Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 30-31 (Dec 1997) p. 3.


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Introduction

This issue of the Journal'o^'Arts &Ideas, coinciding with the fifteenth year of the Journal, aimed to present a package of themes that would throw a retrospective glance at what has come to evolve as our national art establishment. It is significant that the actual texts speak more of the diffusion and dispersal than of the unity in the field of the nation's art history. If the 'national' can still be invoked as a covering/constitutive code, it offers itself primarily as a target of interrogation. Still centrally lodged within all the interlinked domains of our artistic, art-historical and institutional productions, the category of the 'Indian' or the 'national' has had to urgently reinvent its meanings and redefine its locations within each specific realm. This issue takes us into the heart of these negotiations, as it takes us on a journey from our art-historical pasts to the tastes and aesthetics of the present. We straddle, in the process, the multiple worlds of pictorial, architectural, historiographical and exhibitionary practices. We move from canonical subjects like Mughal painting and south Indian temple architecture to the clearly non-canonical area of 'calendar art'; we move also from the circuit of art productions and art histories to the grand displays mounted by the colonial and the nation-state.

What, we could ask, holds together the varied themes that have been placed together in this issue? While they all belong to the discipline of Indian art history, a view from within the discipline shows up a set of eclectic and differing concerns—as mixed a range of subjects as approaches—that resist any easy bonding. My intention is not to search out any such internal unity and cohesiveness. Rather, the idea is to try and open out a critical position that lies both within and outside the disciplinary field: a vantage position from where the broader discursive contours of the field can be grasped even as we confront the full force of its inner dissensions, disunities and deviations. In Indian art history, there is an urgent need for such a mediatory space that can span the outsider/ insider divide; that can pull out the 'internal' debates on styles and iconographies, dates and nomenclatures for 'external' dissection; that can also allow the outer frames of

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