Religare Arts Initiative, 1-31 October, 2010

Participating Artists:

Baiju Parthan, N. Pushpamala, Jayashree Chakravarty, Bharti Kher, Subodh Gupta, Shibu Natesan, Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya, Surendran Nair, NN Rimzon, Anita Dube, Nataraj Sharma, Sudarshan Shetty, Bose Krishnamachari, NS Harsha, Jagannath Panda, Jitish Kallat, Shilpa Gupta, TV Santhosh, Riyas Komu

This exhibition is intended to accompany the publication Voices of Change; 20 Contemporary Artists (working title) a book on a definitive segment of contemporary artists who have determined Indian art production in the last two decades. At present, no such intertextual reading of the work of this generation of artists exists. The book is published by Marg.

Looking Glass invites self reflexivity in the artist’s practices, art environment and circuits of exchange. It seeks to reflect on the role of the artist as mediator/interpreter/witness. As world art practices adjust to a new order, the artist is compelled to revisit methods, materials and his/her own location. In the absence of radical positions, this generation of artists is no longer innocent of markets, and the ‘making’ of artists through promotional systems and mercantile structures of art. At the same time, global networks of exchange have brought the artist closer to globalized wars, the multiple intersecting corridors of religion and politics, critical and academic systems. There is also a heightened sense of the vernacular, and the dynamic pull of local expressivity. In such extreme flux, the quest for value and meaning, for a location within a rapidly shifting social polity and personal idealism continues.

For a mid career artist, at the cusp of a new decade, how do these multiple challenges play out?

The concept of Looking Glass is inspired by the Lacanian notion of self reflexivity and transparency. The artist in creating a work in the isolation of his studio uses many of the conventions of the mirror - of projection, distortion and inversion, as well as of a subjectivity contained within objecthood-in this case the art work. The individual, according to Lacan, constitutes three regimes of the self - the Imaginary, with its potential for deception, the Symbolic, and its ability to stimulate language, and the Real or the absolute-that which is often the most difficult to define. The artist working in the studio in a hermetic state, and then stepping out into global networks presents the circuit between a poetic and a social self, or what Lacan calls the ego-ideal and the ideal-ego. The ideal ego is the identity that you take on and the ego-ideal is the point from which you self examine.

With art at the intersection of the mirror and the self, Looking Glass: The existence of difference invites the artist to reflect on his own practice, within existing, frequently unstable contexts. Even as one looks forward, the mirror carries the reflection of the past. Do changing times and the compulsions of history cause a shift in practice - frequently in refuge or in mockery of our past, or do they signal the epiphanies of an unseen future?

Concept note by Gayatri Sinha

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