Waving and Drowning: at the conjunction of contemporary British and Indian responses to a song by Rabindranath Tagore

Chris Dorsett, Janaki Sasidharan Nair

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This text is the final version of a paper given at Variations, Rewritings and Adaptations of the Jātaka Tales and Buddhism in India Today, SARI 2016 Annual and International Colloquium, University of Paris 13. In Paris, before an academic audience, everything we said centred on the screening of a video piece that mixed together our two fields of interest: the sculptural experiments shaping contemporary art (Dorsett) and the long-established traditions of Indian dance now informing multicultural performance practices (Nair). Every presentation we give together reflects a “practice-based” approach to the possibility of dialogue between current visual art practices in the UK and Kathakali theatre as it is still performed in southern India. Recently we have been working on a particularly beautiful song by the Bengali poet and composer Rabindranath Tagore entitled Hriday aamaar prakash holo. Our attempts at advancing knowledge in relation to this wonderful piece, apparently as resonant in Britain today as it was in India throughout the twentieth century, are always embodied within new creative works of our own. To then write up and publish these outcomes as we do now involves a further step, a “practice-led” development that untangles our thinking from our practical work and reconfigures the results in a more conventional academic format. In this way we can openly use theoretical literature to decode and decipher aspects of our projects which otherwise remain latent. Because the tacit dimensions of the video we screened do not figure in a textual debate, the sensation of hearing a slow cross-fade between different versions of the Tagore song requires something like jataka-style storytelling to explore the feelings involved. As a result, without further explanation, we will launch our essay with our own adaptation of a jataka tale. This one is known as the Power of Rumour.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2016
EventSARI 2016 Annual and International Colloquium: Variations, Rewritings and Adaptations of the Jātaka Tales and Buddhism in India Today - Université de Paris 13, Paris, France
Duration: 26 May 201628 May 2016


ConferenceSARI 2016 Annual and International Colloquium

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