Archives collectively address our alternating visual expectations and provoke new dialogues on the notion of a stable or authentic discourse. This presentation encompasses three recent projects which highlight how historical and contemporary modes of representation have evolved with new image technologies/discourses in South Asia. These three exhibitions: ‘Look Stranger!’ (Serendipity Festival, 2019-2020), Catalyst (Jimei x Arles, 2019-2020) and ‘Ephemeral: New Futures for Passing Images’, (Serendipity Festival, 2018) featured lens-based practices emerging from South Asia, which engaged with aspects of cultural affiliation and displacement.

How can/or should we invoke a new canon in a digital era, especially through the prism of local or regional developments/changes? In its national as well as international settings today, visual displays continually raise the broader, unresolved question of ‘how to depict’, or ‘how to bridge’ in an era of digital universalism – bearing in mind the increasingly fraught subtexts of authority, allegiance and even belonging. The talk traverses some select artists’ works while seeking to reconsider the place of the photographic archive.


About the speaker

Rahaab Allana is Curator/Publisher, Alkazi Foundation for the Arts in New Delhi (alkazifoundation.org); Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (London) and Honorary Research Associate at the University College, London (Department of Visual Anthropology). He has curated, contributed to and edited several publications and exhibitions on South Asian photography and its trans-national histories, working internationally with museums, universities, festivals and other arts institutions such as The Brunei Gallery (London), Rencontres d’Arles (Espace Van Gogh), Jimei x Arles (China), The Folkwang Museum (Essen), The Photography Museum (Berlin), The Fine-Art Museum (Brussels) and the Rubin Museum (NY) among others.

He serves on the Advisory Committee/Juries of various cultural fora including the India-Europe Foundation for New Dialogue (FIND, Rome); the Prix Pictet Award (London/Switzerland/Paris); the Gabriele Basilico Prize in Architecture and Landscape Photography; as well as the Editorial Board of the Trans-Asia Photography (TAP) Review, University of Michigan. He is also the Founding/Managing Editor of PIX (enterpix.in), a theme-based photography initiative – an exhibitionary and online platform for South Asian practitioners in its tenth year; and is currently Guest Editing a volume for Aperture Magazine.


About the Lecture

This lecture took place on Thursday 15 October 2020, as part of the 2020 Sydney Asian Art Series.

The 2020 Sydney Asian Art Series

Each year, the Sydney Asian Art Series gathers leading international voices on critical issues in early, modern and contemporary Asian art.  In response to the cancellation of in-person events, the 2020 series has moved online. As we embrace this virtual format, the 2020 series aptly explores the intersections of art and visual technologies, in the context of Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Asia.  Learn more here.

Presented by

This series of talks and events is co-presented by the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, The Power Institute, and VisAsia, with support from the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Originating in and celebrating the very latest and best scholarship in Asian art from around the world, this initiative complements the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ innovative exhibition program in Asian art, and the University of Sydney’s region-leading programs in the arts and cultures of Asia.