Breaking Binaries: Thinking About Art in the Covid Age | A Conversation Between Shahzia Sikander and Vishakha Desai

December 01, 2020

The current crises of the pandemic, social justice, and climate have laid bare the deep fissures in our worlds, demanding that we reimagine and articulate the possibilities that go beyond narrow binaries of national/global or past/ present. Shahzia Sikander, a leading artist who routinely creates new worlds out of tradition and contemporaneity, and Vishakha Desai, an art historian and author of an upcoming memoir “World as Family: A Journey of Multi-Rooted Belongings” (Columbia University Press, February 2021) engaged in a wide-ranging conversation about art, ideas and notions of global belonging. 

Shahzia Sikander and Vishakha Desai’s conversation was based on the Miniature 2.0. Exhibition at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, which focuses on contemporary approaches to miniature painting. The exhibition features the works of 14 artists from different countries such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Azerbaijan whose works go beyond the form and context of traditional court paintings as they re-think issues including colonialism, orientalism, economic inequality, gender, politics of identity, discrimination, social violence, compulsory migration, and representation by giving the miniature painting a new dimension in a contemporary world. 

The Exhibition features Shahzia Sikander’s digital animation Parallax (2013), which blurs the distinctions between the past and the present, traditional and contemporary as it re-invents and experiments with the traditional technique of miniature painting as a multicultural and multi-local form. 

In fact, the Miniature 2.0. Exhibition has a lot to offer to re-think about art in the post-pandemic world. The global crisis of Covid-19 triggered a new kind of engagement with our societies and the world around us. In Vishakha Desai’s words, it is about “how we think of ourselves in relation to others” beyond the exclusionary logic that divides geographies apart and separates our past from our present.

This webinar was organized by the Columbia Global Centers I Istanbul in collaboration with the Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai and the Pera Museum.