Sunday, July 14, 2013

exhibition note

The Possibility of Being
Post digital* directions in contemporary image making.

The Possibility of Being is a curatorial engagement with five artist immersed in image making with a constant dialogue with Painting and Drawing both in terms of medium and practice.   The curation is dedicated to (re) exploring linkages between the image, the socio-political and painterly practices as we come to the end of an era which was (is being) called Contemporary.

Among the many developments that marks the term contemporary has been the dominating focus on content that prioritize socially and politically charged subject matters over stylistic experimentation and investigations over Form and Language. It is also marked by its affiliations to the idea of digital progress. As the digital (r)evolution settles down, we are in a position to understand that Digital is not just a technological shift, it is also an aesthetic trend. In an age where we are surrounded by digital technology, this splitting of the Digital allows us to explore beyond the aesthetic measures of purity, pristine images, perfect copies and powerful (spectacular) illusions.

Since the 1990’s postmodern culture and contemporary art was principally associated with photography, film, installation and text-based interventions. Painting lost its culturally privileged status and judged as an intrinsically conservative or reactionary aesthetic form. Post the onslaught of the digital (r)evolution, we reached a point where ‘Painting’ was declared dead as political and cultural agency; and it was only as a commodity that the relevancy of ‘Painting’ was acknowledged. This seeming fissure in history allows (forces) us to split Paintings in terms of medium and practice.  At the height of the digital age (As the neo liberal was defined and celebrated as the era of new media and the ‘futuristic’), we witnessed artists producing paintings that looked like digital prints (hyper realistic, no trace of artistic labour, smooth finished cosmopolitian flat surfaces). 

However, as we peaked inside the contemporary trend, silently inside artist studios we see a reassertion of analogue aesthetics. This return to analogue in a digital age has led to both painting and drawing have changing in terms of medium, concept, viewership and practice.

In a sense this curation becomes a project in cultural archaeology or ritual nostalgia. Slowly there is a growing recognition that painting practices continue to hold important contributing agency in shaping new cultural directions. These new directions in taste and cultural archaeological position disturb the meaning of ‘new media’ by opening doors for old media to stand as an vanguard act. That is why the Possibility of Being.For a post-1950s generation, such a ‘reconstruction’ of analogue aesthetics has lead recognition that painting practices today are contributing to new cultural directions.

Through the heights of the dominance of digital aesthetics in global taste, there have been artists who have worked within zones that transgress labour, concept and skill. Thus Painting (not as a medium but as practice) has emerged as an important platform for post-digital, post-conceptual art.

The 'durability' of post-conceptual art through the old media suggests that its practitioners have been re-fashioning and re-defining the medium with some of its earlier histories and aspirations in mind. Today, embedded in the practices of drawing and/or painting, we will find modernist understandings of medium, style, form and surface being re visited, but through the layers of post-modern theory and criticism. 

Two concerns that is integral to the curatorial thought.

  •  Contemporary art’s investment in labour, analogue and old media assumes various forms and it is symptomatic of changes in the economy and taste rather than expressive of a broader left consciousness in the arts. In other words, the rise of labour as a sign-reference in recent art does not (necessarily)amount to a political project, even if it indicates a departure from the staples of postmodernism and, in some quarters, the desire to provide an alternative to capitalist economic relations.

  • Within the conventional Contemporary Indian Art production, the emphasis on manual/physical labour comes up as a kind of noise, a disturbance which takes away from the digital/conceptual art itself. This type of art which has come to dictate the art market for a long time emerged simultaneously with the global capitalism which swept the world two decades ago. Labour was sought to be omitted from the art and a clean, sterile, sophisticated, digitised practice which only projected the concept was developed. It is to the extent that the old media art practices refer to and embody forms of temporality, knowledge and subjectivity, which do not easily enter the concept of abstract labour of new media.

The curatorial strands will be manifest in a show The Possibility of Being, bringing together Ashim Purokayasta, Jaganath Panda, Muktinath Mandal, Nataraj Sharma and Rekha Rodwittiya


*Post-digital is a term which has recently come into use in the discourse of digital artistic practice. This term points significantly to our rapidly changed and changing relationships with digital technologies and art forms. It points to an attitude that is more concerned with being human, than with being digital. If one examines the textual paradigm of consensus, one is faced with a choice: either the "post-digital" society has intrinsic meaning, or it is contextualised into a paradigm of consensus that includes art as a totality. Either way, Roy Ascott has clearly demonstrated that the distinction between the digital and the "post-digital" is part of the economy of reality.

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