Vivan Sundaram Is Not a Photographer:
The Photographic Work of Vivan Sundaram
by Ruth Rosengarten
Published: Tulika Books
Book Design: Anusha Yadav
Flow of Events:
- Formal Book Release by Sashi Kumar
- Remarks by Vivan via Skype
- Panel Discussion
- Pushpamala N
- Sashi Kumar
- Vivan Sundaram via Skype
Moderated by Mathangi Krishnamoorthy
About the Book
In this book, Ruth Rosengarten considers the expanded field of the ‘photographic’ in the work of Indian artist Vivan Sundaram, beginning with the notion that Sundaram is not a photographer in any traditional sense of that term. Discussing the ontological shift that photography has undergone in the age of digital production, Rosengarten considers ‘photography’ as more a practice than a medium. Exploring the uses of the historical artistic methods of assemblage, bricolage and the assisted readymade, she throws light on Sundaram’s individual uses, and subversions, of documentary photography. In each chapter, a single or two bodies of work are analysed, positioning Sundaram in relation to various propositions in which the relationship between photography and politics is probed. Often site-specific and always entailing the collaboration of numerous other practitioners, Sundaram’s work lays bare the limitations of individual studio practice and single authorship. The works, Rosengarten argues, invite us to consider and immerse ourselves materially in the ethical claims of photography, raising questions about archivalism in art practice, and throwing light on Sundaram’s locational commitment as a citizen artist.
About the Author
Ruth Rosengarten is an artist and writer. She lives and works in England. She received her PhD in art history at the Courtauld Institute in London, and has lectured in South Africa, Portugal and England. Her research over the past few years has focused on matters of memory, and how they pertain to the photographic and archival.
About the Panelists
Vivan Sundaram (born 1943) studied painting at M.S. University, Baroda and Slade School of Art, London. Since 1990 he has made installations that include sculpture, photographs and video: Memorial (1993, 2014), in response to communal violence in Bombay; History Project (1998) a monumental site-specific installation at the Victoria Memorial, Calcutta; and continuing work on his family The Sher-Gil Archive (1995) and Re-take of ‘Amrita’ (2001–06). A series of exhibitions using found objects include Trash (2008), The Brief Ascent of Marian Hussain (2005) and Turning (2008); and GAGAWAKA: Making Strange (2011) and Postmortem (2013) that crossed over into fashion and performance. Black Gold (2012) used potsherds from the excavation of Pattanam/Muziris in Kerala. He co-authored 409 Ramkinkars (2015) with theatre directors and Meanings of Failed Action: Insurrection 1946, with a cultural theorist and sound designer. His recent exhibitions include a 50-year retrospective, ‘Step inside and you are no longer a stranger’ at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, February-June 2018; and a survey exhibition titled ‘Disjunctures’ curated by Deepak Ananth at Haus der Kunst, Munich, June 2018.
Sundaram has exhibited widely in India and abroad including the Biennales of Havana, Johannesburg, Kwangju, Taipei, Sharjah, Shanghai, Sydney, Seville, Berlin and Asia-Pacific Triennial, Brisbane. He has organized artists’ workshops and seminars at the Kasauli Art Centre (1976-1991); contributed to the Journal of Arts & Ideas (1981–99); and curated exhibitions for the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). He has also edited the two-volume book, Amrita Sher-Gil: a self-portrait in letters & writings (2010).
In 2016, Sundaram set up the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation with his sister, Navina Sundaram and their first initiative was creating an annual grant for photography — the Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography.
Sashi Kumar is a print and broadcast journalist, filmmaker and media entrepreneur.
He founded and chairs the Media Development Foundation which administers the Asian College of Journalism. He was among the earliest Newscasters in English on national television, Doordarshan, Middle East Correspondent of The Hindu and news anchor on Radio Bahrain in the mid 1980s. He has anchored and produced numerous shows, documentaries and features for national television in India. In 1992 he founded and launched Asianet, India’s first satellite TV channel in a regional language (Malayalam), and the country’s first statewide cable TV network in Kerala. In 2004 he scripted and directed ‘Kaya Taran’ an award winning Hindi feature film based on the 1984 anti- Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots. He has acted in a few Malayalam feature films. His latest media venture, Asiaville Interactive (www.asiavillenews.com), was launched at the end of January 2019. This initiative to “reimagine journalism” comprises multimedia digital portals in four languages- English, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam. He writes a regular fortnightly column titled ‘Unmediated’ in Frontline; it is also the title of the book comprising his essays and articles published by Tulika Books in 2013. He has received many awards for his work in journalism and films.
Curator, Chennai Photo Biennale 2019
Pushpamala N is an internationally recognised photo- and video artist, sculptor, performer, writer and curator. As one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India, she is known for her strong feminist work and her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. Starting her career as a narrative sculptor, she began working in staged photography and photo-performance in the mid- 1990s and has been a major influence on the photography scene in the country. Her richly layered and inventive work uses the idea of cultural memory to explore contemporary society with irony and wit.
She exhibits widely in India and abroad in solo shows, biennales and museum shows. Her work has been collected by major museums and is taught in universities internationally. She often speaks at conferences and her writing has been published in respected journals and books. In 1996 she created a fictional institute in Bengaluru named Somberikatte (Idler’s Platform in Kannada) through which she conducts talks and seminars. She lives in Bengaluru, India.
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