Monday, June 13, 2016, 08:50 AM - General
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Amrit: A Poetic Meta-Exhibition

by Sunanda K Sanyal

Four white horses stand atop tall columns, surveilled by a series of watchful painted eyes; two bowl-like objects rest on a padded bench; a two-part slab with its own ocular sits on a tall wooden stool; seven white horses, standing in a row on a horizontal metal beam, confront a dark painted surface; dense, vertical rows of manufactured ceramic electrical accessories hang on the wall in a picture frame, flanked overhead by two painted panels… This is a glimpse of Partha Dasgupta’s ceramic installation Amrit. What are we looking at here? Are these replicas of archaeological remnants of a civilization that we have yet to understand? Or perhaps they are imagined metonyms from our own forgotten past, waiting for us to decode them in our current crisis as a culture and reconstruct memories of our histories and legacies? If some practicing ceramists are puzzled, or even disappointed by the exhibition, by that same token, some sculptors are likely to be energized by it. Either way, the response would stem from the fact that the ceramic objects, albeit central to the display, are but components of a broader intermedia conversation between ceramics, sculpture, and painting.

Those who know about my persistent critique of the rhetoric of high modernism might wonder why I support the work of this mid-career ceramist-painter, who not only has always maintained a careful distance from the postmodernist experiments that have dominated contemporary Indian art in the recent years, but who is also deeply invested in form, process, and authorship, among other things. A fair question indeed; and the purpose of this essay, in a way, is to respond to it. But in order to cover certain broader implications of my response, I want to cast my net wider, around a discussion of the contemporary relevance of the notion of medium in the visual arts, before turning to Dasgupta’s work.

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Monday, January 7, 2013, 07:09 AM
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Globalthek : Adda

Adda is arguably a crucial component of Bengali cultural discourse. It loosely translates as a kind of informal chit-chat. A thek is a recognized venue for adda. Grounded in a bit of nostalgia, this site is a virtual thek.

One part of the site has Sunanda K Sanyal’s personal stuff: essays, images, and blog. The other part is open to friends, acquaintances, even strangers. The site promotes critical understanding of art and visual culture. It is a productive platform where artists, designers, art writers, culture critics and the like worldwide can share ideas and make new contacts. Artists can have their images displayed in the Gallery, and advertise their exhibitions or other efforts in the Bulletin. Art writers and culture critics can contribute articles in the Essays/Reviews/Reports.

Anyone can propose topics on the Discussion page for dialogs and debates.

Sunanda K Sanyal

What is a thek? Simply put, it’s a joint (though not the kind you may have smoked in college!!), a place where like-minded people informally get together for a common purpose. The purpose can be a questionable one, such as drinking, drug use or gambling; or it can be a benign form of socialization. Thek has been a common term in the street parlance of Bengali culture (and occasionally in colloquial Hindi as well) since around the 1970s, when my generation in India came of age. While I’m not quite sure about the provenance of the word, it’s not impossible that it evolved from the word “discotheque”, a form of entertainment that also became popular about the same time.

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