Anita Dube is an art historian and critic turned artist. She works with a conceptual language that valorizes the sculptural fragment as a bearer of personal and social memory, history, mythology, and phenomenological experience. Employing a variety of material drawn from the realms of the industrial (foam, plastic, wire), craft (thread, beads, velvet), the body (dentures, bone), and the readymade (ceramic eyes), Dube investigates a very human concern with both personal and societal loss and regeneration. Marked by her early engagement with the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association, a self-styled political grouping of artists in the late 80s. She has since attempted to work with both ‘erotics’ and ‘politics’ that investigates the resistance of individuals and women, against the over-arching idea of ‘power’. She has exhibited internationally at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Helsinki), the Yokohama Triennale, the VII Havana Biennale, the Stephen Lawrence Gallery (London), Nature Morte (New Delhi) and Sakshi Gallery (Mumbai).
Anita Dube lives and works in New Delhi.
Language is a cradle, crucible, and catalyst for political processes, for ingrained ideologies and transformative ideas, for hegemony yet also for resistance to hegemony. Anita Dube (born 1958) is singularly alert to the nuance and potentiality of words; to the way in which they can be shaped to convey subtle ideas or weaponised to spread notions of hatred and polarisation. From the constellations of words that surround and condition us, exalt or diminish us, Anita has often sifted through poems, propositions, slogans, and graffiti to arrive at keywords – this vocabularian turn owes as much to her commitment to a conceptually resonant art practice as it does to her early training in the concepts and categories of art history. Whether cut in meat or carved in ice, or set among formations of the enamel eyes used in Hindu ritual as offerings to the Divine, these keywords or key phrases are zones of conjunction, for the artist, in her own words, between “the sacred and the revolutionary”. In the presence of her work, we ask ourselves how we might access the emancipatory energy of the heterodox sacred; how we could re-infuse value into words that have been neutralised by overuse.
Whether it is the non-mirroring Devanagari word ‘Bahujan Samaj’, the Samaj set inversely above the Bahujan to indicate how the burden of caste society weighs down the traditionally oppressed ‘lower-caste’ multitudes, or the enmeshed word formed from ‘Erotics’ and ‘Politics’, or the call to liberation, ‘When injustice becomes a law, resistance becomes a duty’, Anita speaks powerfully to our turbulent historical moment. Red, to Anita, is the revolution in its many strategic and tactical avatars. It does not have to appear in propria persona. It informs all acts of opposing the tyrannies of society and polity, all gestures and utterances of emancipation.