P09
Art and freedom of speech in contemporary India

Convenors:
Malvika Maheshwari (Ashoka University)
Laetitia Zecchini (CNRS)
Location:
Room 212
Start time:
27 July, 2016 at 14:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

The panel turns to independent India's concern with artistic freedom of speech. The aim is not only to offer a critique of the reigning violent regulation of artistic speech but also to observe how political reasoning has constituted spaces and identities that are significant for artistic practice.

Long abstract:

Since the end of 1980s in India, groups associated with various political parties, religions, regions and castes in India have come to regularly deface, damage and disrupt works of art, which has resulted in not just a violent suppression of freedom of speech but also in a loss of lives and property. Paying attention to the critical mediation of state governments, art market and the media prompts two extreme readings of the state of artistic free speech in India: one view shows how free speech is immutably locked in a downward spiral where new medias, politics and liberalized markets have increased the 'visibility' of artists and thereby the probability of them becoming easy and recurrent targets for political and patriarchal agendas. The other is of course how media, markets and indeed politics, have enabled a discernible segment of artists to introduce non-conforming socio-political themes into their works in recent years, revealing in many stances a conscious emergence of not just marginalized voices of religious minorities, women, homosexuals or lower castes but also increasingly liberalized and 'alternative' social spaces. These differences necessitate a critical reading of the conditions that inform violence on artworks and artists. The panel turns to independent India's concern with artistic freedom of speech and expression. The aim is not only to offer a critique of the reigning violent regulation of artistic speech but also to observe how political reasoning has constituted spaces and identities that are significant for artistic practice.