‘Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode…’ – Indian Pavilion

While India has participated previously in the Biennale, this is the first time that the country has had its own official Pavilion.  Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode… was conceptualized and curated by Ranjit Hoskote and features the works of three artists, Gigi Scaria, Zarina Hashmim, and Praneet Soi and the work of collaborative team The Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya.)  The exhibition explores the meaning of the cultural citizenship and what it means to India today, while emphasizing the cross-cultural approach of recent artistic production in diverse locations.  The artists selected by Hoskote had to meet two qualifications.  First, these artists must represent the diversity of India’s cultural history and the geographic diaspora of the Indian nation.  And second, that none of the artists be previously involved in galleries and auctions prior to their involvement in this Biennale.

The analysis of Indian identity and the incorporation of Western idioms that Hoskote addresses is not a novel topic in contemporary Indian art. 1  With an uneven course of development compared to Western movements and the frequent incursion of other cultures, contemporary Indian art is characterized, and ultimately judged by it’s hybridity with Western culture. 2 This process has been accelerated by globalization and cross-culturalism as it causes cultural centers and their peripheral spaces to collapse.  An essential understanding of contemporary Indian art is how it has created a new presence on the international scene.  As a distinctive movement, it has become an inclusive forum both for artists based in India an for those who are part of the Indian diaspora. 3

Most of the galleries that feature contemporary Indian art are located outside of New Delhi and Mumbai, the two leading artistic center in India.  Rather they are located in Western Europe and along the east coast of the United States, creating a situation where the galleries are key promoters in this movement.  This has led to an environment where the measure of success is based on sales rather than artistic achievement, indicating why Hoskote selected artists who have not been “valorized by the gallery system and auction-house circuit.” 4

The concepts and themes behind the individual works of art in India’s exhibit, while engaging, do not directly reference the notion of Indian national identity.  It is the pavilion as a whole that comments on how the nation of India perceives its national identity.  The title of the exhibition neatly summarizes and is able to capture in its brief phrase what national identity mans to Indians as it is expressed through the contemporary Indian art movement.  Appropriately functioning as a type of propaganda for the movement, it answers the questions one might ask when reading the Pavilion’s title: who is agreeing (the international scene) and what is about to explode (contemporary Indian art.)

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From left to right: Zarina Hashmi, 'Home is a Foreign Place', 1999. Zarina Hashmi, 'Noor', 2008. Zarina Hashmi 'Blinding Light' 2010. (All photographs curtsey of Domus Magazine website.) In her works, Zarina Hashmi address the issues of migration and displacement, themes typical in her body of works.

 

Gigi Scaria, 'Elevator from the Subcontinent (exterior view),' 2011. (Photograph curtsey of Domus Magazine website.) In this site-specific installation an actual elevator cabin with an automatic door system. When visitors enter the lift the three walls are backlit with projects and images as well as video animation producing the effect of moving through levels of a building. The idea behind the lift is to bring visitors to the different social stratifications and witness the hieratical scale within society.
Gigi Scaria, 'Elevator from the Subcontinent (view inside of elevator),' 2011. (Photograph curtsey of Domus Magazine website.)

 

Praneet Soi, 'Kumartuli Printer,' 2011. (Photograph curtsey of Domus Magazine website.) This work documents the process between a printer and an artist of combined images of the printer and the shared environment of the printer and artist environment.

 

The Desire Machine Collective, 'Residue,' 2010-11. (Google Images.) The 39-minute film captures footage of an abandoned thermal plant surrounded by jungle, where the camera pans over lingering rusty pressure gauges and dripping pipes. The film investigates the relationship between natural and industrial forms and the merging of the two.

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  1. Jeffery Wechsler and Umesh Gaur, eds. Indian Contemporary Art from Northeastern Private Collectors. (New Jersey: Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, 2002): 17.
  2. Benno Tempel “Preface” Indian Contemporary (New York: Uitgeverij d’jong Hond): 12.
  3. Wechsler and Gaur, eds. India Contemporary Art from Northeastern Private Collectors, 19. 
  4. http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibtion/first-time/india.html