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Guest lecture by Parul Mukherji

Oct 29, 2018

On Tuesday, October 30, Prof. Parul Dave Mukherji from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi gave a guest lecture at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. Her talk, titled "Is Post-Darshan Aesthetics Possible? Masquerades and Masks in Contemporary Art Photography," was organized by the professorship of Global Art History and took place at the Karl Jaspers Centre at 4 pm.

Culture and photography in India have converged around the concept of darshan, first theorized by the art historian Diana Eck. She proposes Indian visuality based on a model of a religious exchange of gaze between a devotee and a sacred idol. The term darshan has become a keyword to understand modern Indian aesthetics in photography and cinema while the traditional Sanskrit texts on art and aesthetics propose a different epistemology that converges around sadrsya (resemblance) and satya (verisimilitude). Judith Gutman, an anthropologist, appears to extend this notion to Indian photography in general in her book "Through Indian Eyes". While the visual anthropologist, Chris Pinney, has contested any simplistic ascription of ethnicity to photography, religion and anti-realism have played a key role in foregrounding cultural difference in Indian photography.

It is Parul Mukherji's intention to look at contemporary Indian artists like N. Pushpamala and Gauri Gill, who have directly engaged with rural India. A body of their works is examined to explore the possibility of breaking out of the darshan-oriented framework via revisiting the emic terminology of visual representation available in Sanksrit texts on Silpasastra. Here darshan aesthetics is also short-hand for a particular visual theory that draws from anthropology and its engagement with cultural difference. So the larger question is whether a full break with such a theory is possible in order to envision a postcolonial aesthetics for contemporary art and cultural practices.

The lecture is organized by the professorship of Global Art History.

Parul Mukherji is a scholar of Indian art historiography, Indian aesthetics, comparative aesthetics, gender in art history, art theory and globalization. She has been dean and professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University since 2006 and is also associate professor at the Department of Art History and Aesthetics of the Faculty of Fine Arts of Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda.

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