Iniva at Rivington Place presents Anna Boghiguian and Goshka Macuga Tagore’s Universal Allegories

. September 28, 2013

Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) at Rivington Place presents Anna Boghiguian and Goshka Macuga Tagore’s Universal Allegories an exhibition on view 19 September–23 November 2013.

Tagore’s Universal Allegories is an exhibition inspired by the life and work of Indian poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941). The exhibition features works by artists Anna Boghiguian and Goshka Macuga, made in response to Tagore’s legacy suggesting how his ideas still resonate today. The cultural critic Rustom Bharucha states that ‘Tagore has the capacity to make us think about our times through the filter of shattered ideals,’ and in this exhibition it is possible to see how his approach to art and literature as well as his concept of universalism, ecology and education can be understood through a contemporary sensibility. The exhibition also marks the beginning of a research project at Iniva looking at Tagore’s legacy with contributions by leading artists and academics from India, continental Europe and the UK.

Shown in separate galleries, the two installations were conceived in relation to one another, with each artist engaged in the discussion and development of the other’s work. A Play to Play by Anna Boghiguian is the artist’s first significant exhibition in the UK. While it includes a number of different elements, it can be read as a single body of work produced over the summer of 2013 while the artist stayed in Santiniketan (Tagore’s school, art college, university and utopian community in West Bengal). Boghiguian often works with literary references, and the point of departure here was The Post Office (1912), one of Tagore’s best-loved allegorical plays, which tells the story of a young boy who has an incurable illness and is confined to his uncle’s house. The construction of a post office nearby makes him hope for a letter from the king, and while he waits, passersby representing aspects of the world outside engage him in conversation. The Post Office has been translated into many languages and performed internationally, including famously by children at an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto and (in a translation by Ande Gide) on Radio France the night the Germans occupied Paris during World War II. In Boghiguian’s installation, the stage at the centre of the gallery represents various figures (including Tagore) performing The Post Office, with masks and costumes. The letters that issue from the stage reflect Tagore’s extraordinary cosmopolitanism and his relationships with many leading figures of his day.

Goshka Macuga’s installation When was Modernism? (2008) was originally commissioned for the exhibition Santhal Family Positions Around an Indian Sculpture curated by Grant Watson at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (M HKA) and has been specially reconfigured for this exhibition. Following a research trip by the artist to Santiniketan in 2006, it evokes the campus of Kala Bhavana, Tagore’s pioneering art school established in 1919 (the same year as the Bauhaus), which became the crucible for early Indian modernism. During her visit the artist noticed many fragments of students’ work abandoned on the campus, and with their permission, transported a group of these back to Europe, where they were shown in an environment designed by Macuga including a tree with benches—iconic of Santiniketan. Restaged in this manner, the works come to represent a genealogy of forms and materials that can be traced back to the school’s beginnings in the first half of the twentieth century, but also correspond to the formal exercises undertaken by Macuga at college in Poland in the 1980s. This narrative of a modernist aesthetic ranging across different time periods and geographies is presented as a question in the form of the work’s title, When Was Modernism? borrowed from a book of essays by Indian art historian Geeta Kapur.

Tagore’s Universal Allegories begins an extended research project at Iniva on Rabindranath Tagore realized through an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded partnership with Goldsmiths College (London) and the Dutch Art Institute (Arnhem) as well as through an exhibition in partnership with NGBK (Berlin). It will involve contributions by leading artists and academics from India, Germany, Holland and the UK, including Andrea Phillips, Landings, The Otolith Group, Rustom Bharucha, Shanay Jhaveri, Anshuman Dasgupta, Shuddha Sengupta and Ansuman Biswas.

Curated by Grant Watson

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