Curator: Paroma Maiti
The modern nation-state, is, as we’ve come to be convinced since Benedict Anderson’s famous postulation, an “imagined community.” What are the praxes it is imagined around? Commonalty of language, religion, shared histories and culture and a defined territorial limit, among a host of others. But these, in themselves have been shifting parameters, so that senses of affiliation, oneness and loyalty have also undergone transformations. What then constitutes the idea of ‘desh’ today, in a time that has shrunk into a global village? Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s writings refer to Bengal (in pre-independence India) as ‘desh’ or country or motherland. This imagination of a community was based largely on shared histories, territoriality, language and to a certain extent, religion. ‘Bidesh’, or the foreign land, consequently came to be perceived as any land beyond that known, familiar cocoon – even lands that shared common histories.
More than half a century since independence, has the subcontinent been able to rise above these parochial boundaries to actually perceive and internalize the idea of the nation-state? Is it too complex, too abstract still? Has the idea of nation-state as home percolated down to the grassroots? If not, can it be condemned? These are a few ideas that four artists have come together to explore in myriad ways for this show. Since they belong to nations that are still, or once were part of India – a land of schisms – how they perceive this whole idea, is as interesting as the idea of Desh itself.