According to the author, queer as an identification and subjectivity is important to his writing of transnational South Asian art histories. This book talks about new transnational South Asian art histories, to make visible histories of artworks that remain marginalised within the discipline of art history. This is done through a deliberate 'productive failure', by not upholding the strictly genealogical approach. The book discusses authorship by examining the writing about the work of Anish Kapoor to explore the shifting manner in which critics and art historians have identified him and his work. It focuses on the author's own identification as queer and South Asian American to put pressure on the coherency of an LGBTQI art history. It connects formal similarities of abstract work produced in the 1960s in New York City by Cy Twombly and Natvar Bhavsar. The book deals with an art history that concerns facile categories such as South Asian/non-South Asian and black/white, and discusses the works of Stephen Dean, Mario Pfeifer, Adrian Margaret Smith Piper, and Kehinde Wiley. It focuses on practice-led research by discussing 'Sphere:dreamz,; which was produced by queer-identified South Asian women. Continuing the focus, the book looks at the multi-site exhibition 'Mixing It Up: Queering Curry Mile and Currying Canal Street', organised by the author in 2007. It addresses the question of how certain subjects are considered as 'belonging' and others as not; and the role of art in the reconstitution of notions of 'home' and transnational South Asian art histories.
Towards creolizing transnational South Asian art histories
Alpesh Kantilal Patel
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers 'practice-led' approaches, such as auto-ethnographic narratives relating experiential knowledge of space/site, curatorial knowledge-making via exhibitions, and the affective knowledge generated by encounters with visual culture. It examines the writing about the work of Anish Kapoor, one of the most critically and commercially successful artists of Asian descent in the West. The book explores the work of artists who have all mobilized subject matter in their artworks that could be read as 'South Asian', but none of whom are genealogically linked to the subcontinent. It focuses on practice-led research, or what might be referred to as curatorial knowledge-making. The book discusses audience and critical academic responses to the projects to explore where the projects might have failed as productive points of departure.
This chapter illustrates the notion of a stable authorship or genealogy that is the bedrock of most racialized art histories is a fiction so as to begin to articulate art histories that were previously unthinkable. Anish Kapoor is one of the most critically and commercially successful artists of Asian descent in the West. In the early years of his career, Kapoor simultaneously drew on Arte Povera in his use of 'poor' materials, as well as Indian, or more specifically Hindu, cultural history. Thomas McEvilley framed Kapoor's artworks as British, rather than Indian, and he did so without eliding their connection to British colonialism. Throughout the 1990s, Kapoor's artworks were exhibited in roughly a dozen group exhibitions each year, as well as numerous international art biennials, all largely in Europe and North America.
The author explores first the works of Cy Twombly and then those of Natvar Bhavsar through the frame of what he describes as 'queer Zen Buddhism' or 'queer Zen'. It is important to note that his investigation requires methods beyond a traditional formal analysis of Twombly's works or a recontextualizing of the writing about them. Overall, Twombly's work and Roland Barthes's writing can help think through queer notions of nationality as well as sexuality. Jonathan Katz makes convincing parallels between the non-dualistic conception of identity often associated with Zen and queer as an unstable signifier of sexual identity. Bhavsar's works, which were not part of the exhibition that Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) brought over, were very much a product of the debates in the New York art world.
In this chapter, the author explores 'subject matter', often characterized as the polar opposite of form, and turns his attention to works of authors who deploy signifiers that connect broadly to South Asia. It is useful to describe author's own experience of viewing Stephen Dean's artwork at the Whitney Museum of American Art and to further tease out the complex manner in which artistic meaning manifests itself. Stephen Dean's work extracts the physicality of colour from the repetitive structure of cultural ritual. Jacques Derrida notes that in Greek pharmakon 'also means paint, not a natural color but an artificial tint, a chemical dye that imitates the chromatic scale given in nature'. Peripatetic artist Mario Pfeifer's work A Formal Film in Nine Episodes, Prologue & Epilogue also forgoes linearity in favour of the materiality of colour, but relies less on abstraction.
Writing queer feminist transnational South Asian art histories
Alpesh Kantilal Patel
This chapter explores the economic, political and social forces underpinning the historical physical transformation of the geographical areas now known as the Gay Village. It also explores the space of Curry Mile. The most illustrative example of the space of Curry Mile becoming a masculinist and heterosexualist space occurs every year during the well attended religious Islamic Eid festivals. The chapter aims to deepen, enrich and broaden the meaning of the work of Sphere as part of writing specifically queer and feminist transnational South Asian art histories. It describes the role that the public art project Sphere:dreamz plays to 'change space' and thereby 'change life' for the subjects who traverse the spaces. The floating nature of Club Zindagi is therefore a reflection of the incompatibility of queerness and South Asian-ness described in this chapter as existing together in a static place.
This chapter explores Mixing It Up, the general and cultural marketing of the Gay Village relative to Curry Mile and the notion of 'practice-led' research and how it relates to writing transnational South Asian art histories. Sangam's involvement in Mixing It Up marked the first queer art project in Curry Mile, according to McCormick. The Gay Village is also not part of the Oxford Road Cultural Corridor (ORC), and Canal Street is not even physically a continuation of Oxford Road like Curry Mile. In comparison to Curry Mile, Manchester marketing brochures give the Gay Village a metonymically privileged position. Marketing Manchester is also one of the principle backers of Manchester's Pride parade, held in and around the Gay Village. During the 1990s and early 2000s, a confluence of factors spurred the city of Manchester to embark on a massive project of civic regeneration tied to various cultural projects.
This chapter examines the fatal misrecognition of South Asians as 'terrorists' shortly after 9/11 in the United States. It also examines the fatal misrecognition of Jean Charles de Menezes, an electrician originally from Brazil living in London, as a 'terrorist' after 7 July 2005 or '7/7' in the UK. The chapter explains the fatal misrecognition of teenager Trayvon Martin as a 'criminal' in Sanford, Florida, on 6 February 2012 in the United States. By exploring artwork and visual culture as nimbly occupying the 'in-between space', the chapter aims to link 9/11, 7/7 and the death of Martin by specifically bringing to the fore the manner in which visual identification takes place, a process that has been ill-explored in the context of any of these events. Kehinde Wiley's works, much like that of Margaret Smith Piper's digital work, Carter Goodrich's cartoon and Martin's memorial, function at the in-between of significations.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book provides the materializations of different kinds of belonging or iterations of what might be an achieved transnational South Asian indigeneity and art history. It then returns to the concept of creolization as a process that results in incessant entanglement and constant renewal. The book argues that when belonging is kept open and porous, South Asian art histories can be dynamic and ever changing. It also argues more strongly that the longing for belonging is ambitious, productive and, importantly, political in its ramifications. The book discusses the importance of feminist and queer theories to the genesis of conceptualizations of affect. If there is exhaustion, it is a queer one that neither ignores fatigue is a real condition nor considers fatigue as non-productive.