|Title||Exploring traditional and metropolitan Indian arts using the Muggu tradition as a case study|
The past century has witnessed fervent debates about dichotomies in Indian art,
articulated variously as high and low art, art and craft, and fine and decorative art. The current avatar of such dichotomies is expressed as a divide between metropolitan and traditional art. The former is understood to be that which is displayed and marketed in urban art institutions and associated with individualism; the latter is generally qualified by terms like folk, religious, ritual, rural or tribal, displayed and sold in non-institutional contexts and associated with a collective identity. Despite frequent attempts to resolve the above-mentioned dichotomies, such hierarchies persist. Indian art is currently experiencing a resurgence, which some see more as a by-product of a rapidly growing economy, rather than as an explicitly artistic maturing. Notwithstanding this recent boom, many writers and artists lament the state of Indian cultural institutions. One such critic is Rustom Bharucha, whose essay on Indian museums provides one of the starting points for this study.
The difficulty of reconciling the modern and the traditional appears to lie at the heart of these issues – a problem that both metropolitan and traditional artists face. In this project, I consider myself as an example of a metropolitan Indian artist and the issues I encountered as possibly characteristic of those that other metropolitan artists face. As a case study of traditional arts, I look at muggus, floor-drawings made by women in Andhra Pradesh, south India. Their ephemerality, ritualism and aesthetics furnish relevant instances for a discussion on metropolitan and traditional arts, challenging existing stereotypes and prejudices in the display, production and discourse of traditional arts. This study crosses the academic boundaries of anthropology, art-practice, art history, cultural theory, ethnography and visual culture to allow for a more layered exploration of Indian metropolitan and traditional arts.