Amrita Gupta Singh

Arts Research and Documentation

The grant supported curator, art writer/art historian, Amrita Gupta-Singh, in her research and documentation of contemporary arts practice in Shillong, Guwahati and Silchar, creating an online digital archive of the Visual Cultures of the Northeast, in the process. Amrita’s research proposed the transformation within the discipline of art history itself and the relationship between the regional and the national - in the context of understanding Indian modernism. Amrita pointed out that art history has moved from its traditional focus to include more disparate influences. Drawing upon this disciplinary shift, Amrita proposed to document painting, photography, installations, independent Khasi cinema, new media, performance and public art in the region, through secondary and primary research, including interviews with artists and arts collectives. She also studied the pedagogical framework offered by art colleges, museums and arts centres in the region, with the objective of making available an alternative pedagogy through the online archive, challenging the current curricula.

The online archive was a response to the marginalised position given to Northeast arts practice and criticism in the pan-Indian context. According to Amrita, since the question of regional modernism or the regional contemporary is imperative to Indian Art History, it becomes crucial to document the increasingly vibrant artistic response to the social, political and cultural contexts of the area. She referred to a range of new journals, arts spaces, art festivals, and art camps which have been mobilised by younger artists, many of whom have ‘returned home’, so to speak. Amrita reflected upon her own position as a Shillong-born writer and curator now based in Mumbai.

Pointing out that 98% of the Northeastern states border Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, and China, its peripheral location in relation to the Indian mainland is reversed to a central one in the context of a globalised world, freeing our understanding of the region from a ‘static closure to a dynamic open-ended one’. Amrita believed the online archive would function as a resource base - open to contributions from other scholars, artists and researchers. It will promote an open-source research module that engages wand the practices of art writing and criticism. She indicated that the research might culminate in the publication of a book.