RE-LOOK - Lectures on Indian Art
Ethnography and the Visual Trace
a lecture by
- Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, Delhi
Wednesday 26 January 2011 at 6:30 pm
@ 1Shanthiroad Studio/Gallery, Bangalore
#1, Shanthi Road, Shanthi Nagar, Bangalore - 560 027
Ethnography and the Visual Trace
This paper seeks to explore the field of early ethnographic photography in India through a study of three photographers working under the aegis of the British Raj between c.1850-70. The works of Dr. Narayan Daji (1828-75), William Johnson (worked in Bombay between 1855 & ’60) and Dr. Benjamin Simpson (1831-1923) form among the earliest precedents of ethnographic photography in colonial India, forming the bedrock upon which later visual experiments were undertaken within the burgeoning field. William Johnson is credited with the publication of The Oriental Races and Tribes, produced in two volumes in 1863 and 1866, one of the earliest ethnographic/ethnological albums produced worldwide, while the works of Daji and Simpson were included in the first volume of the epic 8 part series, The People of India, published soon after in 1868.
Working at a time when the novelty of the camera was at its zenith, its fidelity to reality unquestionable and beyond compare, the colonial government placed vast resources to fund ethnographic projects across the subcontinent, inviting professionals and amateur enthusiasts alike, to survey and ‘frame’ segments and aspects of the vast sea of humanity they ruled over.
Akshaya Tankha has been Research Scholar at the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts since October 2008, and was Curatorial Assistant for the exhibition The Artful Pose (February 2010), a collaboration between the AFA and the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai. He has been consultant researcher for the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Khoj International Artists’ Association, New Delhi and Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong. He is a graduate in Art History (MA) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and in Social Anthropology (MPhil) from the University of Cambridge, UK. His research interests include early ethnographic photography, museum studies and contemporary art. He has contributed articles to magazines and journals including Marg and theIIC Quarterly among others. Tankha is currently editing, along with two colleagues, an issue of Trans Asia Photography Review, an international academic journal published by Hampshire College in collaboration with the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library.
*RE-LOOK - Lectures on Indian Art
This series of lectures will present exciting new research being done in the areas of art history, art practice and visual anthropology in India, each for the first time in Bengaluru. Distinguished art historians and academics will be invited to give illustrated papers on their recent work and interests. There will be a lecture every month, which will take place at the popular artist space 1. Shanthi Road, situated in the heart of the city.
*Somberikatte: Somberikatte is a Kannada word meaning idler’s platform- usually the platform around a large tree where people gather to gossip and exchange news. It is a fictional institution, sometimes a forum, sometimes a film production company or the name of a photo studio, used by the artist Pushpamala N.
*1.Shanthiroad: The Studio/Gallery at 1.Shanthiroad, Bangalore, is an independent artist run space for art residencies, slide lectures, small conferences, installations, performances, screenings and informal gatherings. Centrally located with an award winning design, it was initiated by Suresh Jayaram and is administered by a not-for-profit trust VAC – Visual Art Collective.