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Keynote: The Progressive Genealogy: Art & Culture in a Modern India

Keynote Address by Homi K. Bhabha, Harvard University.

Co-Organisers:  Zehra Jumabhoy & Tan Boon Hui, Asia Society Museum, New York Vishakha Desai & Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University, New York

At Midnight on the 15th of August 1947, the Subcontinent declared its freedom from British rule. India was born. Out of this period of socio-political upheaval, arose a new art for the new nation. The Progressive Artists’ Group (P.A.G) was seminal to this moment of aesthetic ferment. Founded in Bombay, in the immediate aftermath of Independence, the P.A.G aspired to give Indian modernity a secular visual form. Scheduled to accompany the Asia Society Museum’s exhibition, The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, which focuses on the P.A.G, the conference will have a wider remit. Beginning with a discussion of the artists in the show, it will go on to explore the idea of the “progressive” in visual culture, science and industry in early independent India. What was the progressive, modern nation’s relationship with tradition? Are ‘the modern’ and ‘progressive’ interchangeable terms? Where does secularism stand in the exchange between the two? The symposium will also trace the P.AG’s continuing relevance within the socio-political landscape of India today.

An inter-disciplinary collaboration between the Asia Society and Columbia University, this event will include artists, curators, historians, sociologists and cultural theorists.

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