Vivan Sundaram: History Project
a site-specific installation, Victoria Memorial, Calcutta, 1998
Foreward by Homi K. Bhabha
This book is an intensive reconsideration of the very first site-specific installation staged in India. Vivan Sundaram, one of India's most innovative artists, located his 'History Project', marking fifty years of Indian independence, in a hugely visited and popular public institution, the Victoria Memorial and Museum in Kolkata. The artist's choice of setting was by way of a challenge: to 'occupy' an imperial edifice and change its orientation; to reflect India's struggle for independence and the emerging nation's stake in modernity through an anachronistic mirror; and to engage with postcolonial contradictions through recursive narration. It needed an artwork scaled to the proportion of these issues and the book examines how Sundaram met this challenge. His ideology and aesthetic, his formal choices and method, are critically investigated in a series of essays contributed by distinguished authors: cultural theorists, art and architectural historians. The book carries abundant, well-annotated illustrations of the complex installation.