Monday, 8 April 2013

Tushar Joag: art, intervention and urban politics

Creative Futures Institute, University of the West of Scotland presents

a talk by Tushar Joag, 5.30pm, Friday 19th April, CCA Cinema, Glasgow

(Tushar Joag: Bombay Dowry: UNICELL intervention)

Tushar Joag was born in Mumbai in 1966. He completed his Bachelors in Fine Art in 1988 (Sir JJ. School of Art, Mumbai ) and Masters in 1990 (M.S. University, Baroda).  After spending two years (1998 to 2000) at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, he returned to Mumbai and co-founded the artists initiative Open Circle in 2000. He has participated in a number of national and international exhibitions. He is the core faculty at the Shiv Nadar University School of Art and Design, New Delhi. 

A few years ago I went through a predicament as to what business art had to exist at all: what use was it to society? I thought art was not enough, not even if its subject matter was explicitly political - one had to aesthetise politics, not just politicise aesthetics.

After organizing numerous events in the public domain through Open Circle, an Artists' initiative (of which I am a founder member), like study circles, public actions, protests and other interventionist strategies of art making and some amateur activism; I realized that art cannot on it's own bring about societal changes - not without a political revolution - but an atmosphere conducive to such a political revolution can only be created by the questions that are raised in the ideological/cultural sphere. Art is responsible for maintaining cultural continuity as well as providing ruptures that bring a fresh outlook through its questioning of the present.

My practice thus attempts to probe local and contemporary politics such as marginalisation and displacement due to over urbanisation and the inequitable development models implemented by the state... a microcosm of the global order?

The pursuit of the urbanization based development paradigm is displacing not only the rural but also the urban poor in a major way. The rift between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is perpetually increasing in the city. In Bombay where land is scarce and at a premium, it is being forcefully acquired or unlawfully given away to the builders for private profit. The poor are being evicted from their dwellings: at times even from land that they have actually ‘created’ by manually reclaiming the marshes.

The city is being developed as an attractive location for Foreign Direct Invesment. Transnational corporations are being welcomed with open arms to come and set up operations while legitimate citizens are being denied the fundamental right to livelihood and housing. Millions are spent on so-called infrastructure development (like the skywalks, which are scarcely used) while many other infrastructural needs of certain sections of the citizens (like drinking water, sanitation, etc) remain unaddressed. One section of the society desire to live in a ‘global city’ while for the other, even bare survival is not guaranteed. There are aspirations and there are aspirations, but whose aspirations become the aspirations of the city?

My works mostly deal with this inequitable development and dislocations it causes. The project UNICELL Public Works Cell ( was started in 2004 to make interventions in the urban space by designing and producing objects that are functional and aesthetic. The idea was to bring into focus the various concerns of the immediate situation in a satirical way.

This event produced in association with the Cultural Hijack exhibition curated by Ben Parry and Peter McCaughey at the Architectural Association in London (26th April - 25th May 2013). 

Free but ticketed: to book please call the CCA Box Office on 0141 352 4900 or online at


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