7 February - 20 March, 2010
The Harrington Street Arts Centre, Kolkata
Paula Sengupta, Archana Hande, Joscelyn Gardner, Michele Elliot, Teresa Cole, Lavanya Mani
Chintz was a coveted, woodblock printed, painted or stained calico that originated on the Coromandel Coast in 17th century India. Appropriating patterns and dyes from the Far, Middle, and Near East, chintz found its way along the legendary Silk Route to the homes and wardrobes of the fashionable in Europe, eventually attaining such popularity that its use had to be banned by law in
France in 1686 and in England in 1720 for fear that it would do the mills out of business. However, the Court of Versailles was outside the purview of the law and continued to use chintz. In 1759, the ban against chintz was lifted. By this time, French and English mills were able to produce chintz.
On another note, the term “chintz” derives from the very humble Hindi word “chheent” used to denote cheap printed cotton textile, popularly available across the Indian Subcontinent even today.
While chintz itself is a living testimony of the politics of Colonization and the many contradictions that it gave rise to, this Centre, by virtue of its location and character, also stands as a palpable signifier of the post-Colonial condition.
Located in a colonial apartment building in the heart of what used to be the “White Town” in Calcutta, once the august capital of the British Raj in India, it stands on what was once known as ‘Harrington Street’, today renamed ‘Ho-chi Minh Sarani’ in a city renamed ‘Kolkata’! Opposite the apartment building is located the US Consulate due to which, for security reasons, the street is for some years now a walking street.
“Stains on my Chintz” attempts to confront the gallery not merely as a space for display, but as a site to be addressed. The six artist-participants in this project all hail from Colonized cultures across the globe. Through the basic premises of their practice, the languages that they appropriate, and the mediums and materials that they use in making, these six artists habitually address the politics, processes, and impact of Colonization on the Post-colonial world/condition. What distinguishes them is that their perspectives distinctly derive from domains that are consistently, through history, regarded as feminine/feminist. While each addresses these issues from the contexts in which they are rooted, often combining them with cultures they have encountered, there exists between the six an overlapping of concerns and possibilities for dialogue and collaboration that forms the basis of this project, together with an engagement with the site.
Text by Paula Sengupta.