South Asian Modernisms: Australian Scholarship and Global Perspectives
Level 1 Atrium, Glyn Davis Building (MSD), Masson Road, the University of Melbourne Parville campus
Recent international scholarship and awards have attracted new critical attention to the legacy of modern architecture and related design and construction processes in South Asia. Previously understood as part of the universal transformations in architecture brought about by the economic and technological projects of modernisation, the shear diversity and context-specific ingenuity of these architectural works indicates a richer, much more plural and multi-lateral story. Unfortunately, however, many of these works have already succumbed to untimely demolition due to a lack of knowledge or appreciation in their home countries of their wider importance as modernist architectural heritage. This travelling exhibition and panel discussion series aims to raise greater awareness of this issue through contextual photographs of representative spaces and buildings. It further builds on recent South Asia focused initiatives by internationally influential museums and collections, including the Centre Pompidou (CP) in Paris (2013), Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt (2017), and most recently the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York (2022), by highlighting the contributions of Australian scholarship and extending regional involvement.
Australian scholarship has played a key role in defining the strategy for acquisition and display for several of these initiatives, and scholars from Australian universities served as consulting advisors, contributors, and c0-curators. On the one hand, Australia’s sustained historical and cultural ties to the West and unique geographical proximity to Asia has opened up a common ground between profoundly different cultural worlds for cross-cultural conversations on the nature of modernity. On the other hand, the Australia-based scholars – many of whom are of South Asian origin themselves – serve as a connection back to the region in order to include local South Asian expertise. While this unique Australian mediation has allowed for some regional voices to be included in international representation, much still remains to be done to address other local concerns such as gender, labour, or ecology, to more fully interpret these architectural modernisms in their local terms. Our aim is to showcase Australian linkages with the region’s own emerging voices, striving for a more pluralist representation of the experience of South Asian Modernisms.
Image: Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore by architect B.V. Doshi photo credit Randhir Singh.
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