Ashish Avikunthak Retrospective MUBI
Ashish Avikunthak is a filmmaker, cultural anthropologist, and archaeologist. He has been making films for more than 25 years. His films have been the subject of more than a dozen retrospectives, sixteen solo shows and they have been shown world wide in major film festivals, group shows and museums. In 2014, He was named Future Greats 2014 by Art Review. Its citation succinctly describes his films:
“In an artworld where an increasing number of critics are arguing that much globalised art takes the form of hollowed-out visual Esperanto, Avikunthak’s works insist on an Indian epistemology while utilising a rigorously formal visual language that is clearly aware of Western avant-garde practices such as those of Andrei Tarkovsky and Samuel Beckett. These are self-consciously difficult works that are filmed in a self-consciously beautiful way”.
MUBI—a global online streaming platform that is available in 190 countries is now (2021-22) streaming a retrospective of his films. In its curatorial note, it says:
“Avikunthak has had a formidable career, his ingenious outlook extending into an exploration of cinema as an artform that exists beyond the demands of the commercial marketplace. Abundant in religious and philosophical themes, Avikunthak’s works tend to take a close look at the interaction of humanity and divinity. His curiosity for mythological texts pervades his filmography, consistently challenging the idea of religious and non-religious universalism. Pondering the fluidity of nature while simultaneously reflecting on the rapidly evolving urban Indian landscape, Avikunthak’s films present a fascinating melange of images and conversations that persuade the audience to dwell on the meaning and experience of time.”
His films have been shown worldwide in film festivals, galleries and museums. Notable screenings were at the Tate Modern, London (2006), Centre George Pompidou, Paris (2006, 2008, 2011), Taipei Biennial (2012), Shanghai Biennial (2014), along with Locarno (2007, 2011), Rotterdam (2007, 2011, 2021), and Berlin (2008, 2017) film festivals among other locations. He has had retrospective of his works at MUBI (2021-22), Wolf Kino, Berlin (2019), Kino Klub, Split, Croatia (2019), Pungent Film Series, Athens (2018), Bard College (2015), Apeejay Arts Gallery, New Delhi (2015), Rice University (2014), Signs Festival, Trivandrum (2013), Festival International Signes de Nuit, Paris (2012), Yale University (2008), and National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai (2008) and Les Inattendus, Lyon (2006). In 2011, he was short listed for the Skoda Prize for Indian Contemporary Art.
He has spent more than 20 years researching the state of Indian archeology. In 2021, Cambridge University Press published his monograph "Bureaucratic Archaeology: State, Science, and Past in Postcolonial India," based on this project. This book uncovers an endemic link between micro-practice of archaeology in the trenches of the Archaeological Survey of India to the manufacture of archaeological knowledge, wielded in the making of political and religious identity and summoned as indelible evidence in the juridical adjudication in the highest courts of India.
He has published scholarly works in Contributions to Indian Sociology, Indian Economic and Social History Review, Journal of Material Culture, Journal of Social Archaeology, The Moving Image, Art India, Deep Focus, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) among other locations.
He has a PhD in Cultural and Social Anthropology from Stanford University and has earlier taught at Yale University. He is now a Professor in Film/Media at Harrington School of Communication, University of Rhode Island.