• Photography
  • Santiniketan
  • 2018

Santiniketan Studies - A Century Before Us II

Since 2012 The Otolith Group has been developing work that engages with what the theorist Gayatri Spivak calls the “aesthetic education” of Visva Bharati, the art school founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan in West Bengal, India, in 1921. Tagore chose Santiniketan because of its bucolic nature, and harmony with the environment remains integral to the school’s pedagogy and political ecology. This ethos is evident in Tagore’s development of “tree schooling,” whereby lessons take place in nature under the shade of trees. The architecture of tree schooling involves minimal human intervention and is seen in several of the photographs on view, some of which integrate The Otolith Group’s contemporary images of Santiniketan with archival details of this practice. Against a backdrop of global cultural flattening and surging nationalisms in India and elsewhere, these images suggest an enduring space for the hyperlocal. As a real place and as portrayed by The Otolith Group, Santiniketan inspires a reimagining of the space for learning in the past, present, and future.