How do Indian women artists use their voice today? How do they deal with their social responsibility and the legacy of their feminist predecessors? What language do they find for the unexpressed? The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is presenting the first exhibition in Germany featuring six women artists from India. Aside from a few exceptions like the state of Kerala in the south of the country, India is characterized by a patriarchal society. The assumption that women are of less value than men is deeply rooted in the Indian mentality. Although women are equal before the law and the Independence Movement put their equality on the agenda, women are still severely disadvantaged and—as frequently addressed by the international media—often victims of violence. The exhibition pursues the question about how their own country’s past, present and future are represented from a female perspective.
A fourteen-meter long map of the world made from barbwire-like electric cables, an accessible space consisting of oppressive black bricks, a photograph of miniature escalators in a freezer, a bizarre sculpture made from teeth and gingival, a film in which a white sheet is subdued like a wild animal in a river: Vibha Galhotra (*1978), Bharti Kher (*1969), Prajakta Potnis (*1980), Reena Saini Kallat (*1973), Mithu Sen (*1971) and Tejal Shah (*1979) use their multimedia works as locations of social reflection, calling attention to historical and current border disputes. Poetical, metaphorical and noiseless, radical, direct and loud, they call all manners of borders into question—whether they are gender boundaries, political or territorial, ecological or religious boundaries. History, visibility or invisibility, legitimacy and frequently dissolution are the unifying theme of the exhibition’s broad spectrum of works.
Beyond the cliché of being the colorful land of yoga and spiritual fulfillment, India is largely a country in upheaval, torn between the poles of tradition and modernism. The rapid development of urban India stands in contrast to rural India’s tradition-bound living conditions and especially opens up new possibilities for a growing middle class.
A part of the socio-cultural change is the emancipation process of the woman. Countless ethnic groups, castes, languages and cultures, religions and philosophies make up a pluralist society in which identity is defined by these markers and the differentiation to the respective other. A global community forms in the social structure of a single country, one that struggles with problems that are virulent around the world. The committed artists of FACING INDIA occupy themselves in this sense not only with questions concerning gender, boundaries and identity as well as social injustice but also themes like terrorism, war, corruption, climate change and the careless urban development of the country.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a profusely illustrated German and English catalogue, edited by Ralf Beil and Uta Ruhkamp, in which all of the artists have their say in extensive individual interviews. With a foreword by Ralf Beil, an introduction by Uta Ruhkamp as well as essays by Urvashi Butalia, one of India’s leading feminists, and Roobina Karode, director of the Kiran Nadar Museums of Art in Delhi and Noida. Design: Grafikbüro Mario Lombardo.