In Malwa 25 years ago, I was fascinated by the pictures on the walls. Gradually, I became obsessed with calendar art.
Where did you find your collection of chromolithographs and calendar art images?
Markets, bottom drawers of framing shops, and personal archives of publishers and artists.
What can popular art tell us about history?
Through anomalies, we see a popular set of concerns that’s counter to the history we know.
What’s striking about Indian vernacular photography’?
Photographers’ great disinterest in landscapes.
Before photography, only gods and kings had faces. Mass portraiture enabled the public to represent themselves to themselves.
What’s the difference between Judeo-Christian visions of Hell, such as Blake’s, and ours?
‘Karm ke phal’ (fruits of actions) images feed into the Ideal Boy imagery, a politically regressive vision of obedient citizenship.
Between appropriations of pop culture as kitsch art and homogenised Photoshopped gloss, can anything new emerge?
New things are happening with artists like Atul Dodiya and Pushpamala N.
Are you nostalgic for any visual tradition?
Yes, one looks at earlier artisanal montages with a sense of preference.
What accounts for the continuing potency of images of Indian revolutionaries?
The iconography of Bose and Bhagat Singh draws from the Rajasthani tradition of ’jhujhar’. Its intensity still resonates.
What are you working on next?
Visual Encounters, an overambitious book on the representation of cultural encounters.