| Contemporary Art and Identity | Exhibitions

Department of Art, University of Central Arkansas.

The social articulation of difference, from the minority perspective, is a complex, on-going negotiation that seeks to authorize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical transformation. The 'right' to signify from the periphery of authorized power and privilege does not depend on the persistence of tradition; . . . Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, p.2

The discursive history of North American - South Asian art is one of stereotyping and disparity. Shaped by multiple, overlapping, and usually hierarchic, notions that impose Western modernism and contemporary art as the framing and defining systems upon which to conceptualize South Asian art, the visual arts discourse is burdened by either having to explain how South Asian art constitutes itself as Western equivalent or by apologists explaining South Asia's uniqueness. If unique, then 'Indianness' and tradition becomes the focus; if modern/contemporary then the insidious, and at this point truly banal, Western analogies frame artistic polemics. Usually it is not a clear either/ or situation, and some combination of alternating views coalesce. How to remove the 'West,'- by that I mean, how to deflate or even neutralize the term 'West' as a dominant value- to see non-Western art? How to remove ethnicity and authenticity as value criteria? As agency replaces dated essentializing of geography and locality, peoples and cultures, arts and styles, discourse opens and how things (art) change, or what Homi Bhabha refers to as the "in-between" space, emerges.

During the past few decades contemporary South Asian art has been highlighted in numerous international and prestigious forums. Those concerned with the art market will be quick to remind us of the successful Sotheby and Christie's auctions of Indian modern/contemporary art, or of the prolific spread of exclusive galleries of late. In North America, a pivotal exhibition at the Asia Society "Contemporary Art in Asia: Traditions/Tensions" during 1996 thundered onto the New York art scene (and onto Vancouver, B.C.), and for some critical viewers it became apparent that art is elsewhere too.

While many critics in the West remain contentedly oblivious to these elsewheres, globalization is collapsing the cultural central/peripheral spaces. Now unencumbered by fixity of place, creativity and visual culture rapidly transmits and metamorphoses. In North America, vital and productive South Asian diaspora artists are making bold visuals addressing hybridity. Diaspora art is a sticky subject, but one I think needs greater attention. Those living in diaspora, do they retain their Indianness? Does one lose Indianness after a certain time lapse, or after a generation abroad? This, of course, is essentialized thinking and inappropriate viewing. It is the debunking of ethnic/religious/gender/sexual stereotypes, with all its ugly prejudices, or romanticized ideals, that artists in this exhibition address. Hybrid identities and ones self examination is a personal matter, and topic of art universally; subject is self. Artists in this exhibition explore their personal journey in our globalized, hybridized 21st century. It is within the rupture of newness, or 'in-between' places, and the dialectics of global and localized that we can view this contemporary art. | Contemporary Art and Identity | Exhibitions