ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

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

(P52)

Vernacular perspectives on arts and aesthetics

Location CSLG Conference Room
Date and Start Time 04 April, 2012 at 15:00

Convenor

Sanjukta Sunderason (Leiden University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

A new panel

Long Abstract

This panel wishes to draw together a string of visual material, frames, and narrative tropes that activate the notion of the ‘vernacular’. By discussing a range of visual and performative genres from paintings, graphic art, photographs and films, the panel wishes to consider questions of the official, the hegemonic, the dominant, as well as those of the partisan, the subversive or the marginal. Some of the questions that will be discussed are: Is the vernacular the material, the frame/optic or the narrative? Can it be both hegemonic and counter-hegemonic agency? How does the vernacular speak to the politics of authenticity, of identity and constituencies? How can the vernacular be positioned in cultural productions in a globalizing world, both in its capacity to disrupt or reorganize historical understanding? The panel invites papers that think about the modes in which politicality can be projected, retrieved or reinstated through markers of partisan art, normative and counter-normative principles, alternative aesthetic strategies and locations of otherness. Papers exploring dialogues between visual cultures of the global, the national and the local are welcome.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Making 'un-reformed': family, gender and class in Islamic charity images in South India

Author: Manaf KK (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will look at the charity photographs that appear in the vernacular newspapers in Kerala. Black & White Images of Mappila Muslim families seeking help appears mainly in those news paper run by Muslim organizations. It can be seen that the representational modes of charity images throughout the globe travel to local newspapers. These photographs mediate between the realm of art, and family photographs. These images help us to understand the ways in which Muslims of Kerala demarcate their distinct identities vis-a-vis Islamic practices and debates on ‘correct’ Islamic practices in their daily life since Muslims in Kerala divide themselves into various religious sects. They also divide them as ‘traditionalists’ and ‘reformers’. The photographs of charity can be used as a prism to locate the ways in which charity images create distinct identities for the giver and the receiver of charity; they inform the normative form of family, and gendering; and they also converse with the family photographs, journalistic photographs and Mappila Muslim women’s art works.

Long Abstract

This paper will look at the charity photographs that appear in the vernacular newspapers in Kerala. Black & White Images of Mappila Muslim families seeking help appears mainly in those news paper run by Muslim organizations. It can be seen that the representational modes of charity images throughout the globe travel to local newspapers. These photographs mediate between the realm of art, and family photographs. These images help us to understand the ways in which Muslims of Kerala demarcate their distinct identities vis-a-vis Islamic practices and debates on 'correct' Islamic practices in their daily life since Muslims in Kerala divide themselves into various religious sects. They also divide them as 'traditionalists' and 'reformers'. The photographs of charity can be used as a prism to locate the ways in which charity images create distinct identities for the giver and the receiver of charity; they inform the normative form of family, and gendering; and they also converse with the family photographs, journalistic photographs and Mappila Muslim women's art works. Here we see the interface between the notions of Islamic piety and modesty, the debates on gender and family in Kerala and reproduction of social hierarchies and political assertions based on distinct religious identities among Muslims of Kerala. The paper locates the charity images in the historical and social context of the transformation in the realms of family and gender in South India.

The Good Man of Shanxi : the post socialist aesthetics of Jia Zhangke

Author: Ishita Tiwary (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will examine the ethics and aesthetics of documentation and memory in Postsocialist China through the works of the film maker Jia Zhangke.

Long Abstract

This paper proposes to examine the post socialist aesthetics of Jia Zhangke, as his films remain deeply engaged with Chinese society in a Post socialist era, making implicit claims regarding the nature of Chinese urban reality today and the ethics and aesthetics of its documentation and memory. Postsocialism, according to Paul Pickowicz, designates the public disillusionment and skepticism about officially defined socialist ideology. Both the key-theme cinema that trumpets socialist policies and the commercial cinema that subscribes to capitalist logic are endorsed by a state ideology that seeks to occlude social problems and injustice caused by one sided economic reform.

It is against these two modes of filmmaking that post-1990s amateur documentary and the films of Jia Zhangke position themselves. Its goal is to initiate an alternative— "a third type of imaging. The paper will look at this technologically- through analyzing the third type of imaging, and its ideological role in documenting Chinese urban reality. The proposed paper will also look at it spatially- by exploring the tension between memory, place and trauma phenomenologically. This would be done by exploring and mapping the city of urban ruins in Zhangke's films.Finally the proposed paper will look at Zhangke's films as a cultural form that contests 'the official story' and will look at Postsocialism and by extension Post socialist cinema as an anxiety causing force that continues to generate feelings of deprivation, disillusion, despair, disdain, and sometimes even indignation and outrage when it comes to the documentation of its history and memory.

The Socialist vision and the photographic eye in the 1940s

Author: Sonam Joshi  email

Short Abstract

The paper looks at the intersection of of politics and aesthetics in colonial India during the 1940s through a close reading of the photographs which were published in the newspapers of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Taking a historical approach, it argues that the images of the time were framed and presented through several visual tropes that drew from a international socialist aesthetic. It will also suggest that as photography became a significant part of the political debates within the public sphere, there were several tensions generated in the use of photography – as a visual language to convey political messages.

Long Abstract

This paper will explore the intersection of aesthetics and politics by looking at how key historical developments in colonial India during the 1940s came to be represented in photographs of peasants, women and workers, published in the journals and newspapers of the Communist Party of India. The 1940s was a turbulent decade, and the paper focuses on the imagery of the Second World War, the Bengal famine, and subsequent worker, peasant and tribal movements. The images were framed and presented through several visual tropes for depicting workers, peasants and tribals, which celebrated their labour as well as resistance. While focusing on the impact of the famines that spread through Bengal in the early 1940s through images of pathos and suffering, the photographs at the same time glorified worker and peasant politics through images of hope that suggest the possibility of an alternate future. These photographs represented an alternative to the more dominant visual histories of the high politics of independence at a time when photography became a significant part of the political debates within the public sphere.

Within this historical context, it will explore the tensions generated by the use of photography as a visual language to convey political messages, and the problem that occurred when visual representations were supplemented by the printed word to convey what was happening at the time. While photography's meanings were often regulated through its placement and relationship with the accompanying text, it will be argued that the process was often one of resistance and negotiation.

Contesting Frames: Locational Ideologies and a National-Modern Aesthetic in India, 1940s-50s

Author: Sanjukta Sunderason (Leiden University)  email

Short Abstract

My paper studies the tensions between partisan and secular art discourse in India during political transition from the mass politics of the 1940s to the ‘Nehruvian Consensus’ of the 1950s, while probing the new nation-state’s articulation of a de-radicalised ‘national-popular’ aesthetic.

Long Abstract

The arrival of an independent nation-state in India in the late-1940s was predicated upon a conscious mechanism of negotiating both the catharsis of partition and a modernist promise of selfhood and secular individualism. Reflecting on the aesthetic ideologies of Nehruvian India, this paper will draw out the new nation's rhetoric of a de-radicalised 'national-popular'and a 'democratic consciousness'in the practices and discourses of modern art against the backdrop of political transition from the mass politics of the 1940s to the 'Nehruvian Consensus' of the 1950s. By taking up as case-study, art criticism around the modernist collective - the Calcutta Group of artists (1943-53), the paper will map the aesthetic conflict between content and form, the modernist and the popular, the social and the Socialist, as well as the locational and the national that characterised art discourse during the transitional decades of the 1940s-50s. This animated the politicalities of the so-called 'purely' artistic categories of both realism and modernism, and reoriented in a new political climate, the ideological tropes of the popular and the progressive, produced by a Left aesthetic discourse in India since the late-1930s. Foregrounding the discursive markers in the art writings around the Calcutta Group, I will elaborate on the larger politics of aesthetic criticism that both disturbs a stable narrative of modern art at the arrival of the nation-state, and underlines a politics of selection that the nation articulates, even in domains as diffused as modern art discourse.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.