I am interested in how the efficacies, affects, and values associated with images arise not only from what goes on within the picture-frame but also from the production, circulation and deployments of images as material objects. I therefore find it useful to bring ethnographic sensibilities and methods to ‘visual’ studies. My work on popular images in modern India (such as the bazaar icons known as calendar art, or monumental statues and theme parks) has largely focused on a vernacular business ethos where religion has been the primary site for adopting new media and expressive techniques. The unfinished business between images, religion, politics, and commerce troubles the provincial legacies of European Romanticism and secular modernism that underpin much of our thinking about the aesthetic. So while my teaching is often based on South Asian materials, my courses take a postcolonial and transcultural approach to interrogating the disciplinary assumptions of art history, cinema studies, and visual studies. These critical perspectives also inform my writing on contemporary art in India and elsewhere.
This picture from 2013 shows a 123 ft. Shiva statue built in 2002 on India’s west coast, part of a new genre of monumental statues proliferating virally since the economic reforms of the 1990s.