Nature & Nation: Art, Design and Political Ecologies in the Twentieth Century

Sria Chatterjee

With a particular focus on plants and 'plantscapes', this project, probes the relationships between art and the politics of nature in colonial and postcolonial South Asia with a view to the transnational networks and imaginaries that emerge around them. It examines how ideas of nature were embedded in artistic practices and aesthetic discourses, and how both of these were tied to politics and practices of nation-making in a long twentieth century account of pre- and post-independence India. Through a focus on the Santiniketan-Sriniketan project (established in early 1900s British India) in Bengal, and the National Institute of Design funded by the Indian government and the United States-based Ford Foundation (established late 1950s, after independence in 1947) in Ahmedabad and the transregional and transnational networks of ideas, agents, and institutions around them, it unpacks art and design's deep relations to colonial and modern science and anthropology between colonial rule and the Cold War. It zooms in, for example, on key relationships between India, Japan, Britain and the United States.

This project is part of the Research and Fellowship Program 4A Laboratory: Art Histories, Archaeologies, Anthropologies, Aesthetics, a cooperation between the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.


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