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Illustrated Lectures | Imagery, Ideas, Personae, And Sites Across South Asia

Curated by Beth Citron And Diana Campbell Betancourt

Artists Lucy Raven, The Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun), Matti Braun, and Amie Siegel presented illustrated lectures concerning the contemporary circulation of traditional and modernist imagery, ideas, personae, and sites across South Asia. Specifically, and respectively, these included sculptural reliefs at Ellora, Rabindranath Tagore’s art school at Santiniketan, the vision of physicist Vikram Sarabhai, and the global circulation of modernist furniture from Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh.

Building on their individual presentations, the artists gathered with curators Beth Citron and Diana Campbell Betancourt in the Education Pavilion on February 4th for a critical discussion of the form of the ‘illustrated lecture’ or ‘lecture performance.’ As an artistic discipline that has often seemed to blur boundaries among art, research, and discourse, the workshop examined different approaches to the lecture performance, as well as the limits of this form and the language used to circumscribe it. Taking historical examples of lecture performances by Chris Burden, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Morris, and Joseph Beuys into consideration, one question this workshop hoped to answer was how the ‘lecture performance’ differs from other types of live works and talks delivered by artists today. This form has been defined rather loosely globally, and comparatively been less studied and practiced in South Asia. This programme sought to address both the global, and local implications of this form.



“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening cosmos.”Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928

Since 2012, The Otolith Group have been developing a work that engages with what Gayatri Spivak calls the ‘aesthetic education’ of Visva Bharati University, Shantineketan. This lecture performance presented scenes from the aesthetic sociality engendered in, and by, Kala Bhavana at Visva Bharati. The Otolith Group’s encounters with the pedagogy of ‘tree schooling’ developed by Tagore at Visva Bharati opens onto an engagement with improvisational practices of desegregation and dealienation. The encounters with these practices subtend the ongoing implications of Tagore’s aesthetico-political ecology of nature into a rethinking of the shape of learning in the future of the present. Such a rethinking feeds into an improvisation in and with cinema. What emerges from these experiments with aesthetic education are a series of scenes from a Neo-Tagorean cinema. A cinema conceived as a practice of image making that is shaped by the multiple frames and links of network realism and the geography of the hyperlocal.  



This illustrated lecture took its point of departure from the biography of Vikram Sarabhai (1919-1971), father of the Indian space programme. It showed how his work intersected major cultural developments in 20th century India and revealed interactions with international modernist figures including Le Corbusier, John Cage, and Henri Cartier-Bresson as they engaged with him and members of his influential family of patrons in their home city of Ahmedabad.This lecture was supported by the Goethe-Institut.



An associative talk on the speculative, imitative and extractive actions within design, art and auctions in connection to India— on Chandigarh and Le Corbusier, on Pierre Jeanneret, John Pawson and Donald Judd, on modernism, minimalism and marketing—how these iconographies, and the behaviours of design and art markets, both mask and disclose the flow of capital. This talk accompanied the artist’s film presentation in the exhibition Planetary Planning.



Low Relief connected research into bas-relief sculpture in both India and the United States to the illusion of depth created in stereoscopic 3D lms, and the globally-connected, labour-intensive processes of post-production involved.

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