Saturday, December 19, 2009

‘Five Position Papers on the Republic’

‘Detour’ is a double-layered title. At one level, it refers to the manner in which one must sometimes go away to come back, move away from the object of love, attention or ideological commitment, in order to more fully understand and articulate it. Likewise, the photographic image registers a detour: it is generated at a remove from experienced reality, is born in the
photographer’s imagination, then connects back with the circumstances that sparked it off….”
This is how a curatorial note by art critic Ranjit Hoskote introduces a new exhibit at Mumbai based Gallery Chemould. It features artists Dayanita Singh, Sonia Jabbar, Ram Rahman, Ravi Agarwal and Samar Jodha Elaborating on the background of the show, Ranjit Hoskote notes in his essay: “When Shireen Gandhy of Chemould Prescott Road invited me to curate an exhibition commemorating the centennial of Gandhi’s seminal work, Hind Swaraj (1909), I responded with enthusiasm. " He adds:
"I have turned to this complex text many times in the last 25 years, and to other key texts from the vibrant intellectual landscape of late-colonial India. By turns illuminating, exasperating and inspiring, these utopian and redemptive writings remind us that ‘nationalism’ was not a single script; that the India these thinkers envisioned was, and will always be, a work in progress.

"This centennial is an occasion to consider whether the history of postcolonial India has been, not a linear progression towards new life-themes, but a roundabout return to the fundamental questions Hind Swaraj asks. Has post-1947 India been no more than a detour that brings us back to the debate between the two protagonists of Gandhi’s century-old dialogue: the Editor, embodying the reasoned and peaceful mode of emancipation, and the Reader, a belligerent advocate of violent revolution?

The Hind Swaraj centennial also registers six decades of independence: we pause to compare foundational text with actual outcome; we trace the directions that India, incarnating one among several geographical translations of the conceptual Hind of Gandhi’s title, has taken."
In this context, the detour is a productive trope of digression, self-interrogation and re-dedication.

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