Rupa-Pratirupa: The Body in Indian Art

April - June, 2014

Venue: National Museum, Delhi

The Body in Indian Art and Thought / Corps de l’Inde / India Belichaamd

October, 2013 - January, 2014

Venue: Palais des Beaux Arts at Brussels for Europalia.13

Rupa-Pratirupa: The Body in Indian Art, at the National Museum of India, Delhi, being the adaptation of the exhibition with a similar title, staged as the key exhibition for Europalia.13 in Brussels with 360+ works displayed over 15,000 square feet, sourced from 44 government and private lenders.

The exhibition explored the same eight thematics that were on view in Brussels.

The Body in Indian Art and Thought / Corps de l’Inde / India Belichaamd, An exhibition of 350+ artworks from 50 lenders at the Palais des Beaux Arts at Brussels for Europalia.13; sponsored jointly by the ICCR, Ministry of Culture and Europalia International Arts Festival. Published book by way of catalogue, (ISBN: 9 789461 301338, Ludion Publishers, Antwerp) as three separate language editions in English, French and Dutch. Exhibition covered approximately 20,000 square feet, and visitor numbers are estimated at 75,000. Widely covered by print and electronic media in Europe.

Gallery I was titled: Death the Body is but Temporary, and opened with dated memorials to actual men and women to emphasise the need to look at Indian philosophical / aesthetic ideas as being historically located in time and space. Gallery II was titled: The Body Beyond the Limits of Form, and explored a plurality of Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Jain ideas towards abstraction, while resisting representation of the body. Gallery III: [Re] Birth, was divided into three parts - Desire / Creation, the Mother, and Miraculous Births. Gallery IV: Bodies in the Cosmos explored both the efforts of ancient and medieval science to situate the body in the universe as well as imagine the universe itself as a macrocosmic body. Gallery V: The Body Ideal: Supernatural explored a variety of supernatural forms, the rules that undergird their making, and how historical personages turn into supernatural forms. Gallery VI was titled The Body Ideal: Heroic. Heroes are mortals who are treated as if immortals. Society adopts different exemplars in different situations. A variety of these were displayed. Gallery VII: The Body Ideal: Ascetic, explored heroes of a different sort. Those whose battles are fought in the mind rather than in the physical world. Buddhism and Jainism emerged as traditions of wandering ascetics. Bhakti and Sufi ascetics challenged societal regulations of caste and gender and verses of their poetry were positioned near sculptures and paintings of the saints. Ashrams, caves and temple spaces were equally spaces for physical cultivation of martial arts and yoga, and, even militant forms of asceticism. The last, Gallery VIII titled Rapture: The Body of Art, explored the many ways in which art is celebrated for its capacity to capture the body. It explored the interface of dance, music, poetry and the visual arts through a display which interwove these different mediums.

The exhibition juxtaposed Indian antiquities with folk and tribal art, modern and contemporary art, video documentation of rituals and dance performances and used classical Hindustani, Carnatic and dhrupad music alongside artworks. It was designed in a cyclical manner, wherein the visitors could reenter the first gallery of the Palais des Beaux Arts and the National Museum, after they had finished with Gallery VIII: Rapture and Death being situated as one leading to another. The eight thematics were themselves staged as a series of dialectics: where concepts around the death of the body, its memorialization, and desire for representation were explored in Gallery I, ideas of how immortal bodies were represented formed the subject of Gallery V. While matters of cosmology and fate were the concern of Gallery IV, what inspired righteous action and individual agency was presented in Gallery VI. Where creation, birth and life itself are determined by desire, miracles and forces beyond human control were discussed in Gallery III, Gallery VII showed how human ascetical power can conquer desire and societal norms. And while Gallery II explored how ‘truth’ cannot be represented in bodily form in a transient and illusory life, Gallery VIII outlined how the aesthetic sensorium has itself been thought of as ‘truth’ in a variety of Indian traditions.

Text by Naman Ahuja.

Sign In Close
Only Critical Collective subscribers can access this page.
If you are already a subscriber, then please log in.
 Forgot Password?
Subscribe now