Panel Discussion : 7 March 2009 01:00

Nasreen Mohamedi: The Legacy of Indian Abstraction : Nasreen Mohamedi: The Legacy of Indian Abstraction

This panel will focus on the work of Nasreen Mohamedi. One of the most important artists of her generation, Mohamedi made from the early 1960s to the late 1980s a series of abstract paintings, drawings and photographs that constitute a key body of work within the modernist canon. Speakers including artists, curators and art historians will explore her work in detail and reflect on her position within the history of Indian Modernism, as well as in the context international avant-garde movements, and examine the possibility of rewriting art history from a non-Western perspective. Participants will include Deepak Ananth, art historian, curator and lecturer at the École des Beaux-Arts, Caen, France, Rasheed Araeen, artist, writer, curator and founding editor of Third Text, London, Anita Dube, artist, art historian and critic based in Delhi, India, Ruth Noack, art historian, lecturer, critic and curator of documenta 12, Suely Rolnik, psychoanalyst, critic and curator based in São Paulo, Brazil and Daniel J. Rycroft, art historian at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

This programme has been supported by O3-funds as underwritten by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for enhancing collaboration in the contemporary art field with professional artists in countries designated by the MFA. The purpose of the O3-funds as allocated to OCA is to further develop cooperation and professional networking between OCA and the constituency of artists, independent cultural producers, and organisations that are located in designated countries. This includes but is not limited to 'professional research visits by cultural producers, artists, and curators', 'short-term residencies for cultural producers and artists', seminars, conferences, art projects, workshops, etc. that focus on the further development of professional exchange and networking between and among countries', and 'project development (and pilot projects) on an international scale'.

For more information on the exhibition, the panel discussion or the overall project, please contact Marthe Tveitan at

Presentation Abstracts

Deepak Ananth, Art historian, curator and lecturer at the École des Beaux-Arts, Caen, France
Ananth's presentation looks at the singular place occupied by Nasreen Mohamedi in the context of modern Indian art, dwelling on her affinities with, but also apartness from, her contemporaries. It aims to provide an overview of her development as an artist, touching upon the phases in the evolution of her distinctive formal language, and drawing upon her notebooks and the evidence of the photographs that she intermittently took all her life. It attempts to place her in a map of world art whose contours are being redrawn, the more to acknowledge the multiple lineages of modernity and modernism.

Rasheed Araeen, Artist, writer, curator, and founding editor of Third Text, London, UK
Why is art history Eurocentric? Can its others challenge it and demand their place in it? How? The aim of Rasheed Araeen's presentation is to show that the exclusive control and domination of modernism by the West, and its result as Eurocentric art history is not based on the objectivity of what modernism has actually produced within its mainstream, but on the colonial assumption that perpetuates Europe's white racial supremacy and superiority. The solution to this problem is not to bypass this by proposing alternatives, but to confront it through the very knowledge that has been suppressed by Eurocentric art history.

Anita Dube, Artist, art historian and critic based in Delhi, India
Dube's presentation on Nasreen Mohamedi takes as its starting point Julia Kristeva's statement from the Tales of Love that 'No matter what it is, love brushes us up against sovereignity', and uses it to explore Mohamedi's work from a feminist and leftist perspective.

Ruth Noack, Art historian, lecturer, critic and curator of documenta 12
Nasreen Mohamedi's work was shown in documenta 12 alongside Agnes Martin, Atsuko Tanaka and Arkila Kerka from Mali, among others. Noack's presentation will discuss this form of contextualization and elaborate on the curatorial approach.

Suely Rolnik, Psychoanalyst, critic and curator, São Paulo, Brazil
During the 1960s and 70s, there was an emergence of artistic practices focusing on the institutional and disciplinary power relations at play within the art context. These practices made the exposition and analysis of relations an essential part of their poetic potential. In most Latin American countries, a political dimension was added as a result of the dictatorial regimes that were in power at the time in the region and their effect on the art context - artists' experience of terror became an essential part of the artistic tensions that pushed them to create. In this context, the seed for the integration of politics and poetics emerges, lived and actualised within artistic practice but still impossible to name. However, this possibility was abandoned as a result of the trauma caused by the dictatorship, and with it were abandoned the futures that never realised. In the face of this, there is an urgency to recuperate that seed in the memory of our bodies, in order to activate their potential of becoming in conjunction with the forces of the present.

Daniel J. Rycroft, Art historian at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
The primary concern of Rycroft's paper is to define shifts in modernist practice in pre-Independence India, and to assess these via a world-art approach. The conceptual and historical focus is 'the subaltern', which since the 1920s has been brought into a field of modernist vision through the artistic interventions of the Santiniketan School. The paper will address why it is important to consider the historical and political contexts that defined how subaltern groups, notably the Adivasi (indigenous/tribal) Santals, became the medium through which counter-primitivist agendas were channelled by Bengali artists. The paper will also consider the intellectual and artistic contours of an 'alternative modernism' that staged national integration.