Chitra Ganesh, Rajkamal Kahlon, Tisha Mukarji, The Otolith Group, Raqs Media Collective, Bharat Sikka, Praneet Soi, Ratheesh T, Sylvia Winkler/Stephan Köperl
It is impossible to present an exhibition of contemporary Indian art without acknowledging the enormous interest in works and artists from India that has arisen in the markets and the museums in recent years. Certainly this is coupled with the rising role of India as a global economic force. The many headlines prefaced with "India is fast becoming... " "India will soon be..." "India is now..." voice the incredible dynamism of the Indian markets – and accompanying social transformations. The success of and fascination for an emerging generation of Indian artists working within the context of these changes has lead to Indian art being heralded – both in the West and inside India – as "the latest trend" or a "hot brand." Beyond such claims, the true testimony to the strength of works by Indian artists, including those now considered “stars," is the fact that many have successfully emancipated themselves beyond the “Indian” context.
Nevertheless, this context cannot be denied as an important backdrop of a unique, compelling historical moment, a period of ongoing shift and upheaval (and new wealth) that infuses artistic production with a vital upsurge of energy. In the case of India, the specific antagonisms of tradition and innovation, growing prosperity and persistent poverty, colonial heritage and modern statehood prove to be particularly "generative" in terms of giving rise to a kaleidoscope of fresh visual responses. Also, there is the issue of India’s multiple artistic centers and the question as to what extent one can specifically define Indian culture or contemporary art given the diversity and diverse locations of Indian communities throughout the globe.
Inspired by these complexities, Kunstverein Göttingen brings together a number of works on India in an exhibition that does not follow a strict conceptual line but attempts to create a meaningful dialogue among various positions reflecting the broad spectrum of works dealing with contemporary India. There are the historical trajectories traced in the practices of the Raqs Media Collective and the Otolith Group; the personal and sometimes somber imagery of Bharrat Sikka and Ratheesh T; the political and playful inversions of Rajakamal Kahlon’s work and the PPR* experience; and the bright pop aesthetic and goddesses of Chitra Ganesh’s comic book inspired prints. If the works share anything, it is a tendency to forgo sensation and hype, offering a view – from India, from the diaspora, or from the West – that tends to be propositional and open-ended. The aim is to present the question as to India is or is becoming as an exploration, an inquiry that resists filling in the blanks.