artists & participants
This exhibition takes as its starting point Santhal Family a work made by Indian artist Ramkinkar Baij in 1938. Considered to be the first major modernist public sculpture in India, Santhal Family combines an interest in the forms of modernism and temple/traditional sculpture with a concern for ground level reality. Depicting a family group from the Santhal tribe carrying their possessions with them to a new place of work, it is a portrait of labour that presents the complexity of its subject without heroism or pathos.
Positioned around a single sculpture, which anchors the exhibition and provides a focus for reflection, this project adopts an expansive model that avoids the forced generalisations often associated with so-called ‘regional’ exhibitions. Working with contemporary artists as well as with archival material, it sets out to explore the art historical significance of Santhal Family as well as the sculpture’s relationship to contemporary debates concerning art and social change. In particular, it looks at how aesthetic gestures can speak beyond their immediate circumstances and how diverse political and formal elements can coalesce within a single work.
Little known outside of his native country, Ramkinkar Baij was a revolutionary in his own time, celebrated for his experimental use of materials and for the way that he drew freely on several artistic traditions at once. He took inspiration from India and from the West, from the avant-garde, from labour, from historical events, from nature, and from the everyday. Starting with Santhal Family, Ramkinkar’s most famous work, the exhibition will radiate outwards: first, from the state of Bengal, where the sculpture stands, with its historic links between left wing politics and the visual arts, literature, theatre and film (at that time united through the cultural front of the communist party); then, through contemporary Indian artists familiar with Santhal Family as an iconic work. And finally, through the practice of diasporic and non-Indian artists who will consider the sculpture’s importance from afar--as a work that links the art histories of different conti nents and provides an entry point into the complexity of India’s cultural and political scene.
The project establishes a range of positions around Santhal Family through painting, sculpture, installation, literature, historical documents, performance and film, and includes major new commissions. Bringing these diverse elements together, Polish artist Goshka Macuga will design a series of sculptural exhibition structures to help audiences navigate the diverse material on display and produce an imaginative mise-en-scène for the work.
The book Santhal Family: Positions Around an Indian Sculpture co edited by Grant Watson, Monika Szewczyk and Anshuman Dasgupta, will be published to coincide with the exhibition at MuHKA. It contains commissioned texts from amongst others Will Bradley, Sivakumar and Stephen Morton, the writing of Mahasweta Devi and visual essays by artists including Sunil Gupta, Matti Braun, Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa and Raqs Media Collective.
WITH WORK BY: RAMKINKAR BAIJ, SANTANU BOSE, MATTI BRAUN, CALCUTTA ART RESEARCH, ANITA DUBE, RITWIK GHATAK, SHEELA GOWDA, BORAN HANDSA, NS HARSHA, REBA HORE, INDIAN PEOPLES THEATRE ASSOCIATION, REGHUNADHAN K, VALSAN KOORMA KOLLERI, KP KRISHNAKUMAR, GOSHKA MACUGA, MELVIN MOTI, MEERA MUKHERJEE, OTOLITH GROUP, SUDHIR PATWARDHAN, JUAN PEREZ AGIRREGOIKOA, ASHIM PURKAYASTHA, KERALA RADICALS, CK RAJAN, RAQS MEDIA COLLECTIVE, RAVI SHAH and KLAUS WEBER
EXHIBITION CURATED BY: GRANT WATSON IN COLLABORATION WITH ANSHUMAN DASGUPTA AND SUMAN GOPINATH