Articulating the Contemporary? Collaborative aesthetics and Indigenous knowledge in Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vangad’s Field of Sight (2013-ongoing)

Freya Schwachenwald

Abstract


In Fields of Sight (2013-ongoing), photographer Gaura Gill and Warli painter Rajesh Vangad re-map Vangad’s memories and experiences in and around his home village of Ganjad, Maharashtra, in rural West India. Gill’s monochrome series of photographs shows Vangad in different positions around his home. Through inscribing Warli drawings on Gill’s photographs, Vangad transforms them into multi-perspectival sites of meaning production. Environmental destruction, urbanization, Indigenous knowledge, and violence are repositioned within a nonlinear “encyclopaedia of forms” (Gill). The artwork’s reconfiguration of the visible and the invisible allows to trace regimes of visuality and visual knowledge. Also, it permits to critically deconstruct hegemonic concepts of linear historiography and self-contained subjectivity. These concepts emerged from colonial visual practices of travel photography and cartography and developed in complicity with the disciplines of anthropology and art history. As such, they served an imperialist civilizing mission ideology in the process of making sense of the world. To understand in which way Fields of Sight allows to critically examine these concepts of visual knowledge production, this paper embarks on the following questions: How does Fields of Sight create a visual language of seeing and knowing through its materiality, collaborative production and construction of space and time? In Jacques Rancière’s words, how does it challenge the “distribution of the real and the fictional [...] that frame[s] the existing sense of reality”? Taking a transcultural approach, critically examining preconceived concepts of historiography, space and cultural identity, this paper argues that Fields of Sight allows to reassert local, Indigenous knowledge of the Warli community in a process of making sense of the world. Through the representation of nature, time, space and subjectivity as a complex, multi-layered pluriverse that evades a singular production of meaning, Fields of Sight permits to critically conceptualize hegemonic vision, ecologies, temporalities and spatialities.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/GHSJ.2019.328

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Copyright (c) 2019 Freya Schwachenwald

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