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The Calendar Project

The Calendar Project: Iconography in the 20th Century

53 calendars by multiple artists. Research: Shikha Pandey

This collaborative project seeks to renegotiate the process of iconization of contemporary images in the public domain through the 20th century. The works are based mostly on found images or on earlier works of the artists themselves, which are then hybridized through contemporary readings and speculations on the public and the popular.

Printing technology and cinema, both with a capacity for multiple reproduction, grew in tandem in the early 20th century. Film-based picture postcards, calendars, posters and monograms became popular commodities by the early 1940s. Alongside the mystical and ever-moving images on screen, the tangibility of printed images helped consolidate the iconic stature of cinema.

The iconicity of cinema was further enhanced by the nationalist fervour of the time. The need for motifs to consolidate public sentiment around the struggles for independence, the search for a local film idiom and the emerging role of icons in public culture, all became a part of the developing nationalist discourse among urban elites. This nationalist agenda, interestingly, was countered by a growing consumers’ market for foreign goods. Around the years of the two world wars and the inter-war period, the Indian port / cinema of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras witnessed heavy traffic of goods and commodities, as well as people, from abroad. The commodities needed to evolve a market, and the market in turn needed a visual format and language. Many of these complementary and contradictory processes and practices got accumulated under a broad category called “calendar images”. The imaginations of an aspirational modernity were consolidated through images of commodities, personas, and configurations such as women and technology, soap and nationalism, foreign landscape and insurance, Shivaji and chocolate, etc.

Some of the calendars are designed by veteran artistes whereas the others are by students and debutant artistes. Some of the works rely very heavily on the found images related to the period whereas some others attempt to expand the notion of ‘found’ and ‘period’.  Each calendar is attributed to a consumer’s product and thus create a timeline of consumers’ market in the 20th century. These contemporary digital works, that playfully date themselves to the previous century, also aim to create a product line of ‘copy without the original’. The individual prints that may otherwise seem inconspicuous come together to gain a sense of refracted/subverted temporality, and attain a special exuberance when collated and displayed together.

Participating Artists: 

Abeer Gupta, Amit Roy, Archana Hande, Arpita Singh, BV Suresh, Chattrapati Datta, Chintan Upadhyay, Christina Zueck, Deepshika Jaiswal, Hema Upadhyay, Kamal Swaroop, Mamta Murthy, Meera Devidayal, Mithu Sen, Nalini Malani, Nilima Sheikh, Paromita Vohra, Ranbir Kaleka, Ram Rehman, Rakesh Koyande, Riddhi Shah, Rupal Shah, Shakuntala Kulkarni, Shilpa Gupta, Shreyas Karle, S Basak, Tushar Joag, Sachin Kondhalkar, Sashikant Thavudoz, Sukhdev Rathod, Sudhir Patwardhan, Vinita Gatne, Vishal Rawlley, Vivan Sundaram