Bringing together scholarship in art history, anthropology, and cinema and media studies, this panel considers changing forms of and publics for contemporary art and visual culture in India since the 1990s. It focuses on creative responses to neoliberal economic reforms and globalization, the rise and consolidation of Hindu nationalism, and various conflicts defined along gendered, caste, class, ethnic, religious and ecological lines. It examines ways of making and displaying contemporary art and visual culture that reinvent traditional forms (e.g. painting, sculpture, performance, and film) and engage diverse audiences in art galleries, film festivals, regional biennales, and theme parks and through radio, television, print culture and social media. Kajri Jain has described these emergent forms of visual culture as “object-events,” or complex assemblages in which medium and matter are inextricable. While these forms can be insistently material or intensely ephemeral (e.g. monumental cement sculpture or a poetry reading on a decommissioned state ferry), they are often collaborative ventures. Their publics extend beyond conventional audiences for visual art, cinema, and the performing arts. Their address resonates with new modes of protest, demonstration, and gathering and with old patterns of pilgrimage, procession, and politics. Collectively they suggest future directions for scholarly inquiry across media, disciplines, and areas of specialization, and point to a porosity between elite and popular visual practices. Against technological determinism, developmentalist logics, and claims of a wholesale shift from old to new media, our session proposes a complex reordering of art, visual culture, public space, and mediascapes in contemporary India.
Paper Presenter: Anuja Jain – Wesleyan University
Paper Presenter: Akshaya Tankha – Yale University
Paper Presenter: Sonal Khullar – University of Pennsylvania
Paper Presenter: Lalitha Gopalan – University of Texas at Austin