ICONOGRAPHY NOW !      Saturday September 2, 2006, 10 AM - 6PM
At the ICHR (Indian Council for Historical Research)  3rd Floor, 35 Ferozeshah Road, Mandi House, New Delhi

Sahmat invites you to a day long symposium with prominent specialists, scholars and legal experts on an area of great concern to artists today. We are also releasing an in-depth reader containing relevant articles by art historians, theorists and lawyers which is aimed at artists, students, historians and critics, providing a historical and theoretical overview of recent scholarship in the field.

Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Geeta Kapur, Parul Dave Mukherjee, Naman Ahuja, Geetanjali Shree, Rajeev Dhavan, Akhil Sibal and others.

In the wake of the controversy over the last many years on the re-writing of history text books for schools and universities, Sahmat proposes to expand the debate into the area of art history and art-historical research. The interpretation of references of iconic art-historical sources in the work of many contemporary practitioners in the visual and plastic arts is much harder to critique without a solid understanding of the source material. Many contemporary artists are facing attacks on their work which rake up public controversies with sensational charges and are even facing defamation cases in the courts with possible police action. Other exhibitions and performances have been shut down or cancelled under threats of violence.

We believe it is important to have a serious discussion on the question of iconography in tradition and history and also the role of the contemporary practitioner in accessing, understanding and re-interpreting this history. This process has always been a part of any living cultural tradition, and our aim is to understand whether this is still open to us as a culture, or are we allowing a censorship to develop without fully understanding its implications for our future ?

The symposium will collect eminent specialists in classical iconography, as well as contemporary artists and art historians to present specific papers. We also propose to understand the legal issues involved on both the national and state levels, and present these in a clear manner to the creative community in a major publication to appear in conjunction with the symposium. The target audience is the artists community, cultural studies scholars and students.


* Iconography in the sphere of the sacred. How it has changed over history as well as varied in its geographical spread. Are they universally accepted across time and space ?

* Is the 'sacred' out-of bounds for a contemporary artist ? Would it be as easy for Satyajit Ray to make a film like 'Devi' today ?

* Popular culture and its visualising of both the 'secular' and the 'sacred' in the form of posters, calendars, cinema and cinema ephemera has been a source of inspiration for many artists. Can we go beyond that to earlier periods of our art production ? Or is that going to be less possible in the near future ?

* What is the law regarding 'National Symbols' - The Flag, the Ashoka Chakra, The Sarnath Lion Capitol, currency, stamps or figures associated with the National Movement ?

* Are we entering perhaps an area of self-censorship because of the fear of consequences?

* What is the role of the 'sacred' in Indian contemporary art. What has been the role of the sensual in contemporary art ?

* Freedom of Expression, as a cornerstone of any democracy, obviously implies a certain maturity and self-confidence in a society. Has the quality of the debate on these issues changed in our society in the last 100 years ? And in what way ?

* How does the state respond to issues of censorship ? What is the responsibility of the state and what does our constitution specify on these issues which directly affect culture and cultural production?

* How has mass-media and the Global media impacted on these issues..?

Please join us. Do confirm your participation by e mail or Phone to enable us to plan lunch.

Regards, Ram Rahman