Universes in Universe  /  Biennials  /  51st Venice Biennial 2005 / India


India at the Venice Biennale 2005
iCon: India Contemporary
Press release, published by the organizers in March 2005

In the Refectory of the former Convent SS.Cosma & Damiano, courtesy Museo della Gondola

Atul Dodiya
Anita Dube
Ranbir Kaleka
Nalini Malani
Raqs Media Collective
Nataraj Sharma

Curatorial Team
Julie Evans - evansju@mindspring.com
Gordon Knox - gknox@montalvoarts.org
Peter Nagy - naturemorte@hotmail.com

Installation projects produced by:
Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center, California

Management by:
Nuova Icona, Venice - info@nuovaicona.org
Curators: Vittorio Urbani and Camilla Seibezzi

The Venice Biennale is the world’s oldest and most prestigious exhibition of contemporary art. Started in 1895, this years’ 2005 Biennale, which opens to the public on June 12th, will be the exhibition’s 51st installment. Taking place throughout the city of Venice, the Biennale presents a wide diversity of international contemporary art in all media. In the modern history of the Biennale, Venice has not seen an India Pavilion.

Independent curators Peter Nagy, Julie Evans, and Gordon Knox, in association with Lucas Artists Programs and Nuova Icona, have organized an exhibition focusing on contemporary art from India for the 2005 Venice Biennale. iCon: India Contemporary, which will take place in the 13th Century convent on the island of Giudecca that will soon be home to the Museo della Gondola, will showcase the work of six artists who represent the vital and engaging art practices to be found in India today. Three new media artists (Ranbir Kaleka, Nalini Malani, and Raqs Media Collective) have been commissioned to create new large-scale installation projects for the presentation in Venice. In addition, three artists working in painting and sculpture (Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube and Nataraj Sharma) are represented by major new works. The diversity of imagery, subjects and techniques exhibited by these six artists reflect the concerns of both individuals and society as a whole, and the issues raised by their works engage both an international arts community and different spectrums of India’s public. The artists included have been chosen for the rigor and commitment they bring to their practice. Their works create bridges of meaning between the global and the local.

As the nation of India continues to become more prominent on the international stage, its culture becomes increasingly relevant to the rest of the world. An amalgam of ethnicities, cultures, languages, religions, political ideologies and economic strata, how the people of India negotiate these complexities to form a unified and democratic nation can become a model for how other nations may resolve the anxieties presented by globalization and post-modernism.

The Artists

Atul Dodiya (b. 1959)
Atul Dodiya is one of India’s most accomplished, prolific and astute artists. His practice has, over time, become increasingly complex, his references more specific, and the subjects of his address broader. He employs imagery from a wide strata of sources, from the historical Fine Arts of both East and West to the most banal kitsch found in the markets and homes of India. Atul Dodiya posits a socially and politically responsible form of art practice by employing the devices of collage, assemblage, and juxtaposition to speak to the immediate, the personal, and the heart-felt. Solo exhibitions of his works have been mounted in Tokyo by the Japan Foundation in 2001 and at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2002.

Anita Dube (b 1958)
Trained as an art historian and critic, Anita Dube’s work is determinedly individualized yet provocatively informed by its cultural context. She has developed an aesthetic language that is partial to sculptural fragment as a cultural bearer of personal and social histories. Usually employing a variety of found objects, Dube explores a divergent range of subjects that address a profound concern for loss and regeneration- both autobiographical and societal. For iCon, she will present one of her installations comprised of thousands of eyes commonly used on Hindu idols. Dube has participated in important international exhibitions such as “How Lattitudes Become Forms” at the Walker Art Center; “ARS 01” at the Kiasma Museum in Helsinki; and the 2001 Yokohama Triennale.

Ranbir Kaleka (b. 1953)
Born and raised in the city of Patiala in northern India, Ranbir Kaleka studied painting for a number of years in London before returning to live in New Delhi in the late 1990s. Since the mid-1990s he has been experimenting with video art and often combining the projected image with paintings on canvas, inverting the traditional Indian form of the painted photograph. At iCon he presents a large-scale version of this synthesis of video and painting, which will tap into his earliest memories of growing up in the Punjab. For the production of this piece he collaborated with the actor Jasbir Kaleka and with Madan Gopal Singh, a semiotician and scholar of English literature, screenwriter, Sufi singer, and composer.

Nalini Malani (b. 1946)
Originally associated with the group of painters that have come to be known as The Baroda School who pioneered a use of historical reference, allegory, figuration, and narrative to address socio-political concerns, Malani’s works of the past ten years have focused on large-scale video installations using multiple projections. Her project for iCon utilizes a text by sociologist Veena Das and will entail projecting video imagery through acrylic sheeting that has been painted with references to traditional Indian art and mythology. Employing compelling imagery from the Gujarat genocide of 2002 along with images relating to the Partition of India in 1947, Malani constructs a theatrical visual narrative with potent political content. Malani’s work has been included in important international exhibitions such as the 2003 Istanbul Biennale, and a solo show of her work appeared at The New Museum in New York in 2002.

Raqs Media Collective
Founded in 1991 by Jeebesh Bagchi (b. 1965), Monica Narula (b. 1969) and Shuddhabrata Sengupta (b. 1968).
A group of three New Delhi artists who collaborate on projects which synthesize video, theory, performance, photography, and the graphic arts, Raqs Media Collective’s work is an attempt to be present and attentive to the world as they find it and to the histories that preface and prepare their encounters with the world. For iCon they have created “A Measure of Anacoustic Reason.” This work is conceived as an installation dedicated to the task of being attentive to utterances that are generally just out of earshot or that are difficult to listen to. Raqs Media Collective has participated in important exhibitions of new-media art throughout Europe and Asia including Documenta 11 in 2002 and the 2003 Venice Biennale.

Nataraj Sharma (b. 1958)
Based in the city of Baroda in the western state of Gujarat, artist Nataraj Sharma will present new large-scale paintings and sculpture at iCon. Sharma's images are incisive commentaries on perception and experience. Both man and machinery, depicted in still, speculative portraits, are reduced to their vulnerable cores suggesting a caustic critique on ‘progress’. Barren, broody, yet visually dramatic, Sharma’s landscapes allude to the unpredictable confluence of nature, civilization, and industrialization. Born in the state of Karnataka in southern India, Nataraj Sharma is one of India’s most prominent artists with numerous solo exhibitions to his credit.


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