Despite growing fundamentalism, curator Latika Gupta hopes art can reveal the vast commonalities between different cultures.
“Homelands”, the 2013 flagship programme for the British Council, opened in New Delhi on 23 January 2013 before travelling to three other cities in India. The exhibition features works from 28 world famous contemporary artists that ruminate on the meaning of a “homeland” in the 21st century.
Branching off from the central idea of “homeland”, the exhibition will also touch on themes of identity, borders, alienation, history and memory. As curator Latika Gupta explained in her curatorial statement,
“Homelands” attempts to understand the processes with which we construct our identities. Is it geographical places? Or places contained by borders and boundaries? Do we construct our identities on the basis of how different we are from others? What constitutes a homeland? Is it ethnicity? Language? Religion? Customs and beliefs? Are homelands those in which our ancestors were born? What of outsiders who live and make other lands their homes?
Gupta told Art Radar why she felt the issue of homelands and individual identity would resonate with the Indian audience. She said,
More than the issue of nation, it’s the issue of languages, local dialects, it’s the issue of religion and really all of these as markers we use most often to identify ourselves, whether as Indians or even perhaps from different regions in the country. I find for myself, and I think the same holds true for many of us, whether we’re based in India or elsewhere, is that these particular markers that we use often too easily to mark ourselves as being different from someone else … no longer hold that true.
It’s difficult to make water-tight distinctions now between people, so while we have things that are kind of unique to each one of us, I think there are a huge number of common factors as well. That’s what we hope that this exhibition will bring into sharp focus. A person’s experience in India would be the same as an artist who’s Algerian-French but working in the UK. So art is really forming that bridge that will help people understand that these are shared experiences.
Despite these commonalities, Gupta believes that these markers remain significant forces in an increasingly globalised world.
That’s the double-edged sword. Even though [there now exists] the sort of mobility that we have, not just physically but also virtually, and we find that there is greater common ground, there is also this insistence on finding some sort of fundamental, defining factor for each one of us, and the problem with honing in on one fundamental, unique identifying factor is that it very easily turns into fundamentalism, in which we then underplay the factor of commonality and highlight those things that make us different.
It’s not just true for India. We see that even though borders are supposedly opening up with increased travel and things, they’re also getting increasingly non-porous. We think that people are moving across borders, but I think international and national borders are getting more and more closed.
All of the eighty works in the exhibition were chosen from the art collection of the British Council. The show includes eight winners and nominees of the prestigious Turner Prize. After debuting in New Delhi at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), “Homelands” will open in Kolkata on 1 March 2013 at The Harrington Street Arts Centre, in Mumbai, at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, on 28 April 2013 and in Bengaluru in the last week of June 2013.
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