IN AN ESSAY THAT MAPS THE CHANGING CONTOURS of new media art in India, cultural theorist and art critic Nancy Adajania has outlined the questions with which many of these artists engage with the contemporary political context: “How to pursue a politics that is not compromised by the political? How to make cultural productions that are not neutralised by the art market?”
Some of these questions came to mind as I walked into the ID/entity exhibition at the Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi. The exhibition brought together seven artists, working in different media, to address questions of identity. The works dealt with the concerns being raised over the Unique Identification card (UID) project envisioned by the Government of India. The project’s aim is to provide a unique number to all Indians, and maintain a database of all residents in biometrics. The project has led to apprehensions in civil society about violation of privacy, potential for surveillance and misuse of the data generated. Earlier this year, just before the first unique identity numbers were given out in the state of Maharashtra, several jurists, academics, activists and filmmakers pointed out the need to debate the feasibility and consequences of this large-scale undertaking.
The artists in the ID/entity exhibition brought out a varied set of responses, not only on the changing nature of citizenship, but also in the ways in people’s their identities are shaped by gender and by the spaces which they inhabit, work and travel in.