Art that explores the impact of a globalised and ‘informationalised' worlds on the contemporary consciousness.

Curated by Chaitanya Sambrani ‘To Let the World In: Narrative and Beyond in Contemporary Indian Art' at the Lalit Kala Akademi features some of the heavyweights of the Indian artworld: Subodh Gupta, Anita Dube, Vivan Sundaram, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Atul Dodiya, Arpita Singh, to name just a few.

This is a significant show. Yet not because of the significant names it boasts, but because of the strong conceptual rigor that it is foregrounded by. Rooted in the premise that the postcolonial subject is a figure inhabiting a terrain that is simultaneously traditional and as well as global, the exhibition explores the impact of a globalised and ‘informationalised' worlds on the contemporary consciousness.

The ever-increasing instantaneity of information means that we deal with projected images in the place of people, places and events. As so much interaction and information is purveyed through technology and media there is a difficulty in sifting realities from the projected, often carefully constructed images that have become a cause of contemporary anxiety.

The art is tied together by a thematic and theoretical cohesion that shows both an awareness of and response to a world teetering on self-conscious precipices, coming together to dialogue regarding the pertinent questions:  how do we perceive and define such a rapidly changing, disquieting world? How do we respond to the threats that globalisation and ‘mediatisation' pose? Where does the individual and his sense of identity figure in this simultaneously familiar and defamiliarised landscape?

Through an exploration of the possibilities as well as limitations of narrative art, the works wrests with these issues, conversing with one another by way of looking at how our concerns and histories can be told and experimenting with the ways in which narrative can be employed: narrative as encapsulated within the frame or fragment, metonymically leading to a larger image, or the interaction between text and image. These explorations are pregnant, and often loaded, and it is impossible to do justice to even a fraction of their depth within the frame of a few hundred words.

I've heard a lot of people complaining that the show does not feature enough Chennai artists. I was initially one of those people. But if you spend some time within the Akademi (as you truly should) it should become quite quickly clear that this isn't about arbitrarily putting together something famous.

This exhibition is arguably Art Chennai's greatest achievement, not because of the ‘big names' it features, but rather due to the conceptual rigor within which it operates; a facet often completely, and inexcusably lacking in exhibitions in Chennai. It's relevant, it's refreshing, and it's going to be here for a while. Do go.

Bottomline: Arguably Art Chennai’s greatest achievement

To Let the World In: Narrative and Beyond in Contemporary Indian Art; curated by Chaitanya Sambrani, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, Till April 12.

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012