Art, Craft, Science and Industry in Postcolonial Historiographies

Day: Thursday 5 April


Deborah Swallow (Courtauld Institute of Art)
Zehra Jumabhoy (Courtauld Institute of Art)
Jahnavi Phalkey (King’s College London)
Devika Singh (University of Cambridge)

Session Abstract

‘Science in India’ (1982), at London’s Science Museum, was a collaborative exhibition between the British and Indian
governments that was supposed to demonstrate the cultural equality of the two nations. Yet, according to its critics, British curators deliberately ignored India’s science, celebrating its ‘innovative’ use of bullock-carts instead. Hence, ‘Science in India’ was informed by the same regressive logic that led, in 1872, to the founding of Bombay’s Victoria & Albert Museum (the BDL Museum), to showcase craft and industrial artefacts because Indians were thought to be incapable of ‘fine art’. The message was that ‘real’ artistic and scientific progress is the preserve of the ‘civilisers’. That orthodoxy is now under assault by a new experimentation that combines art and science, and in which craft plays an innovative role. For example, the BDL
Museum regularly invites contemporary artists to riff off its collection of Raj-era artefacts. As high art and craft traditions coalesce, the fixed divide between the postcolonial world and its erstwhile conquerors is challenged.

Speakers and Papers

Empire, Science and Nation in the Middle East
Chair: Sussan Babaie (Courtauld Institute of Art, London)
Shahar Marnin-Distelfeld (Zefat Academic College, Israel) National Botany: Art and science in early Israel
Orly Nezer (Ben Gurion University, Israel) Studio Ceramics and the ‘Craft as Design’ Discourse
Funda Berksoy (Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Istanbul) Art Exhibitions in Munch and Istanbul (1909–18): Cultural events as part of German Imperialist Policies

Contentious Nationalisms: Craft, Art & Colonialism
Chair: Yuthika Sharma (University of Edinburgh)
Anais Da Fonseca (Tate Research Centre: Asia) Narratives of the ‘In-between’: Indian arts and crafts in today’s international display.
Sonal Khullar (University of Washington, Seattle, USA) Seeds of Change, Spectres of Death: Shweta Bhattad’s Faith (2016)
Friederike Voigt (National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh) Contextualisation and Reinterpretation as a Means of Reexamining the Indian Collection at National Museums Scotland (NMS)

Photography and Memories of a Nation
Chair: Mirjam Brusius (German Historical Institute London),
Ana S Gonzalez Rueda (University of St Andrews) The Decolonial Archive: Uriel Orlow’s ‘Mafavuke’s Trial and Other Plant Stories’
Nayun Jang (The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London) Rendering Invisible Memories Visible: Photography and memories of the Pacific War in East Asia
Leila Anne Harris (The Graduate Center, City University of New York) Scenes of Industry: Expanding the history of photography in India


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