What Happened with “Deconstruction India”
by Sumitra Sunder
Tel Aviv: The proposed show Deconstruction India by curators Rotem Ruff and Tami Katz-Freiman is in a state of indecision as some of the artists invited to participate have requested a boycott of the show. The show is scheduled to happen at the Tel Aviv Museum's newly constructed Amir Wing, designed by Preston Scott Cohen. 24 Indian artists were to be part of this group exposition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel. The aim of the curators was and still is to have/feature contemporary Indian artists who have all had a say on Indian culture through their work. The artists on the original list of the curators are: Ravi Agarwal, Atul Bhalla, Hemali Buhta, Anita Dube, Sakshi Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Ranbir Kaleka, Rashmi Kaleka, Jitish Kallat, Amar Kanwar, Bharti Kher, Riyas Komu, Pushpamala N., Raqs Media Collective, TV Santhosh, Gigi Scaria, Shanthamani Muddaiah, Sudarshan Shetty, LN Tallur, Hema Upadhyay and Lochan Upadhyay. According to the Curators, this is a tentative list.
The five artists participating in the boycott are Anita Dube, Amar Kanwar, Nalini Malani, Sakshi gupta and Pushpamala N. Pushpamala, along with Vivan Sundaram and Ayesha Abraham began the Indian chapter of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PCACBI).The boycott is in line with the ideology of the PCACBI. According to an e mail Pushpamala sent to fellow artists, she exhorts the importance of non compliance with the show as it legitimizes the racist and apartheid acts of the Israeli government. Artists Vivan Sundaram, Ram Rahman and Gauri Gill support the cause of these artists. This group sees the proposed show at the Tel Aviv Museum as a showpiece for the “discredited Israeli government to increase its status and prestige internationally”.
Contrary to this position, writer and critic Girish Sahane as well as Artist Atul Bhalla are of the opinion that the boycott is not the right way to make a protest and Art/cultural organizations should not disassociate with a country or its politics because it goes against ideology.
In this particular case, when word of this show got around to some galleries, Pushpamala, one of the featured artists in the curatorial note, felt the need to publicise a boycott against the show. The show is to be held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art which is state run. The curators are doubtful whether the show will see the light of day at this point and the major cause of this is lack of funds.
Anita Dube's work revolves around defining feminism ad using materials to encode the underlying message of her work.
Subodh Gupta and Gigi Scaria have stated that they will not be pulling out of the show. Subodh Gupta has made his presence felt in the Indian art scene by using utilitarian material to create installations that are commentaries on Indian socio-political dynamics. His work like Hungry God and Three Milkmen are particularly interesting from the point of view of the show/curatorial note that Rotem Ruff and Tami Katz-Freiman have put together.
Atul Bhalla, a Delhi based artist states that he has had a show in China, despite the country's position on foreign policy. Bhalla is an activist as well and his concerns range from the environment to issues of violations of Human rights within India.
Artist-Activist Vivan Sundaram believes that artists, who expound a position of political complexity, bring a great deal more intellect and imagination to their work. He himself has used his work to comment on environmental damage as well as violation of human rights.
This debate, which occurred at the beginning of August, seems to have not really made much of an impact on the progress of the show. The curators are still concerned about the show taking off but their concerns are more financial than ethical. The show is meant to provide the Israeli public with an opportunity to witness the Indian art scene. It also aims at creating a relatable show that addresses many of the same issues as the Israeli art scene. The curators have also appealed to Indian artists, post the call for boycott, to participate in order to show solidarity towards those who fight the system in Israel. They say that the other artists who were contacted, have been unanimous in supporting the progress of the show and believe that a distinction should be made between the state and art institutions as this allows for dialogue and discourse.