Bharti Kher on India’s Absence at the Venice Biennale

Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares Bharti Kher’s letter on the absence of India at the Venice Biennale

To Whom It May Concern (if at all)
As I sit these mornings and look at my mailbox something about where I’m from and at bothers me as the news from Venice Biennale filters in:  pavilions from Angola (population 19.6 million, civil wars 1975 to 2002) Azerbaijan (9.173 million) Bangladesh, Tuvalu (population 9,847)  …yes smaller than Lajpat Nagar! Iraq, Kuwait, Maldives, Montenegro, special participations from Palestine, Tibet…. etc. We didn’t bother to make it happen. Again. It’s a catalyst perhaps to move, a truth of other happenings that remain unresolved. Nagging issues that plague us in India.

A country with no art is like a child with no parents. The child grows up unable to love without envy and mistrust. Deprived of affection warmth and care, most likely develops poor and problematic social skills. The orphan will rarely laugh at itself when self depreciation is a fundamental tool of critique and wont know a mother who has stories to share and songs to pass on; an accumulation of associations that are sweet even sublime just pass by. Skin that can be caressed and the smells of those things primal and intrinsic have not been etched or marked on the body. Instead, memories and lessons are hard and practical: survival, power, money, and make friends with those you need.

The fear of the future and possible failures are veiled in arrogance and bravado. Who cares anyway, no one is looking at me, so why bother with how I look, forget outwardly appearances or more poignant perhaps: why bother with my soul, when no one has nourished it? Self-respect or pride isn’t the problem; there is that in abundance, to oblivion. Its indifference and apathy, that runs like a wild rabid dog, frothing and foaming. Insipid bile that rises from an empty stomach, electric envy of green; staining blood red, Judas yellow, Kali’s black teeth, and the whiteness of that albino whale, crashing-crushing like the battle inside the belly of that dog.When we sent our specialists(i heard 35 or so) from the Indian government last year to witness our first participation in 116 years, with their junkets and ice-cream coupons, didn’t they see that Venice
was about the art and sharing of ideas and not fake handbags or
collecting masks? Maybe they forgot, maybe they were busy eating ice cream on a hand carved wooden gondolas. What was I doing?  What can I do now? If we cant play with the stuff of dreams anymore, where will be the invention? If we can’t bear witness, how will there be a memory of the things that should never be forgotten.You can say, “who cares” … nationalist agendas are not relevant anymore. I agree. Art is not relevant because it cannot change the world. I agree. But we can’t escape apathy and indifference and I’m not talking about politics, I’m talking about love.

Boston 28th may 2013

Project Space: Word. Sound. Power. At The Tate Modern.

Emily Jane Cushing suggests the Tate Modern exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’

London: Tate Modern exhibition ‘Project Space: Word. Sound. Power’ is the first in a series of international collaborative exhibitions exhibited at the Tate Modern, London.

Anjali Monteiroand K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit,

Anjali Monteiroand K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit,

Driven by the desire of strengthening cultural exchange and dialogue throughout the world, the series presents contemporary art through a series of collaborations with cultural organisations.

Project Space: Word. Sound. Power. is curated by Loren Hansi Momodu at Tate Modern and Andi-Asmita Rangari, Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi. Indeed, what makes this exhibition so exciting is the bringing together of emerging curators from both the Tate Modern and selected international venues to create shows to be exhibited in both London and the inspired location, in this exhibition the other location will be New Delhi.

The series will show-case the work of new artists, those recently established and of rediscovered artists. Among these artists are Amar Kanwar and Anjali Monteiro and K.P Jayasankar using medium including audio documentary, video, performance, text and sound. The Tate writes that it hopes this exhibition takes a moment to listen to the harmony and dissonance of voices rising.

Amar Kanwar’s film ‘A Night of Prophecy’ was shot in several regions of India including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Kashmir. The artists from these regions used music and poetry of tragedy and protest to express emotions resulting from caste-bound poverty and the loss of loved ones caused by tribal and religious fighting.

Amar Kanwar, Still from A Night of Prophecy 2002, Image Credit;

Amar Kanwar, Still from A Night of Prophecy 2002, Image Credit;

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit;

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar, Still from Saacha (The Loom) 2001, Image Credit;

Saacha is about a poet, a painter and a city. The poet is Narayan Surve, the painter Sudhir Patwardhan and the city is Mumbai; the birth place of the Indian textile industry and the industrial working class. The film addresses the politics of representation and the decline of the urban working class in an age of structural readjustment, whilst simultaneously exploring the relevance of art in this contemporary social environment.

Related events include Performance and music; Mithu Sen  will make public readings of a new work entitled ‘I am a Poet‘, which she describes as being ‘not bound by rules of grammar, diction, vocabulary and syntax’. Mithu Sen will be reading ‘I am a Poet‘ on Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00.

And a film by Anand Patwardhan: We Are Not Your Monkeys; Jai Bhim Comrade, Monday 15 July 2013, 18.00 – 22.30

The exhibition will show from 12 July – 3 November 2013 at the Tate Modern London, and continues at Khoj, International Artists’ Association, New Delhi, 10 January – 08 February 2014.

More information about the Tate exhibition can be found here.

Le Corbusier at the MoMa

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart discusses Corbusier’s ongoing retrospective at the MoMA in New York and how it drafts an unconventional picture of the famed architect

Corbusier in Chandigarh, India

Corbusier in Chandigarh, India. Image Credit:

New York: Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes opened this month at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. A retrospective exhibition on a grand scale, it surveys the biographical development of the architect’s ideas about landscape and topography. In the words of guest curator Jean-Louis Cohen, it undertakes a restorative task by challenging his long held reputation as proponent of austere, uniform modernism and to re-skew Le Corbusier from his bad reputation of constructing generic buildings with a gaping lack of sensitivity and addressal of the site at large, by presenting to the visitor a dazzling breadth of the architect’s creative genius.

Legislative Assembly Building, Chandigarh

Legislative Assembly Building, Chandigarh. Image Credit:

Encompassing his work as an architect, interior designer, artist, city planner, writer, and photographer, the exhibition transforms the sixth floor into a grand tour of the multiple facets of Le Corbuseir’s life and his many undertakings and achievements. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensively researched and impressively put together catalogue in the format of an altas, fastidiously listing the major projects the architect undertook during his lifetime.

The exhibition space displays four reconstructed interiors, models of buildings, complementing photographs by Richard Pare, Corbusier’s early purist paintings, sketches, drawings, watercolor, furniture and film, all together documenting his many travels and engagements. The exhibition’s fourth section is devoted to Corbusier’s plan and buildings in Chandigarh, India. Three plaster architectural models and 11 ink and pencil perspective drawings work in concert with Pare’s photography to reveal Corbusier distinct connection with Chandigarh, and the role that Punjab’s landscape played in (literally) shaping his grand plans for the capital city.

Palace of Assembly, Chandigarh

Palace of Assembly, Chandigarh. Image Credit:

As noted in the opening pages of the catalogue Corbusier is one of the rare architects to have built on three continents before the advent of commercial interconnected jet service. The sheer volume- of material and discourse, produced by the exhibition is a clear indicator of the uncontested standing of the architect in the field. His major criticism has centered on the apparent disconnect between his structures and their surroundings. The validity and longevity of this critique can be ascertained by the retrospective’s herculean undertaking to establish the relationship between Corbusier and landscape- a very specific and noteworthy point of focus.

As illuminated by the catalogue essays, Corbusier approached landscape from different angles- some manifest while others latent. Contrary to popular belief, he had a keen interest in landscape, evident from his paintings, drawings, writings and travels, which are inherently attached to the appearance of landscape. He developed an understanding of the building as a type of viewing device for the landscape into an object of contemplation in ways quite distinct from the picturesque tradition.  He actually went on to develop a notion of landscape that included both the microscopic scale of a building’s immediate environment and the small landscape that it created or sustained, such as terraces, the macroscopic scale of urban ensembles and large terrains. He was attentive to both the grand landscapes of mountains and coastlines as well as the urban cityscapes. His pocket sketchbooks document this lifetime interest.

Aptly stated in the catalogue, “Le Corbusier was engaged not with the ways in which things are similar around the world but rather with the ways in which they are distinct, with layers of culture that resonate even in worlds in mutation from the forces of modernization.”

The exhibition will be on until September 23, to learn more click here.

Nikhil Chopra’s Coal on Cotton

Elizabeth Prendiville shares a note on Nikhil Chopra’s performance at the Manchester International Festival this summer

New York: Performance artist Nikhil Chopra will be executing a very unique site specific piece over the course of sixty five hours at the Manchester International Festival this summer. Over the nearly three full day Chopra will be performing his piece “Coal on Cotton” for a live audience at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. This space is particularly different because it is currently unfinished and under construction.  In addition to carrying out his normal daily habits such as eating and sleeping, Chopra will be drawing specifically with coal.

Nikhil Chopra at Manchester International Festival

Nikhil Chopra at Manchester International Festival. Image Credit:

Chopra utilizes materials that directly relate to the meaning of his work. He draws on cotton from Mumbai that was woven in one of the few remaining historical textile manufacturers left in Manchester. By using these materials he engages the audience in a discussion about these two individual colonial cities that are linked in the historical context by the textile industry. Through his work and the use of the characters he embodies, Chopra hopes to reclaim and revitalize the histories of these two places as well as bring them into a contemporary context.

Chopra moved to the United States in 1997 to pursue his Masters in Fine Art at Ohio State University. At the university he began to explore performance art as his chosen medium. Within his work Chopra plays a variety of characters, all of which have a historical element as well as a biographical one. Throughout his career his performance art pieces have been shown at a variety of esteemed international art destinations including New York City, Sydney and the Venice Biennial.

Although creating a live artistic piece over the entirety of sixty five hours may seem like an expression of shock value for audience members, Chopra insists that this allotted time is entirely necessary for the creation of the piece. His artist statement claims that this time allows him to truly manipulate and change the space, creating a transformative and liminal experience for audience members. Nikhil Chopra’s inventive discussion of the history of the textile industry from an Indian and Euro-centric scope is sure to be a must see at the Manchester International Festival this year. His performance will take place July 5th through July 7th.

To learn more about the festival click here.

The Splendors of India’s Royal Courts Displaying In The Forbidden City.

Emily Jane Cushing suggests ‘The Splendors of India’s Royal Courts’, an exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Detail of Religious procession. A scroll showing, About 1825-1830. Image Credit;

Detail of Religious procession. A scroll showing, About 1825-1830. Image Credit;

London: For the first time the arts of Royal India are coming to China.

The exhibition will take place in the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City until 31st July 2013. This setting results in a collision of two of the greatest and richest civilizations in one place.

The 113 especially selected works are from London’s V&A collection, the range of objects is vast, including paintings, textiles, jewelry, thrones and arms and armor as well as instruments; all spanning from the 18th-19th century.

Stringed instrument, North India, 1800-1880, Image Credit,

Stringed instrument, North India, 1800-1880; Image Credit,

The works are symbolic of the wealth, power and influence of the Maharajah of the period. The magnificent works were intended to enhance status and royal identity and also reflect the shifts of power within the Royal kingdom.

The diverse exhibition is separated into four parts; the Darbar, Palace Life, Beyond the Palace and The Influence of the West.

The Darbar, meaning Royal court, is the area in which private rituals would take place which were attended by only courtiers and nobles. Formal events such as the King’s birthday however, were celebrated in public view. During these events the public would see their ruler drenched in the finest textiles and jewelry and surrounded by ceremonial weapons and royal regalia, all of which signified his wealth and power and examples of such on display here.

Turban Ornament, Mughal Court, 1700-1750; Image Credit;

Turban Ornament, Mughal Court, 1700-1750; Image Credit;

This turban ornament is a small example of the ornate decoration used on objects for ceremonial use that are displayed in this exhibition. The craftsmanship is evident here with the hand cut emerald, rubies and jade delicately placed. Interestingly, these objects of finery were often made by the private courts makers, intended for the sole use of the royal family and made only from the finest materials.

The second section of the exhibition, Palace Life, explores the private lives of the rulers and their consorts; there are examples of instruments, board games and costumes which were used as past-times and for pleasure.

The below work of a woman holding a kite is from this part of the exhibition, the kite symbolizing a distant lover; interesting to note is the figures and images in these works are not factual and are always imaginary scenes with symbolic value, usually evoking romantic notions.

Lady Flying a Kite, Bikaner or Jodhpur, 1730-1750; Image Credit,

Lady Flying a Kite, Bikaner or Jodhpur, 1730-1750; Image Credit,

The third section of the exhibition, Beyond the Palace, shows the life of the King outside of the royal palace. These images of a richly adorned king joined by his horses and elephants are believed to show the kings ability to protect his country from threats.

Painting of procession on Ram Singh II of Kota, India, Circa 1850; Image Credit,

Painting of procession on Ram Singh II of Kota, India, Circa 1850; Image Credit,

The final section, The Influence of the West, examines the impact of Western culture on the Indian Royal courts and includes portraiture by British artist Tilly Kettle and others. These works exhibit western painting techniques such as chiaroscuro and perspective.

I hope you like the look of this exhibition; I do! This diverse and exciting collection is showing until 31st July at the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Further information can be found here.

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