ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012

(P38)

Art worlds and the city: perspectives from India and beyond

Location Arts and Aesthetics Lecture Hall No. 003, SAA-II
Date and Start Time 04 April, 2012 at 08:30

Convenor

Amit Desai (The Queen's University of Belfast) email
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Short Abstract

The growth of contemporary art institutions and markets in a number of cities all over the world has had the effect of reshaping city space. This panel considers how the development of art worlds has transformed artists' and others' understandings and experiences of the cities in which they live.

Long Abstract

The growth of contemporary art institutions and markets in a number of cities all over the world in the past twenty years has had the effect of reshaping space. Museums, galleries, and art education centres are often centrally present in urban regeneration projects and cities promote themselves as cultural destinations by highlighting the vibrancy of their 'scenes'. The increased consumption of Chinese, Indian, African, and South American contemporary art has led to altered flows of capital that reshape the spaces of the city where such art is produced and exhibited. This panel considers how the development of art worlds has transformed artists' and others' understandings and experiences of the cities in which they live.

Cities lend themselves to utopian visions. Artists produced and supported by a newly emerged art world infrastructure may offer critical commentaries on these very processes of change, which are regarded as adversely affecting the existing sociality of neighbourhoods or marginalising already marginalised citizens. Or do these new spaces enhance creativity? What kinds of cities do artists desire? Do these desires lead to conflict with local government or art institutions?

We also explore the visibility or invisibility of contemporary art actors in the life of the city. Might the development of a private network of galleries and collectors highlight the marginal status of contemporary art in a city where 'traditional' forms of art are more highly valued by citizens and/or by government?

The panel therefore considers questions at the intersections of anthropology, art, and critical geography.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The cultivation of creativity and the management of chaos at an artists' village in Chennai

Author: Amit Desai (The Queen's University of Belfast)  email

Short Abstract

Reflecting on the status of chaos and civilization in the cultivation of creativity among contemporary artists in Chennai, India, I explore the ways these ideas are expressed through the establishment of the Cholamandal Artists’ Village, located on the outskirts of the city.

Long Abstract

Reflecting on the status of chaos and civilization in the articulation of creativity among contemporary artists in Chennai, India, I explore the ways these ideas are expressed through the establishment of the Cholamandal Artists' Village, located on the outskirts of the city. In particular, following Scott (2005), I consider how the Village operates at several levels of cosmological (or ontological) action. As a co-operative endeavour, the Village can be seen as an attempt to create artistic identity and economic security in the difference-producing, clamorous, and chaotic conditions of postcolonial India. This is an image of chaos that is full and in which creativity entails difference. However, the Village can also be understood as articulating a particularly Tamil vision of chaos as empty, uncivilized land, the cultivation of which through practices of work ('artistic creation') involves the flow of substances between land and people. I discuss how these complementary notions of chaos and creativity reveal the contradictions and tensions of artistic personhood and place in South India today.

Resisting being uber-cool: an artist's encounter with Bengaluru

Author: Rashmi Munikempanna  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the active creation of Bengaluru as a cultural hub and the possibilities for an arts practice to negotiate these terms of access to the city.

Long Abstract

Bengaluru in the past decade has not only made it on to the international map as a IT hub but has also been actively designing itself as a cultural city offering up new spaces for contemporary art and art education. This paper explores the recent spurt of art spaces in Bengaluru, both private and public, not as offering something transformative but as underlining and codifying already existing frameworks surrounding cultural capital and its production. I encounter these places as an artist mapping my way into the art space here, into this city, and the conditions of work under which I am asked to perform including free labour and lack of transparency with regards to opportunities, jobs and funding. I also explore the use of language, more of a cut and paste from galleries of the Global North, that offers the possibilities for an arts practice that seeks to engage with the excluded other but ends up reiterating the power equations that keeps the other from accessing these spaces. I end with exploring the possibilities for an arts practice to escape the confines of these 'organised' art spaces, an attempt to resist and occupy the city to newly imagine it beyond the flows of capital decided by art markets elsewhere.

Populating architecture with community: the symbolic integration of stark concrete with everyday life in Chandigarh, India

Author: Abhik Ghosh (Panjab University)  email

Short Abstract

Chandigarh has been seen as a modernist architecture which may also translate as an art form. When it began to create homes within, the people began to modify this art to suit individual requirements, an issue which is illustrated, discussed and theorised in this paper.

Long Abstract

Chandigarh was envisaged and built in the 1950s as an epitome of modernism under the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and created by Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and others. Their vision saw Chandigarh as a 'modern' architectural wonder, with buildings visualized by the art of their stark beauty in bare concrete without the embellishment of plaster and paint. The issue was that this could be peopled by just about anyone from India and they would find it functional enough to make it their home.

However, the reality was much more difficult than had been portrayed. The architecture-as-art was all right as far as a practical method for housing a population was concerned but as more and more people found the quietness more congenial to settle down in and make it a home, these problems started emerging.

This paper looks into the individualization of such anonymity into a semblance of personal identity through willful changes to the original plans and structures that made up the city of Chandigarh. This will show how art and architecture are looked at by the administration and by the people in power and how such an advertised perspective is different from the non-advertised public interaction with the architecture of the city in everyday life. The interaction of such diverse elements into the architecture has certainly given a newer vision to the idea of the architecture-as-art concept by the people, converting it, as far as was possible, into an architecture for artifice.

Atlantic movement in art of the Indo-Caribbean: casting shadows and throwing light in Surinam and the Netherlands

Author: Leon Wainwright (The Open University)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation will explore patterns of art patronage, curating and reception that recently ensued in two urban contexts, in Suriname and the Netherlands, throwing light on the intersections between art discourse and 'a right to the city'.

Long Abstract

Much research in anthropology and visual and material culture studies has insisted on framing visual culture as the signification of national place, transnational connection, political position, and ethnic 'belonging'. In this presentation, I suggest that we may need to confront the ways in which art of the Caribbean and by extension diaspora culture is commoditised - how aesthetic forms are often taken to be representative of one or other ethnic or diasporic difference, and the concomitant practice of treating these art works as 'signifying' visual media. This critical initiative is drawn from recent fieldwork in Paramaribo (Suriname) and in Rotterdam, where Dutch and Surinamese official sponsorship shaped two art exhibitions in 2010. The links between these sites are revealing of the positions that artists of Indo-Caribbean backgrounds specifically have come adopt in relation to expectations about diasporic difference. Such expectations may be seen in the patterns of art patronage, curating and reception that ensued in two urban contexts with the culmination of a Suriname-Dutch partnership of 'cultural exchange'. Overall, this field is useful for grasping the matter of artists' agency and its limits (developing the picture given in Wainwright 2011 and 2012), by showing how artists have coped with perceptions of difference (namely 'Indianness') in moving along the axis of connection between Suriname and the Netherlands. The processes of transit, transition and transformation through movement become explicit in this account. They help to complicate the political struggles underlying David Harvey's sense of 'a right to the city', in understanding the uneven relations between Rotterdam and Paramaribo in the field of the visual arts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.