SANTHAL FAMILY positions around an Indian sculpture is an exhibition of modern and contemporary art that takes as its point of departure Santhal Family, a work made by Indian artist Ramkinkar Baij in 1938.
With its starting point in India, the exhibition is in line with earlier MuHKA-projects such as Alles onder de hemel (All Under Heaven) 2004, which looked at China, Intertidal, 2005, which looked at Vancouver and Moussem, 2007, which looked at Morocco. But unlike these projects, SANTHAL FAMILY Positions Around an Indian Sculpture goes beyond the model of a regional exhibition to focus on the legacy of a single work.
Starting with Santhal Family, the exhibition will radiate outwards: first, from the state of Bengal, where the sculpture stands, drawing historic links between left wing politics and the arts; then through the work of contemporary Indian artists familiar with this iconic work; and finally, through the intervention of diasporic and non-Indian artists who will consider the sculpture’s importance from afar. The exhibition will consider Santhal Family as a work that links the art histories of different continents and provides an entry point into the complexity of India’s cultural and political scene. It will also question how aesthetic gestures can speak beyond their immediate circumstances and how both political and formal elements can coalesce within a single work.
Considered to be the first modernist public sculpture in India, Santhal Family combines an interest in the forms of modernism and temple 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. 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.
SANTHAL FAMILY Positions around an Indian Sculpture not only includes archival material and existing works but 14 artists (including artist groups)were commissioned by the MuHKA to produce new work for the exhibition with several artists travelling to India to see Santhal Family on location. In addition, the museum has taken this opportunity to acquire a number of works from India – including collages by C.K. Rajan (which were recently shown at documenta 12) drawings by K.P. Krishnakumar and terracotta sculptures by
SANTHAL FAMILY is curated by Grant Watson in collaboration with Suman Gopinath and Anshuman Dasgupta. Watson and Gopinath work together on an ongoing basis and have produced exhibitions with amongst others inIVA (London) Project Art Centre (Dublin) and the Crafts Museum (New Delhi). Anshuman Dasgupta teaches at the Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan and is a specialist on Ramkinkar Baij. The Polish artist Goshka Macuga has designed a layout for the exhibition that allows its various concepts and histories to become accessible to the public. The entire 2nd floor of the MuHKA has been opened up to make one space in order to accommodate SANTHAL FAMILY.
The exhibition comes at a time when there is a growing interest in contemporary Indian art with many Indian artists being represented in international exhibitions. documenta 12 featured work by, amongst others, Sheela Gowda, C.K. Rajan, Nasreen Mohamedi and Amar Kanwar; Amrita Sher-Gil exhibited in 2007 at Tate Modern; Suman Gopinath co – curated Horn Please, an exhibition of Indian art at the Bern Kunstmuseum; in 2006 Subcontingent: The Indian Subcontinent in Contemporary Art brought artists from the Indian subcontinent together in a group show in Turin; and India Contemporary [Icon] was an Indian exhibition at the Venice Biennial in 2005. The work of Indian artists is also shown at major international art fairs. Khoj International Artists Association of Delhi showed works by Subodh Gupta, Anita Dube, N. Pushpamala and Ravi Agarwal at the Frieze Art Fair 2007 in London; Subodh Gupta’s work was present in 2006 at Art Basel; and the gallery Bodhi Art [which supports SANTHAL FAMILY] has participated at international art fairs including Art Chicago, ShContemporary Art Fair in Shanghai and Art Brussels.
The book Santhal Family: Positions Around an Indian Sculpture co edited by Grant Watson, Monika Szewczyk and Anshuman Dasgupta, is 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, Sheela Gowda, Juan Perez Agirregoikoa and Raqs Media Collective.
THU 31.01.08 at 8.30pm
SAT 02.02.08 at 2pm
In conversation with Geeta Kapur and Irit Rogoff
MuHKA_media will organise a programme of films by Ritwik Ghatak
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SANTHAL FAMILY is produced in association with Bodhi Art, and supported by the British Council, Kunststiftung NRW and the Provence of Antwerp.
MuHKA is an initiative of the Flemish Community and supported by the Provence of Antwerp, the City of Antwerp, the National Lottery and Klara.