|The new urban space is particularly well suited as a starting point for understanding contemporary India: the mega-cities reflect the complex relations between globalisation, local traditions and newly created spheres of life, and they allow contemporary art production, spiritual healing and body work, folk art and handicrafts, cinema and pop to coexist. Here we can see how traditional approaches are translated into contemporary forms of expression and how they are becoming established and widely influential in "Western" art circles.
In two different exhibitions, the House of World Cultures will present contemporary avant-garde on the one hand, and the development of Indian popular art from traditional imagery on the other hand. The programmes on contemporary music and on theatre will highlight encounters between Western and Indian aesthetics and the production of commissioned works. The conference and literature programme will focus on the formation of identity in Indian modernity by taking a closer look at the link between historiography and the emerging of nations in the 20th century. The youth programme with a number of programme-related art projects will confront young people with a modern and unknown India and show how many different links there are between Europe and the subcontinent.
The India-project is unique in Germany due to its inter-disciplinary approach and thanks to the close co-operation between Indian and German curators and artists. It is part of the Asia-Pacific Weeks organised by the Berlin Senate which has chosen India as the focus of attention.
Two exhibitions in the House of World Cultures move beyond Western-influenced dichotomies between tradition and modernity, art and popular culture, to examine the alterations of imagery, its origins, its use and significance in the context of Indian society.
The exhibition "Popular Indian Culture. 'The Conquest of the World as Picture'", curated by Jyotindra Jain, along with the music programme and performing arts projects, enables visitors to probe the construction of Indian culture and the development of profane imagery, some arising from canonized narratives in the present. In this exhibition, with its emphasis on cultural history, Jyotindra Jain, professor of art and aesthetics and former director of the Crafts Museum in New Delhi, presents the first comprehensive and critical overview of the development of India's popular visual culture. He traces the tradition of iconographic motifs and image structures from miniature painting and the artistic production of the colonial period all the way to billboard painters. The exhibition is a vivid panorama of the continuous transformation, alteration and reinvention of imagery sine the 19th century, but also of the colonial context, gender roles and the interconnections between myths and profane culture.
The significance of popular culture for artistic explorations is also reflected in the work of India's youngest generation of artists. This will be the focus of the exhibition "subTerrain: artworks in the cityfold". The curator Geeta Kapur is regarded as India's foremost cultural historian. The exhibition thematizes the linkages between individual processes and social developments. It shows how contemporary Indian artists translate the social and political issues of the Indian megalopolises into artist language. Most of the works in the exhibition are being shown in Europe for the first time, and include some specially commissioned works. The exhibition's artists are: Navjot Altaf, Mumbai/Bombay; Sheba Chhachhi, Delhi; Atul Dodiya, Mumbai/Bombay; Shilpa Gupta, Mumbai/Bombay; Subodh Gupta, Delhi; Anant Joshi, Mumbai/Amsterdam; Jitish Kallat, Mumbai/Bombay; Bhupen Khakhar, Baroda; Sonia Khurana, India/Holland; Nalini Malani, Mumbai/Bombay, Raghu Rai, Delhi; NN Rimzon, Sharmila Samant, Mumbai/Bombay; Trivandrum; Ranbir Singh Kaleka; Delhi; Vivan Sundaram, Delhi and Vasudha Thozhur, Baroda.
Stage director and theatre teacher Anuradha Kapur, in charge of the Performing Arts programme, is concerned with converting classical forms of art into contemporary performance art. India looks back on 3000 years of theatre history including a unique knowledge on performing, personification, and body and movement techniques. Up until today the classical forms of the Kathakali, Bharata Natyam or Kathak dominate India's theatre and dance scenes.
The main participants in this House of World Cultures programme are stage directors and choreographers, who have mastered the ancient techniques and forms of drama while working at the same time on current sociocritical and political issues, trying out new stage concepts and drafting new texts and concepts for plays, dance and art projects. Among the artists will be Padmini Chettur, Daksha Sheth and Abhilash Pillai. Issues such as the design of body images or gender identities, the revealing of social breaks between globalisation and local culture or the development of aesthetic multimedia concepts from Indian performance tradition turn these artists' works into projects that are also extremely relevant to the West.
The history of music is increasingly being influenced by post-colonialism, globalisation and inter-culturality as well. India, a classical culture of music, takes on a special position in this, requiring new approaches for exchange and co-operation. The Indian world of music hardly adopted the techniques or concepts that were developed in 20th century Western music. And yet, they are much more compatible with Indian techniques and ways of composing than was the European music of before 1900. Therefore, the music programme curated by Sandeep Bhagwati will feature encounters between outstanding musicians and composers from India and Europe, presenting a dialogue beyond traditional and contemporary categories of music.
Contemporary Xchange, India - Europe is a joint project by Ensemble Modern and the House of World Cultures directed by Sandeep Bhagwati. As a composer of new music and an Indian scene specialist, he has created the basis for reviving the dialogue between two outstanding music cultures. The initial phase of this project, the joint drafting of a programme, took place in Bombay as early as January 2002. In workshops and concerts the Ensemble Modern introduced new Western composers. In its second phase in spring 2003, Indian soloists and composers developed the elements of a new India programme in co-operation with the Ensemble Modern in Germany. In phase 3, the Ensemble Modern will perform the India programme under the title "Rasalîla" at the House of World Cultures together with Indian musicians for the first time.
Two conferences will be concerned with the politics of historiography and the idea of locality in a globalized context:
- Politics as the Site of the Modern: From the Fifteenth Century to the Present
- Passages: On the Global Construction of Locality
A third conference under the title of "Migrating Images" looks at the routes that images travel by in the age of globalization.
The literature programme "Voices of Resistance: Real Lives, Imagined Lives" presents 4 contemporary Indian authors - Githa Hariharan, Paul Zacharia, Faustina Bama and Urvashi Butalia - whose work can be regarded as creative, artistic, sociopolitical and gender-specific voices of resistance.
Their ambivalent position on globalizing tendencies reflects omnipresent censorship of an economic, artistic and intellectual nature as well as a growing cultural nationalism which leaves little room for multiple, differentiated points of view as to what "being Indian" could be or could have been. These writers and their works represent the attempt to read between the lines of an ethnic, religious and gender canon and open up different, identity-forming spaces for themselves and the reader.
The central theme of the film programme entitled "Selves Made Strange. Violent and performative bodies in the cities of Indian cinema, 1974-2003", curated by Ravi Vasudevan, will be the question of how current Indian films have changed the social and cultural organisation of Indian cities and how film has changed itself. The programme, which focuses on the two topics body and city, begins with a critical view on cinema films of the 70s and ends at present-day video and film productions.