“Pakistani ‘spy pigeon’ arrested in India,” announced BBC News in 2015, reporting on a bird found by a 14-year-old boy in the border village of Manwal, taken into custody by local police, and identified as a ‘suspected spy’ in their records. In Bani Abidi’s The News (2001), a double-channel video installation, the artist plays the roles of Indian and Pakistani state television newsreaders who relate disputes over a Pakistani hen that strays into Indian territory and lays eggs there. “Situation is tense but under control,” both sides insist. Using Abidi’s absurd yet hyperreal performance as a starting point, this presentation analyzes a growing preoccupation with nations, borders, and partitions in contemporary art from South Asia since the 1990s and a new approach to imagining the region.
Sonal Khullar is the W. Norman Brown Associate Professor of South Asian Studies in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity and Modernism in India, 1930-1990 (University of California Press, 2015) and editor of Old Stacks, New Leaves: The Arts of the Book in South Asia (University of Washington Press, 2023). She is currently completing a book manuscript, The Art of Dislocation: Conflict and Collaboration in Contemporary Art from South Asia, under contract with the University of California Press.
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