Seminar #2
In Conversation with Iftikhar Dadi
4 – 10 December 2016

199 Temple Road

Elizabeth and Iftikhar Dadi, Karachi, c.1990s

Seminar #2 In Conversation with Iftikhar Dadi is jointly presented by Theertha School of Art and the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design. The program consists of a series of conversations with the internationally acclaimed artist, writer and art historian Iftikhar Dadi. Events will take place in Colombo and Jaffna covering the depth and range of Dadi's interests making it possible for new audiences in Sri Lanka to engage in his work, ideas and writing. 

Program at Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design
Sunday 4-6 December

Coomaraswamy on Craft
Sunday 4 December 
Venue: 199 Temple Road, Jaffna

Dadi will discus the polymath writer and philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) who wrote his first major works on crafts in Ceylon, before turning his attention to the art, architecture, and philosophy of Indian civilization. His magnificent 1908 publication Mediaeval Sinhalese Art translates the legacy of William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts movement in the context of Ceylonese craft. During this transitional “craft” period, from his career as a geologist to his work as a philosopher of Indian aesthetics, Coomaraswamy also formulated the orientation of all his important future writings. His critique of British colonial policies—in administrative and public works, in colonial pedagogy, in its patronage that he considered detrimental to local art and craft—resonated powerfully with the growing swadeshi (nationalist) movement in India. His writings from this period portray him as an impassioned critic of the destruction wrought by British industry in the age of high imperialism. In comparison to earlier efforts by British officials, in Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Coomaraswamy developed a far more comprehensive textual and empirical framework for situating craft practices.

Modernism and - the questions that follow
Monday 5 December
Venue: 199 Temple Road, Jaffna

In 2010 Dadi published Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, which received the 2010 Book Prize from the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. Informed by postcolonial theory and globalization studies, the work traces the emergence of modernism by selected artists from Pakistan over the course of the twentieth century and represents one of the first in depth accounts of art development during this period from South Asia. Methodologically, it offers a way of writing histories of non-western modern art by situating modernism as transnational rather than located primarily within a national art history. This seminar will consider the arguments and approaches of this seminal book in relation to discussions about writing and presenting Modernism in Sri Lanka.

Iftikhar Dadi - Artist's Talk
Tuesday 6 December
Venue: University of Jaffna

The New York-based artist duo Iftikhar and Elizabeth Dadi have collaborated for over twenty years. From the early 90s they were based in Karachi, which Iftikhar recalls 'possessed a tremendous visual charge... an amnesiac history and memory, and voracious commercial energy.' They met in Seattle when Iftikhar was studying for his MSc in Electrical Engineering and an MA in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures (Arabic and Persian). Elizabeth had studied art history at Berkley and completed her BFA at San Francisco Art Institute. Iftikhar recalls their interest to collaborate with one another with reference to the affinities they shared as artists: "Both of our works were situated between the necessity for a critical and autonomous artistic practice, and the need to engage with popular visuality. We were deeply interested in urban vernacular technologies — not traditional craft — but a kind of 'plastic popular.' The success of their working relationship, alongside that of their teaching practise (Elizabeth taught at the Indus Valley School (IVS) in the early to mid 90s), along with that of the artists duo David Alesworth and Duriya Khasi was to become identified as 'Karachi Pop', and would in turn influence a generation of Pakistani artists. Their work has been exhibited at the Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil; Asia-Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia; Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial, Fukuoka, Japan; Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kunstmeuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; Miami Art Museum; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Art Gallery of Windsor, Canada; and Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh.

Program at theertha Art School
Thursday 8-10 December

Iftikhar Dadi - Artist's Talk
Thursday 8 December
Venue: Theertha Red Dot Gallery, 39/4A D S Senanayake Mawatha, Colombo 8 

Modernism and - the questions that follow
Friday 9 December
Venue: Theertha Red Dot Gallery, 39/4A D S Senanayake Mawatha, Colombo 8 

The Modern and the Contemporary in Sri Lanka 
Iftikhar Dadi in conversation with Jagath Weerasinghe and Sujatha Meegama
Saturday 10 December
Venue: Theertha Red Dot Gallery, 39/4A D S Senanayake Mawatha, Colombo 8

Iftikhar Dadi is a professor at Cornell University, Department of History of Art and Visual Studies. His writings have focused on modernism and contemporary practice of Asia, the Middle East and their diasporas. Dadi currently serves on the editorial and advisory boards of Archives of Asian Art and Bio-Scope: South Asian Screen Studies, and was member of the editorial board of Art Journal (2007-11). He is advisor to the Hong Kong based research organization Asia Art Archive.  He is currently co-director of Cornell's Institute for Comparative Modernities, and has served as Chair of Cornell's Department of Art (2010-14) and Director of Cornell's South Asia Program (2015-16). Co-curated exhibitions include Lines of Control on partitions and borders (Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, 2012 and Nasher Museum at Duke, 2013); Tarjama/Translation on the contemporary art of the Middle East and Central Asia (Queens Museum of Art, 2009 and Herbert F. Johnson Museum, 2010); and Unpacking Europe on the relation between Europe and the postcolonial world (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, 2001). In addition to Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (2010), other publications include the edited monograph Anwar Jalal Shemza (2015), the co-edited catalog Lines of Control (2012), and the co-edited reader Unpacking Europe (2001). His essays have appeared in numerous journals, edited volumes, and online platforms.
To reserve a place please RSVP 
Full program to follow
Places are limited reservation essential
Registration fee LKR 150 per person.


Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture & Design is a flagship project of Raking Leaves, a non-profit organisation that commissions and publishes contemporary art projects.

Supported by the Coomaraswamy family, Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development and those funders whom wish to remain anonymous. Donations of books have been gratefully gifted by many of Sri Lanka’s leading galleries, organisations and by many supportive individuals.

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