Towards new horizons
Some new vistas await Indian art in Venice.
UP FOR A MOVEMENT: Anita Dube's wall sculpture using a thousand eyes will be a part of The Venice Biennale-2005
The Venice Biennale-2005 is something of a red-letter year in the calendar of Indian art. What the Lalit Kala Akademi has myopically refused to see and anticipate has been successfully converted into an opportunity by private art promoters. In addition, an Indian artist and an art critic are a select part of the official biennale events, lending the exigency of criticism and the market place a huge fillip.
Compared to the passionately mounted Venice biennale of Stephen Bonami in 2003, the first time ever team of two women curators Maria de Corral and Rosa Martinez appears both expansive and considered. Maria de Corral has chosen the exhibition The Experience of Art to present artists like Tapies, Bacon, Tania Bruguera, Marlene Dumas, Phillip Guston, Rachel Whiteread, Bruce Nauman, in short the leading albeit white dominated artists of the western world of the last 20 years. This show has a retrospective quality about it, drawing as it will on leading world museum collections. In contrast Rosa Martinez who is considered one of the sharpest curators in the museum and biennale circuit, has created an exhibition titled Always a Little Further, that draws on the issues of multiple histories, post colonial times and inevitably the uneasy registers of identity.
In her roster of the now of world art, there is Mona Hatoum, Rem Koolhas, Shazia Sikander, Sergio Vega and India's Subodh Gupta. It is a set of artists that work well with the sharpening edges of irony and critique. Gupta who has worked his identity of Khagoul, Bihar with a continued self-reflexivity into his work will be represented by large paintings on stainless steel `bartans' - images of suspended stainless steel utensils crowded into shop fronts that represents middle class aspiration, and in an extended sense, the Hindu obsession with the idea of purity. Gupta has used stainless steel abundantly in his installations. Now a painting of the installation subject in a sense suggests a pictorial fix, much like an ironic take on picture making.
The other credit is the invitation to Geeta Kapur to be a member of the four-member jury on the Martinez exhibition - the other members are Udo Kittleman, Dan Cameron, Fumio Nanjo of the Mori Museum, Japan and Lillian Llanes, celebrated curator of the Havana biennale. Kapur has authored the book, "When was Modernism", is the first Indian art critic to serve in such a capacity at a prestigious international event.
The other major intervention at the Venice biennale is being spearheaded by Nature Morte, and its presentation of six artists at the Musee della Gondola, a converted 13th Century convent.
The three curators have chosen artists who are significantly visible on the international circuit. Atul Dodiya, the single Indian painter to enjoy such currency and Nataraj Sharma are in a sense both commentators on states of sudden and violent flux - although their positions may range from a terrible cynicism to the contemplative. Anita Dube, the only sculptor in this selection who works with a determined individualism, will present a wall sculpture using a thousand eyes. Disembodied body parts have been very much a part of feminist art usage.
However, Dube moves into the areas of myth and symbol to create works that compel engagement. Ranbir Kaleka, Nalini Malani and the Raqs media collective in a sense represent the very varied approach to new media. Malani and Kaleka share the propensity to weave their concerns as painters into their work. Malani however works on an astonishing scale.
In this exhibition she will project images directly onto 600 bags of salt that recall Gandhi, the Dandi March and the dream of a nation, that now must confront images of Gujarat (2002).
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