CURATEd BY Devika Singh
In 1969 visionary architect and designer Buckminster Fuller delivered the Nehru memorial lecture, entitled ‘Planetary Planning’, in which he claimed that South Asia could be conceived as a form of axis-mundi and a cradle for all humanity. Using Fuller’s lecture as a point of departure, this exhibition explored notions of world making that have been articulated in and from South Asia by three generations of international artists since the 1940s. Planetary thinking, pensée-monde, and worldliness are some of the concepts that have been put forward to describe globalisation as a historical process and the worldview that accompanies it. Sometimes folded into more specific geographical units (Asia, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean), trade, empire, and economic exchanges, as well as scientific innovations, have been some of its crucial vectors. Against this complex and historically unequal canvas of exchanges, but also of imaginary ‘immobile movement’ to use Edouard Glissant’s term, artists have projected alternative, at times utopian thinking, and located themselves within it.
By including the works of artists whose trajectory has been marked by travel and migration, this exhibition explored how artistic itinerancy has challenged fixed identities and their inherent hierarchies. Reflecting on trade connections and aesthetic networks, the lines of transfer drawn in this exhibition examined the historical junctures and disjunctures of South Asia. They also looked back at cross-regional exchanges, for example between Bangladesh and Japan, the United States and India, from the 1940s until now. The point is one of convergence. The works that result reflect on the interconnection of geographical spaces. Some of the artists in this exhibition have sustained close relationships, while others were juxtaposed for the first time. Yet they all belong to different stages of an aesthetic exploration on line and architecture. Many exhibited artists conceive of architecture both as a bearer of place and as a language holding the possibility of worldly affiliations. Through the descriptive potential of drawing, photography and film, they probe how architectural imagination can be the repository of cultural memory and planetary planning from South Asia.