Everything we do is music, curated by Shanay Jhaveri, traces a long history: from early Indian miniature painting (Ragamalas) through to drawings, animations and video works from the present day. Including works by pivotal Indian and Pakistani artists such as Nasreen Mohamedi and Lala Rukh, the exhibition will feature a number of works previously unseen in the UK. It will present newly commissioned pieces by Michael Müller and Sarnath Banerjee alongside works by contemporary artists such as Shahzia Sikander and KM Madhusudhanan. The exhibition will also explore the influence of Indian classical music on important American artists such as Lee Mullican and Marian Zazeela, and its wider influence on western popular and counterculture.
Whilst the range of approaches represented in the exhibition are diverse, drawing and mark making form the core of each artists’ response to music - journeying from the figurative and graphic to the abstract and performative.
In Everything we do is music, figurative approaches start with the miniature Indian paintings known as the Ragamalas (a genre emerging in the second half of the 15th century, in which an attempt is made to capture an associated mood or character of raga through a staged tableau). These continue with Mohan Samant’s vibrant drawings of musicians, KM Madhusudhanan's charcoal black and white renderings and Shahzia Sikander's animation Disruption as Rapture, whilst Sarnath Banerjee will make a new set of commissioned figurative drawings.
A more direct presentation of how artists respond to Indian classical music can be witnessed in new work by Michael Müller, made as he listens to Raga interpretations. The rhythm of the production is determined by the music itself and its relation to time, to structure and the sequence of the day. Another method is illustrated by Hetain Patel in his video Kanku Raga (2007), in which the artist assigns each stroke of the tabla drum to a different movement of marking or erasing Kanku pigment from the body. Performing each part, Patel highlights the idea of instilling cultural rhythm physically within the body through repetition.
The show will also include works that while definitively not notations of Indian classical music, evoke the improvisational tenets of the music as observed and felt in the drawings of Nasreen Mohamedi, Lala Rukh and the artisanal copper wire works of Prabhavathi Meppayil. Francesco Clemente will be represented by his ‘Evening Ragas’ series (1992) and Lee Mullican by abstract works on paper made in the late 1960s.
The impact of Indian classical music on a range of mid-century avant-garde American composers and underground art-makers will also be explored through the inclusion of concert posters by Marian Zazeela, for performances by the musician Pandit Pran Nath and the composer La Monte Young. Analogously, in 1971, the French artist Tania Mouraud created her Initiation Rooms, a series of white sensory-lit environments in which Pran Nath, Terry Riley, Young and Zazeela were invited to perform. Mourand believed that experiencing music performed in such an environment would create heightened self-awareness. These rooms will be represented in the show through drawings and models. Similar sensory explorations with Indian music preoccupied the Argentinian experimental filmmaker Claudio Caldini whose 1976 film Vadi-Samvadi will also be screened throughout the exhibition.
Everything we do is music is curated by Shanay Jhaveri, Assistant Curator, South Asia, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Recent exhibitions include Companionable Silences (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2013); and India: Visions from the Outside (Cultuurcentrum Brugge, Bruges, 2012).