Speaking of Others: Impossible India, Parallel Economies and Contemporary Art Production

27.09.2006 — 19.11.2006

Opening: September 26, 2006, 7 pm

In the mass media, India is portrayed as one of the fastest growing market economies in the world. The exhibition Impossible India presents Indian and international artists and artist collectives, who are concerned with the changes in the economic relations between urban and rural areas of India: what influence do these factors have on individual and collective ways of life?

It is a commonplace experience in India that the countryside is undergoing deep changes due to the process of globalisation. As the profits of the IT-business and service sector flow into the flourishing urban zones, the economic situation of the rural population still is very difficult. India’s economic boom only began to take place about 15 years ago. The self imposed trade embargo, which was supposed to promote self sufficiency through the utilisation of the country’s own resources, was lifted in 1991 as India opened its doors for import and international investors. As a consequence, the country and its economy changed rapidly. Since then, India has developed itself into an active and successful player in the global economy; but in this game there are both winners and losers.

The exhibition is an open structure including different collaborations, events and media such as docu-fiction, Photo(journalism), interviews, drawings, film and performance. In this way, it also documents the way in which artists in contemporary India challenge the conditions of artistic production. Because of the small number of contemporary art institutions and limited public and private funding, the artists have very few opportunities to show their work and through this enter the public sphere. On this background several artists in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Calcutta and other cities have, often together with curators and theorists, initiated cooperative structures in order to create new and dynamic platforms for their work. The exhibition will show Indian and international artists who are intensively concerned with the contemporary situation of the changing habits and conditions of life in the “Mega-cities” and in the countryside of India.

The title Impossible India relates to the political scientist Partha Chatterjee’s influential book A Possible India (1997), in which he examins the perspectives of democracy in India as the politics of the governed. The title challenges his idea of an “anticolonial nationalism” and questions at the same time any notion of the nation as a defining centre of reference. The art works in the exhibition introduce a diversity of factors and situations in India whose existence side by side seem “impossible”, but in fact they intertwine and affect each other – this is also “Impossible India”.

Participating Artists: Shaina Anand, Open Circle, Gigi Scaria, Christoph Schäfer, Åsa Sonjasdotter, Shilpa Phadke and Bishakha Datta in collaboration with Abhinandita Mathur, Roshani Jhadav, Neelam Ayare, Karan Arora
Curator: Nina Möntmann

Film screenings:
Saturday, September 23, 7 pm: Presented by Sharmila Samant (films by, amongst others: Mriganka Madhukaillya, Raman Mann, Surekha and Anand Patwardhan)
Wednesday, October 4, 7 pm: Presented by Nina Möntmann (with films by Amar Kanwar, Oliver Husain and Nilanjan Battacharya).