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National Institute of Design

TAPATI GUHA-THAKURTA is an art-historian, Professor in History and the current Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC). Her two main books are The Making of a New ‘Indian’ Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 1992) and Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India (Columbia University Press, and Permanent Black, 2004). She has been involved with the building of a visual history archive at the CSSSC, and has curated two exhibitions out of this collection – Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal: An introduction to the documentation archive of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (Seagull, Kolkata, 2002); The City in the Archive: Calcutta’s Visual Histories (Calcutta: CSSSC, 2011). She is at present completing a book titled In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Calcutta. New Dispensations of Design in a public festival: The Durga pujas of contemporary Kolkata Over the years, Kolkata’s Durga Puja (an autumnal week-long festival celebrating the home-coming of goddess Durga) has been scaling new heights as the most spectacular event in the city’s annual calendar. In recent times, the festival has taken on a particular artistic and designer profile that is unique to the contemporary city. My lecture will be studying the anatomy of this newly configured popular art-event that has brought into the fray new categories of artists and designers and new vocabularies of public design. It uses the occasion of the festival to reflect on the new dispensations and vocations of design in an urban public setting. And it offers up the city of the festival as one of those less-explored post-colonial geographies of contemporary design histories in India – a site for thinking about today’s transmuting vernacular practices of art and craft, where the resources of traditional folk and ritual arts are brought into continuous dialogue with the needs of modern art production and mass spectatorship.

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