Indian touch to the Shanghai Biennale

The two Asian superpowers, India and China, are keen to enhance collaboration in the field of art. The brain behind ‘West Heavens’, professor Johnson Chang, hopes that the exhibition would make the people in China view India with a fresh eye and perspective. The intention is to reshape Chinese imagination about India. This now certainly seems to be happening…

The much awaited ‘India-China Summit on Social Thought’, arranged to coincide with the biennale, involved lecture-forums by renowned Indian scholars like Geeta Kapur, Sarat Maharaj, Homi K. Bhabha, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Prasenjit Duara, Tejaswini Niranjana, Partha Chatterjee, and Ashis Nandy. They were invited to Shanghai to engage in a dialogue with Chinese scholars. The event also included the publication of a series of books, to promote cultural exchanges within Asia.

Underlining the significance of this important initiative, The New York Times observed: “The two Asian superpowers have shared little thus far in the field of contemporary art. Paradoxically - given that the collaboration is between Shanghai, a city once dominated by foreign concessions and a former British colony - the two venues are distinctly European. Both were once part of the British consul’s residence, a space that the curator termed the heart of colonial ideological machinery.” (For record, ShanghART shifted to larger spaces in Moganshan and Taopu, areas barely part of the city just a decade ago.)

The 8th Shanghai Biennale defines itself as a ‘rehearsal’ and as a reflective space of performance. Here, ‘rehearsal’ is not a metaphor for a form of exhibition, but a way of thinking and operating strategy. At a broader level, what the event aims to reflect on the relations between art experimentation and the art system, between individual creativity and the public domain. The aim is to focus on the whole process of exhibition. Its mode of existence is not unlike that of the theatre. In the process, the elements of venue, narration and social participation become key concepts.