Along the Indian Highway: An Ethnography of an International Travelling Exhibition, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Along the Indian Highway

An Ethnography of an International Travelling Exhibition, 1st Edition

By Cathrine Bublatzky

Routledge India

194 pages | 16 Color Illus. | 20 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-08-19
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This book is an ethnographic study of the travelling art exhibition Indian Highway that presented Indian contemporary art in Europe and China between 2008 and 2012, a significant period for the art world that saw the rise and fall of the national exhibition format. It analyses art exhibition as a mobile "object" and promotes the idea of art as a transcultural product by using participant observation, in-depth interviews, and multi-media studies as research method. This work encompasses voices of curators, artists, audiences, and art critics spread over different cities, sites, and art institutions to bridge the distance between Europe and India based on vignettes along the Indian Highway. The discussion in the book focuses on power relations, the contested politics of representation, and dissonances and processes of negotiation in the field of global art. It also argues for rethinking analytical categories in anthropology to identify the social role of contemporary art practices in different cultural contexts and also examines urban art and the way national or cultural values are reinterpreted in response to ideas of difference and pluralism.

Rich in empirical data, this book will be useful to scholars and researchers of modern and contemporary art, Indian art, art and visual culture, anthropology, art history, mobility, and transcultural studies.


‘In the past two decades, Europe has seen more than a dozen exhibitions of Indian contemporary art, but none as dazzling and complex as Indian Highway, which was originated by celebrated curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and traveled between 2008 and 2012. Cathrine Bublatzky casts an ethnographic eye on each of the five stops along the route: London, Oslo, Herning, Rome, and Beijing. As she moves along, she argues persuasively and quite originally that such events must be read as sites of transcultural encounter. This goes against the grain of both contemporary art discourse and the anthropology of art. Rarely has either discipline engaged with such a case, in which a show can be transformed so completely by its cultural context. Bublatzky’s richly detailed analysis sheds new light on a key analytic of studies of globalization: mobility.’

Karin Zitzewitz, Interim Chair, Department of Art, Art History, and Design and Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture, Michigan State University, Kresge Art Center, USA

‘This book is a fresh and pioneering ethnographic work about the dynamics of art exhibitions in a transcultural context. Not only is the case study of Indian Highway’s journey through Europe and to China fascinating and unique, Bublatzky’s clear and creative approach to reading the material makes this book a must-read for students and scholars interested in contemporary cultural production.’

Christiane Brosius, Professor of Visual and Media Anthropology, Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies, Germany

‘Cathrine Bublatzky has made an important contribution to exhibition history and the emerging understanding of the global milieu of contemporary art production and viewing with this book. It situates its reader squarely where the action is.’

Raqs Media Collective, Delhi, India

Table of Contents

List of Plates


Preface by Monica Juneja

  1. Along the Indian Highway: An Introduction
  2. "Cancel That Flight to Delhi…"
  3. Serpentine Gallery, London 2008

  4. "Indianness and the Urgency of Transmission"
  5. Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo 2009

  6. "There Might be an Indian Background, But the Theme is Global"
  7. HEART Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning 2010

  8. Transcultural Dissonances in the Contemporary Art World
  9. Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo, Rome 2012

  10. Indian Highway VI Finally on Its Way to China
  11. Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing 2012

  12. Shared Exoticisms or the Limits of the National Exhibition: Some Final Observations


About the Author

Cathrine Bublatzky is a visual and media anthropologist and Assistant Professor at the Department of Visual and Media Anthropology, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Germany. As a trained photographer she received her Magister in Anthropology with a focus on South Asian History and Visual Anthropology in 2008. In her research and teaching, she investigates contemporary visual practices in the field of art and photography, with a main interest in migration and diasporic studies, citizenship, and urban contexts in South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

About the Series

Visual and Media Histories

This series takes as its starting point notions of the visual, and of vision, as central in producing meanings, maintaining aesthetic values, and relations of power. Through individual studies, it hopes to chart the trajectories of the visual as an activating principle of history. An important premise here is the conviction that the making, theorising, and historicising of images do not exist in exclusive distinction of one another.

Opening up the field of vision as an arena in which meanings get constituted simultaneously anchors vision to other media such as audio, spatial, and the dynamics of spectatorship. It calls for closer attention to inter-textual and inter-pictorial relationships through which ever-accruing layers of readings and responses are brought alive.

Through its regional focus on South Asia the series locates itself within a prolific field of writing on non-Western cultures, which have opened the way to pluralise iconographies, and to perceive temporalities as scrambled and palimpsestic. These studies, it is hoped, will continue to reframe debates and conceptual categories in visual histories. The importance attached here to investigating the historical dimensions of visual practice implies close attention to specific local contexts which intersect and negotiate with the global, and can re-constitute it. Examining the ways in which different media are to be read into and through one another would extend the thematic range of the subjects to be addressed by the series to include those which cross the boundaries that once separated the privileged subjects of art historical scholarship from the popular – sculpture, painting, and monumental architecture – from other media: studies of film, photography, and prints, on the one hand; advertising, television, posters, calendars, comics, buildings, and cityscapes on the other.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Collections, Catalogs, Exhibitions / General
ART / History / General
ART / Asian
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies