Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 27-28 (March 1995) p. 105.


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When Was Modernism in Indian Art

D Geeta Kapur

. . . [Tjhe innovations of what is called Modernism have become the new but fixed forms of our present moment. If we have to break out of the non-historical fixity of post-modernism, then we must search out and counterpose an alternative tradition taken from the neglected works left in the wide margin of the century, a tradition that may address itself not to this by now exploitable because inhuman rewriting of the past but, for all our sakes, to a modern future in which community may be imagined again.

óRaymond Williams1

Taking the cue from Raymond Williams' lecture 'When Was Modernism?' there is need to reiterate that we continue to commit ourselves to the immanent aspect of our own complex cultures; that we persist in trusting the material status of meaning manifest, in Williams' words, as a 'structure of fueling';2 that we commit to relating forms (of art) with (social) formations because it is his kind of a grounded relay of cultural history that will help the process of survival within the new imperialism that the late capitalist/postmodern world sets up.

Whatever the chances of that survival, it may be worth mentioning that modernism as it develops in the postcolonial cultures has the oddest retroactive trajectories, and that these make up a parallel aesthetics. It is crucial that we should not see the modem as a form of determinism to be followed in the way of the stations of the cross to a logical end. That we should see our trajectories crisscrossing the western mainstream, and in their very disalignment from it making up the kind of ground which then restructures both the national and the international scene inevitably. Similarly, before the west periodizes the postmodern entirely in its own terms, and in that process also characterizes it, we have to introduce the transgressions due to our peripheral status. We should reperiodize the modern in terms of our historical experience of modernization and mark our modernisms so that we may enter the postmodern at least potentially on our own terms.

Numbers 27-28


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