CFP: Showing, Telling, Seeing: Exhibiting South Asia in Britain 1990 to Now

30 June & 1 July 2016

Organised by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Asia Art Archive, in collaboration with Tate Modern.

This symposium will be followed by a public panel discussion on Saturday 2 July 2016 at Tate Modern, to concede with the Bhupen Khakhar exhibition.

This symposium proposes that exhibitions provide challenging and provocative sites through which to think about artistic exchanges and the two-way traffic between Britain and South Asia. It interrogates the lenses through which artistic production in South Asia have been framed in Britain, and argues that these frames have often been fashioned in colonial times, but continue to shape the reception of the art of South Asia in the contemporary moment. We seek to explore the legacies of such framings, but also take the exhibition to be a site of transaction and transformation, and potentially disturbance and challenge, to the colonialist narrative of and for the art of South Asia.

Moreover, the symposium questions the role of London in the transnational history of modernism and considers London as one of many sites across the world that gave rise to modernity. However, our focus is not limited to London and the event also recognises the key role played by many regional towns and cities in the UK in shaping such histories and hosting important exhibitions. In line with this reasoning, we invite papers that consider not only the relations between Britain and South Asia within the contemporary art world, but also those that examine the role of former colonies for histories of British art, and the role of Britain for the art of South Asia, both pre- and post-independence. The histories of South Asia and Britain have often been separated in museums, galleries, and the academy, and one of the main contentions of this conference is to think about these histories together through exhibitions.

This symposium invites contributions that are anchored around exhibitions of art that took place between 1900 and the present day, as well as proposal that frame a broader enquiry centred on exhibitions of art of South Asia in Britain. Possible themes for exploration could include, but are not limited to:

‘Big’ and ‘small’ exhibitions: the conference seeks proposals that examine both large-scale, state-sponsored events, as well as much smaller and focused art exhibitions.

Festivals and festivalisation: how have efforts – diplomatic, industrial, promotional – to export culture shaped the reception of broader art and culture?

The afterlives of exhibitions: how have exhibitions had an impact on the shaping of art collections or become key markers of curatorial practices and exhibition display?

Mapping collaboration: the role of individual, or groups of, artists and curators in shaping these exhibition histories. How can exhibitions enable us to map the cultural networks connecting Britain and South Asia?

Constructing the nation: exhibitions as nation-making projects of cartographic and narrative intent; dealing with 1947 and 1971

Paying the piper: shifting norms of patronage through philanthropy, public policy and the market including the role of private galleries and institutions such as the Department of Science and Art, Commonwealth Institute and the British Council

Crafting tradition: what roles have ‘tradition’ and ‘craft’ played in framing exhibitions pertaining to South Asia?

The symposium is equally interested in issues of theory and practice, such as comparative trajectories of curatorial and institutional practice; the specificities of site in terms of geography and type; exhibitions as collection building vehicles; language, translation, and circulation of texts; constructions of nation; South Asia in international discourses; comparative studies from regions outside South Asia and Britain; audience-building and issues of reception; the role of the market as site and agent; sites of knowledge production; case studies critically reviewing the influence of key exhibitions, institutions and agents.

To submit:
Please submit by 27 November 2015 to efleming@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk listing ‘Showing, Telling, Seeing’ as the subject line:
1. A 200-word abstract written in English
2. Short curriculum vitae with complete e-mail, phone, and mailing address

Incomplete or late submissions will not be considered. Final papers will be delivered in English. There will be some travel and accommodation funding for speakers.

Final entries will be reviewed by the symposium convenors:
Sonal Khullar, Associate Professor, History of Art, University of Washington
Hammad Nasar, Head of Research & Programmes, Asia Art Archive
Devika Singh, Affiliated Scholar, University of Cambridge
Sarah Victoria Turner, Deputy Director for Research, Paul Mellon Centre