithu Sen
Dental polymer, fake teeth, drawing, Variable size, 2006.

Mithu Sen’s untitled teeth sculpture brings to mind the myth of vagina dentata or the ‘toothed vagina’. Expressing man’s fear of castration during the act of copulation, this myth warns of the dangers of sex with women.

Confronted with the sculpture, viewers enter a psychological state similar to the fearful men as they watch this female orifice fraught with jagged threats.

Sen uses wit as she takes the ultimate male horror to the point of absolute nightmarish hysteria only to hold it up to the audience as a sculptural frieze. Fear of castration escalates to the level of the impossible, and the fetishization of the fear becomes comical.

Silence (Blood Wedding), Anita Dube
Human bones covered in red velvet with beading and lace, 13 elements; Dimensions variable, 1997.

Anita Dube made Silence (Blood Wedding) at a time of intense emotional disturbance. She was dealing with a failed relationship and her father was diagnosed with a fatal illness.

Using real human bones as an armature, Dube sheathed them in a skin of deep red velvet and embellished them with beads and lace. Bejewelled, these pieces are effulgent; the objects embody what the artist describes as a ‘deep rejection of death’.

As we take delight in remnants of a dead person unknown to us, the beauty of these objects becomes profoundly disturbing. Bones, upon them, fabric, upon that, beads: the artist piles meaning upon meaning on the same entity.

The final layer perhaps is the plexiglass case provided for preservation and display of each of the thirteen pieces.

Self-consciously presenting these embellished bones as art, the work questions notions of cultural heritage, relics, the desire for possession, retrieval and appropriation. What then remains of personal history, memory, and loss?

I Always Remember You, Jeetander Ojha
Latex, iron, human hair, life size, 2004.

Jeetander Ojha’s I Always Remember You shocks us through its graphic rendering of flayed human skin. The figure represented is not only naked and dead, but has been violently shorn of its insides and hung upside down like a carcass in a butcher’s shop.

The artist made this sculpture after his father’s death, in response to the popular practice of framing photographs of the dead on the walls. By hanging up human skin in place of a benign photograph, Ojha compels us to face the reality of death rather than sentimental representations of the ‘deceased’.

Section 4: Uncollectable
This final section of the exhibition used a range of artworks and art-documentation to look at issues of collecting, not collecting and uncollectability. Collecting, rather than the market, is foregrounded here, because art is able to enter the market only when it takes a collectable form. And collecting – in a relatively stable, public institution – does not simply consume art, but assists in the formation of canons; collections make histories of art possible. What is not collected, very possibly, will be forgotten.
Eight Corners of the World, Sudarshan Shetty
Wood, Pvc pipes, glass pots, aluminium tub, tinted water, motor mechanical device, 21.6 inches x 12.7 inches x 64 inches, 2006.

In Shetty’s Eight Corners of the World series, domestic furniture and objects turn into surreal organs leaking blood or milk.

Collected in troughs placed under the cabinets, the liquids are pumped back to rejoin the endless, gushing, gurgling torrent.

If we keep the pump switched off in this work, it will no longer be the artwork that Shetty intended. If we keep it running, this cabinet will gradually degenerate and stop functioning as it wears itself away.

It Doesn’t Bite, Susanta Mandal
Steel structure with glass bottle, soap solution, air-pump, timer, black granite, 26 inches x 20 inches x 9 inches - 18 inches (each), 2007.

Susanta Mandal uses soap solution and an electric motor to make bubble ‘sculptures’ that form and burst in a continual reinvention of themselves. In his words, he ‘explores the play of structured, static forms with the ephemeral and fragile’.

The interaction of steel structures and soap bubbles is immensely engaging.The bubbles turn into protagonists who seem to be performing as they breathe onto solid steel.

Here, the artist can control the amount of air that the motor pumps into the tray, but he cannot dictate the form and shape of the final work.

Kinetic Sculpture, Nicola Durvasula 
Wooden base, incense stick, 18 inches x 16 inches, 2006.

This sculpture is one of a series that Nicola Durvasula made as homages and reprisals of modernist masterpieces. Kinetic Sculpture remakes Naum Gabo’s work, Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) (1919-20).

Durvasula’s sculpture replaces the upright metal rod with the consumable, ephemeral and culturally marked agarbatti or incense stick.

Love, Sudarshan Shetty
Stainless steel and fibreglass, 83 inches x 199 inches x 104 inches (Dinosaur) & 49 inches x 169 inches x 59 inches (Jaguar), 2006.

In this installation, Shetty makes clever use of two iconic symbols: the fibreglass cast of a 1972 Jaguar car which is the symbol of luxury, and a relic from the past, a dinosaur, made of steel plates.

A steel dinosaur fornicating with a Jaguar car.The willing car has its rear cranked up, and the dinosaur has an exaggeratedly large phallus.

By adding motion Shetty makes the act of fornication something the viewer cannot avoid seeing. The work’s largeness and the visibility of its mechanical devices add to the viewer’s discomfort.

Credits: Story

Where in the World Exhibition at the Devi Art Foundation was Curated by Edward Anderson, Seher Agarwala, Neha Berlia, Rajashree Biswal, Ayeeta Biswas, Ambar Sahil Chatterjee, Rahul Dev, Dipa Donde, Natasha Ginwala, Vartikka Kaul, Nidhi Khurana,Premjish Nil, Eesha Phanse, Mohd. Ahmed Sabih, Moumita Sen, Yamini Telkar, Agastaya Thapa, Malavika Venugopal, and John Xaviers.

Led by Kavita Singh, Shukla Sawant and Naman Ahuja
School of Art & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Devi Art Foundation Team (Where in the World): Deepti Mulgund, Jaya Neupaney.

Text copyright (2008), students and faculty of the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Image copyright (2008), of the Artists and Devi Art Foundation.

Exhibit drafted by: Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi, Kriti Sood, Devi Art Foundation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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