Vivan Sundaram: History Project

a site-specific installation, Victoria Memorial, Calcutta, 1998

Arindam Dutta, Geeta Kapur, Saloni Mathur, Sibaji Bandyopadhyay

Foreword by Homi Bhabha


Vivan Sundaram: History Project is a close reading of the first site-specific, architectural-scale installation staged in India. An innovative artist, Vivan Sundaram works with a range of materials, mediums and structural forms. His History Project (1998), marking fifty years of Indian independence, was staged as a complex installation in the grand Durbar Hall of the Victoria Memorial and Museum, a much visited public institution in Calcutta. Sundaram’s choice of setting was by way of a challenge: to ‘occupy’ an imperial edifice and change its orientation; to reflect upon India’s struggle for independence and the emerging nation’s stake in modernity; to engage with post-colonial contradictions through recursive narration. The project needed to be scaled to the proportion and significance of these issues. This book, produced nearly twenty years after the installation was mounted and dismantled, examines how Sundaram conceived of this intervention, how his ideological perspective, the genres and modes he deployed, enlarged the parameters of art practice in India, and how this can be situated within a critical framework of aesthetics and politics today. The book has essays contributed by distinguished cultural theorists and art historians. Its last section reproduces pages from the artist’s notebook and correspondence relating to the realization of the project. There are a large number of annotated images of the artworks cross-referenced with shots from the accompanying video, Structures of Memory, and the itinerary of the multipart installation is recalled in the layout of the book.

Geeta Kapur

Geeta Kapur is an independent art critic and curator living in New Delhi. Her extensive publications on modern Indian art include Contemporary Indian Artists (1978), and exhibition catalogues and monographs on artists. Her essays on cultural criticism have been widely presented in forums of art history and cultural studies. Her curatorial work includes the show ‘'Bombay/Mumbai 1992––2001'’ in the multi-part exhibition titled '‘Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis'’, at Tate Modern, London, in 2001. She is a founder-editor of Journal of Arts & Ideas, and advisory editor to Third Text. She has held research fellowships at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, and Clare Hall, Cambridge.

Sibaji Bandyopadhyay

Sibaji Bandyopadhyay was Professor of Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He has written profusely in both Bangla and English on diverse subjects. His publications include: Sibaji Bandyopadhyay ReaderAlibabar Guptabhanda, Abar Sishusiksh, Bangla Sishu-sahityer Choto Meyera, The Colonial Chronotope, Bangla Uponnase ‘Ora’, Through a Trap-door, Prasanga: Jibanananda, Galileo.