The University of Chicago News Office
Jan. 10, 2001 Press Contact: Karen Reimer
(773) 702-8670

Renaissance Society presents Amar Kanwar

Video sample:
kanwar sample
A Night of Prophecy
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Related events:
Artist Talk
Lecture: Vinay Lal
Reading: India Radfar
Lecture: Lise McKean
Screening: War and Peace, 2002

Museum information:
The Renaissance Society
5811 S. Ellis Avenue
Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418
Hours: Tues-Fri 10 am-5 pm, Sat & Sun 12-5 pm. Closed Mondays.
Admission to the gallery and all events is free.
January 12-February 23, 2003
Opening reception Sunday, January 12 4-7 pm
Opening reception will feature a talk with the artist from 5-6 pm

The Renaissance Society is pleased to present the work of New Delhi-based filmmaker Amar Kanwar. Kanwar has established a distinctive voice, having directed and produced over 40 films, and through them studying the economies and psychologies of power as they direct the evolution of health, ecology, labor, development, politics, philosophy, art and law. The exhibition will feature three of Kanwar’s films-one produced specifically for this exhibition-which are a mixture of documentary, poetic travelog, and visual essay. For Kanwar, questions of national and personal identity do not revolve around an essentialized Indianess or Hinduness ground in geography, religion or language. Instead, they are synonymous with tensions, now historic, generated from differences between groups.

Narrated by Kanwar, A Season Outside (1998) uses India’s northern borders as the inspiration for a personal and poignant meditation on the source of violence. Ritual military patrols and ubiquitous coils of barbed wire mark a cease fire zone where “only the butterflies and birds are free to cross or rest on the wire as they do not disturb the circuit.” A Night of Prophecy (2002) was filmed in several diverse regions of India (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Kashmir) and features music and poetry of tragedy and protest performed by regional artists. The sources of anger and sorrow vary from inescapable, caste-bound poverty to the loss of loved ones as a result of tribal and religious fighting. The footage is a stunning glimpse of India’s diverse ethnic groups and topography from the rural mountains to its crowded urban centers. Produced specifically for this exhibition, To Remember (2003) is a portrait of Birla House, the site of Gandhi’s assassination which occurred January 30, 1948. Located in Delhi, Birla House has become a gallery and shrine attracting hundreds of visitors daily. This short silent film is an homage to Gandhi as well as the visitors who embody the spirit of his pacifist teachings. Against the backdrop of a surge in militant, Hindu nationalism, Kanwar’s work is particularly telling. Clearly, the historical turn of events, from non-violence to nuclear armament, suggest a deep ambivalence about Ghandhi’s legacy. Then again, when Gandhi said turn the other cheek, he didn't specify to the left or right.


Artist Talk
Sunday, January 12, 5:00 pm
This event will take place in Cobb Hall, room 307, directly below the gallery.

Thursday, January 30, 6:30 pm
Vinay Lal
"Gandhi’s Last Words"
Lal is a professor of History at University of California, Los Angeles. He writes on a wide variety of subjects for periodicals in the U.S., India and Britain. Some of his recent essays have been collected in The Poetics and Politics of Dissent: Essays on Indian History and Culture. Other publications include Empire of Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in a New Global Economy and the forthcoming History of History: The Career and Politics of a Form of Knowledge in Modern India. His talk will focus on the context and latent politicization of Gandhi’s death. This event will take place in Cobb Hall, Room 402 (down the hall from the gallery).

Sunday, February 2, 2:00 pm
India Radfar
Radfar is the author of India Poem (Pir Press, 2002), a beautiful reflection on the country for which she is named. India Poem is intimate and fragile. In the words of Louis Landes Levi "This book travels inwardly to reach the continent we always knew was there." This event will take place in Cobb Hall, Room 402 (down the hall from the gallery).

Sunday, February 16, 2:00 pm
Lise McKean
"Primary Sources"
McKean is the author of Divine Enterprise: Gurus and the Hindu Nationalist Movement (University of Chicago Press, 1996). She was a research associate in the Dept. of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and former managing editor of Public Culture. McKean was recently called upon to testify before the Senate regarding the surge in Hindu nationalism. This will serve as the backdrop for her reflections on Kanwar’s films. This event will take place in Cobb Hall Room 402 (down the hall from the gallery).

Thursday, February 20, 7:30 p.m.
War and Peace, 2002 (148 min.)
Dir. Anand Patwardhan
Three years in the making by India’s pre-eminent documentary filmmaker, War and Peace chronicles the development of India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs. This event will be screened in the gallery.

Established in 1915, The Renaissance Society is Chicago’s oldest contemporary art museum. Focusing on the forefront of the visual arts, The Renaissance Society maintains an international reputation as one of the finest resources for contemporary art. In addition to exhibitions, The Renaissance Society also sponsors concerts, performances, film and video screenings, and talks by noted artists and critics.
Last modified at 05:04 PM CST on Monday, April 14, 2003.

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