Instituting Artists’ Collectives: the Bangalore/Bengaluru Experiments with “Solidarity Economies”
This paper diverts the ubiquitous attention paid to the contemporary art market and its dynamics as the main driving force to have catapulted so many Indian artists into public view. Instead, the paper maps alternative landscapes of artistic production that largely take place on a collaborative basis and offers further non-commercial explanations for this development. The approach seems all the more relevant since scholarship on contemporary India art, which has only gone global in the last decade, has seldom tried to understand in detail the local artistic networks and how they contest as well as nurture relations with the global art world. However, the author does not neglect the internationalized infrastructure of art fairs, galleries, collections, and biennales, but admits that they are important forces that opened-up possibilities hitherto not available for artists in the officially supported Indian art infrastructure, but also outlines its pitfalls.
In the author’s own words: the paper “differentiates between the large disembodied formations that impersonate as ‘alternative’ artistic structures or democratic artists’ associations; all the while replicating a corporate body that functions through its disparate arms, – to control and direct through invisible means, art’s social functions, and on the other hand, the networks of solidarity that engender an altogether different economy of art: of reciprocal exchange and collaboration along with a rejection any form of a priori hierarchy”. With its attention on the latter context and based on critical self-introspection as well as first-hand experience, this contribution of an artist-cum-scholar supplements theoretical knowledge on the globalization of modernism and contemporary artistic phenomena with close insights in a rarely researched field of art. The paper takes Bangalore as a case in point a city that has yielded comparatively more critical and pointed art works than the wealthier art metropolises of Delhi or Mumbai, especially as the city is not (yet) an important spot on the map of global market circuits. The author elaborates not only on current self-organized initiatives, non-commercial artistic networks and platforms that lay at the heart of this phenomenon in Bangalore, but also links it back to the local historical impact of earlier art groups and art schools that helped to pave the way.