In prehistoric societies, poetry was written, carved and engraved into rocks, clay tablets and papyrus, among other mediums, as a way of remembering social and cultural histories, mythologizing stories and documenting philosophical and religious ideas embedded at the time. Many ancient epic poems from Gilgamesh to Sanskrit’s Mahabharata and Ramayana to Greek’s Iliad and Odyssey were documented in this way so they could be orally transmitted, illustrated or copied later on, thereby ensuring their distribution and survival. Likewise, the eighteenth-century English painter, printmaker and poet William Blake used different methods of etching for illustrated manuscripts (for his own poems as well as extant ones) that were rife with images of gods, animals and sexuality. Because many of Blake’s ideas were considered heretical for the religious sentiments he espoused, some of the more provocative elements of his work were burned after his death. If one considers that poems have been preserved only by their transcription into an enduring medium (rather than a reliance on oral histories for example), it’s not surprising that the tradition of “visualizing poems” has continued into contemporary times.
Sharmistha Ray, Visualising Poems, Poetry in Art/Art in Poetry, International Gallerie 27, Vol 11 No 2, 2010. p 4-7.
INTERNATIONAL PROFILE: Sharmistha Ray’s essay on Marina Abramović, Art India Magazine, Performance Art, 2010, Volume XV, Issue IV, Quarter III (TEXT ONLY).
Walking the Razor’s Edge
From cutting a pentagram on her stomach to staring fixedly for two and a half months and from stabbing the spaces between her fingers to walking along the Great Wall of China for three months, Marina Abramović has pushed the limits of what it means to be a performance artist. Sharmistha Ray traces the creative trajectories of the art genre’s icon in residence.
Deep inside the belly of the art world, a secret known as Marina Abramović incubated for a long time before being ‘discovered.’ One of Performance Art’s early pioneers, and certainly its most enigmatic figure, Abramović has been virtually unknown outside the art world up until recently. The Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective The Artist Is Present (from the 14th of March to the 31st of May, 2010, New York) – the first ever dedicated to a performance artist – has since conferred iconic status upon her by raising her visibility many times over. The exhibition, organized by in-house curator Klaus Biesenbach, spanned forty years of Abramović’s career with chronological documentation of her early interventions and sound pieces, video works, installations, photographs, solo performances and collaborative performances made with the German artist Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay). In a radical gesture, the show included re-performances of the artist’s works using trained models, some of them nude. Additionally, a life-size set construction for one of her seminal performances, The House with the Ocean View (2002), was re-fabricated for the occasion. The proverbial spotlight was on a new performance by Abramović that borrowed from the title of the exhibition, The Artist Is Present.
Sharmistha Ray, “A Short Note on Preconditioning in Art,” Text from the Exhibition Catalogue “Found Objects, Lost Planet.”
Recently, I was invited by the Religare Arts Initiative to view an exhibition “Found Objects, Lost Planet” with the photographic works of two artists who remained anonymous to the critic (even the title of the exhibition remained unknown to us at that time).
The premise was to form a judgement or opinion of the works on view with no prior information about the artists or their background. In order to construe a virgin response, the art critic was required to, in a way, forget everything – put aside knowledge and experience – and come up with some answers to the works at hand.
My question is – is this even possible? My contribution was a short argument making a case for preconditioning in art. Is it a necessity for good judgement or is it merely a pretext for ad hoc assumptions?
South Asian-American Diaspora art in the United States has undergone a critical ideological evolution not to mention a radical integration into the American context from the 1990s to the present day. In the Nineties – with the exception of an artist like Pakistani-American Shahzia Sikander, who broke into the art mainstream early on -South Asian-American artists were unable to even exhibit in galleries that focused on Indian art let alone mainstream galleries. New York-based galleries like Bose Pacia and Talwar for example, which are both owned by non-resident Indians, preferred to promote star artists from the Indian mainland like Atul Dodiya and Jitish Kallat. Whereas Indian artists found a platform in a western context, simply by virtue of their country’s rising position in the world (not to mention the sentimental attachments of most South Asian-Americans to their homeland), conversely their counterparts who had left India for American shores were seen as a small minority with a set of marginalized concerns in the country they now called home (America).
“Way in the World,” Lead Essay, Diaspora Art, Art India: The Art News Magazine of India, Volume XIV, Issue I, Quarter I, 2009
Does the term ‘Diaspora Art’ mean different things to different people? Should we bother using it in today’s globalized times? Sharmistha Ray provides answers and poses questions.
South Asian Diaspora Art is varied and multivalent. If there’s one thing all diaspora artists agree on, it’s that there isn’t any singular definition of what diaspora art is. For some artists, the term itself is problematic. While their work may have social or political subtexts related to major issues surrounding the diasporic experience of cultural migration, these artists doggedly resist being labelled in this way. Click here to continue reading »
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