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INDIAN GRAMMAR
A MODERNIST EXPERIMENT IN POSTCOLONIAL INDIA
2004 – 06

Exhibited at: 
Mia Sundberg Galleri, Stockholm 2005, Indian Grammar
ROOSEUM, Malmö 2005, Malmö Art Academy 10 years
Hasselblad Center, Göteborg 2005, New Swedish Photography
Bonn Kunstmuseum, Germany 2006, Indian Grammar
Mia Sundberg Galleri, Stockholm 2006, Interior spaces
IVAM (Institut Vanlencià d`Art Modern), Valencià, Spain, 2009, India Moderna
Kristianstads Konsthall 2009, Winning a battle, losing the War
Gallery P3, Westminister University, London, England 2009, Le Corbusier´s India

 

 

Indian Grammar is a serie of photographs that documents Chandigarh, the capital of the Indian state of Punjab that was built after the independence and partition of India in 1947. The master plan for the new city was commissioned from Le Corbusier, the iconic representative of international modernism in town planning, architecture and interior design. Chandigarh remains the only full-scale modernist urban venture in India, and its ambiguous position between ‘non aligned’ internation-alism and ‘Indian-ness’ has provoked much fascination and commentary. One example is the swastika, the age-old solar symbol that became associated with Nazis but is here once again used in its original Indian setting.

To what extent can Modernism, which was purposely named the International Style, be used to signify a specific culture and its linguistically motivated self-image? The photographs that make up Indian Grammar could be divided into two categories: morphology (pictures of general architectural elements and details of specific interiors or exteriors in Chandigarh) and syntax (pictures of the city and its buildings as a concrete whole in a concrete place and how people in that particular place actually use them).

When Indian Grammar first was exhibited at Mia Sundberg Galleri in 2005 the former were presented as a slide projection onto a purpose-built wall, whereas the latter were represented by four enlarged prints. Another photograph showed Phytagoras, a geometric curtain pattern designed by Swedish modernist architect Sven Markelius for the UN Headquarters in New York. This serves as a reminder of how Sweden has also claimed the right to its “own” modernism without giving up its ambition to influence the rest of the world.

Indian Grammar is neither a celebration of local identities nor a detached scrutiny of utopian modernism. Chandigarh is looked upon as it appears now, when the buildings, streets and squares have been adapted to the needs of several generations of users. In countries like Sweden the icons of modernity have also undergone similar changes, through daily use.

The project were developed into a book with the same title that were published by Mia Sundberg Galleri in 2005, and contained a selection of photographs from the serie and essays by Vikram Prakash and Gertrud Sandqvist. The book is available from here, and from the following book shops; Konst-ig, Moderna Musset book shop, Malmö Konsthall, Göteborgs Konstmuseum in Sweden and RIBA bookshop in England.