19 May - 11 Sept 2011

Venue - Microna, Prague

Participating Artists

Anita Dube, Avinash Veeraraghavan, Charmi Gada Shah, Gigi Scaria, Justin Ponmany, Minam Apang, Monali Meher, Nikhil Chopra, PS Jalaja, Ranbir Kaleka, Riyas Komu, Sakshi Gupta, Sarnath Bannerjee, Shah Betancourt, Shine Shivan, Shreyas Karle, Sonia Jose, Sudarshan Shetty, T. Venkanna, Tejal Shah, T.V. Santosh, Vivek Vilasini

The idea of India itself generates vivified images of diverse landscape and culture. The intense colors that spread across the sub continent surpass all the prevalent religions, languages and social contexts to become one single kaleidoscopic vision that distinguishes the country from the rest of the world. After being declared independent, India has been dynamically changing into a more sharply defined nation in all areas including economy, culture and education. Liberalization of the economy has enabled infinite possibilities for the people globally, and the youth to be able to make intimate choices and to think independently. As a young nation, India is ever changing to keep up with time and adapting to the growing needs of the citizens, although remaining emotionally bound to the roots. Culture, aesthetics and philosophy become the ideological foundation for every Indian. The social and religious norms are passed through generations, and with every generation these norms and obligations are diluted with the adaptation of the progressive economic environment. Caste barriers, marriage, education and all conventional institutions have adapted to current systems and trends. This induces multiplicity and hybridity of a heterogeneous population that re-defines India over and over again.

This phenomenon has led to a conspicuous shift in popular aesthetics and there is a significant change in the way Indian Contemporary art is perceived in India and internationally. The rise of elite patronage has empowered the artistic community, encouraged them to debate the issues of identity, sexuality, mortality and social setting within rural and urban societies through their work. The introduction to new media (installation, video, performance and photography) and technology has become a threshold for artists to analyze their contexts further, and to play with complex materials that create alternate creative strategies. The work produced by these artists in the last few years is the sheer evidence of the changing mindset of the country and have become a paradigm for the standing of Indian art internationally. As stated by Deekasha Nath, “’Contemporary’ is used as a synonym for hip (or trendsetting) and recognizes the fascination with the surface of sculptural installations (or other media). Artists consciously use this charm as a tool to appeal directly to the viewer and draw attention to the work’s larger aims.” Artists like Sudarshan Shetty, Anita Dube, Ranbir Kaleka, Riyas Komu and Gigi Scaria have become icons of Indian contemporary ‘fine’ art and their work is compounded with several materials and visual languages. They interpret social and economic currents, which question the prevailing issues and are laden with philosophical adaptations of the truth as they see it. However, only a very small fragment of the population appreciates this genre of intellectually inclined art, which is critiqued, argued and documented through publications and blogs alike.

In a densely populated country like India, popular culture has succeeded to overwhelm the masses, where Bollywood and Cricket are idolized, and have become the ultimate reality for many. Bollywood opens up a world of fantasy through the hypnosis of cinema. The power of media has the ability to fabricate ‘superstars’ with glamorous lifestyles, which every individual aspires to have. Similarly, cricket as a sport is raised to the level of national pride and the players to the level of demi-gods. With the element of entertainment, every concept can become a conspicuous spectacle, which can generate the individual’s interest immediately. One of the pioneers of conceptual art and installation in India, Sudarshan Shetty creates large and sometimes kinetic sculptures and installations created from and interplay of found objects of everyday use. The scale and materials involved with each of his work are initially perceived as a spectacle, which lure the viewer towards it, however, on interaction, “they displace the meaning and undermine immediate comprehension…” Deeksha Nath articulates. These assemblages pose as a metaphor and a philosophical interpretation of the pattern of everyday living, of absence and mortality; he transforms the identity of the object with relation to its utility. Ranbir Kaleka on the other hand, conveys the notion of everyday reality through his complex video projections superimposed onto a still image painted on a canvas. This effect of a moving image on a still image creates a hyper-real experience, amplifying the senses of the viewer through the visuals and subject matter. His work, Man With Cockerel is a 19 seconds long video that loops continuously the actions and the feelings of a man who struggles with his cockerel. This subtle action is symbolic of the circle of a man’s life, its experiences, death and rebirth in the conscious and sub conscious states of mind.

Gigi Scaria’s works echo the contrasting distinctions of rural and urban societies. The prejudices within social structures are clearly evident in large cities where sky rises overlook dense slum dwellings, and ‘non-belonging and unsettlement’ evolve in to a way of life. The fear of gentrification and displacement becomes a daily hazard for migrants, evolving a culture based on the lack of hygiene, and health. He says, “Indulging in the core of urban life made the urbanite think of himself/herself as a romantic outsider to the system that they deeply inhaled...” The video, Amusement Park, is a logical extension of this urban romanticism that Gigi speaks about. It is a black and white Cinemascope video projection where carousels and rides in a theme park are replaced by concrete urban structures. He goes on to say, “Here in this park they crawled, flew, fell and screamed with a momentary transcendence of the self. A self never returned to its original self ever.”

The definition of cultural identity takes a whole new meaning when the sub continent is now a part of the global composition, and the construction of identities no longer remain within the Indian context. The process of identifying and assimilating these identities to make distinct territories within multifaceted ideologies is fascinating, especially in the vernacular situation. Vivek Vilasini has constructed digitally manipulated images, in which he amalgamates slivers of Eastern and Western popular culture and iconography. The image of the South-Indian Kathakali dancer (athoroughly stylized classical dance form with elaborate costumes and bright make up) embedded in classical works like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam creates an entirely new ‘mind map’ with its own unique characteristic. India is no longer ‘Indian’. This mass phenomenon of the ongoing cultural negotiations has generated complex, ‘cross-bred’ and self-reliant mindsets that co-exist with the surviving conventions.

Each of the artists selected in this exhibition interpret their intimate perception through a myriad of profound visual languages. Whether it is Nikhil Chopra’s engaging and ephemeral performances or Tejal Shah’s intense videos of feminism and homosexuality. From social concerns to personal expression, the artists continue to delve into the labyrinths of their processes to participate and contribute their aesthetic, engaging themselves within the global sphere on equal terms.

References from

· Art and Visual Culture in India 1957-2007 by Gayatri Sinha

· INDIA From Midnight to the Millenium and Beyond by Shashi Tharoor

· The Idea of India by Sunil Khilani

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