A Glimpse of Alice Boner’s Archive
In October 2016, the National Museum, New Delhi, hosted an exhibition titled Alice from Switzerland. The exhibition was dedicated to the works of Alice Boner (1889-1981), a Swiss sculptor, painter and, later, art historian, who eventually settled in Varanasi. Boner had a deep interest in Indian arts and dance and one of her subjects was the pioneering dancer Uday Shankar, whom she photographed on different occasions. Below is a glimpse into her relationship with dance in India. Her full body of work, including more images on dance, can be found at Museum Rietberg.
Sketch of Uday Shankar dancing
Alice Boner in Ellora
Uday Shankar dancing
Kathakali dancer, man with make up
Uday Shankar in front of the Relief Mahisasuramardini
‘Archive’ comes from the Greek ‘arche’, which is the ‘beginning’ or ‘origin’. We often think of archives as public records, rooms filled with stuff that is dusty and deteriorating. But if we think of archive as its etymology, we are offered a wider definition—a beginning could be anywhere.
Ligament’s December 2016 issue sifts through multiple archives, multiple beginnings for different dancers and dances—in the body, in the museum, in the home, in memory. And by unravelling these far flung repositories, the issues asks whether dance can ever have a singular archive, if it always has multiple beginnings.
Writer and dancer Tishani Doshi speaks about her body as an archive with Sammitha Sreevathsa
An artist and an art historian chance upon a forgotten dancer
A Glimpse of Alice Boner’s Archive
Historian Rachel Mattson makes archive of Ragini Devi’s white American body
Mumbai-based dancer Avantika Bahl reflects on her documenting process as part of “From somewhere in the middle”
Scholar Asim Siddiqui questions current approaches to archiving live dance
To pick up and run with a magazine that has had another life is never easy. There are those conflicting desires to find close continuity and to just scrap it all and start anew. Ligament 2016-17 reemerges from a half-way point. We want to build on the investigations and insights of the magazine’s past contributors and also find ways to say what they perhaps had wanted to say but could not, or forgot to, in that moment.
Ligament was founded to facilitate the articulation of an evolving language that encompasses the impulses of contemporary dance. The idea of “contemporary” is inherently bound to time, to a sense of history, rather multiple histories unfolding. In its 2016-17 iteration, we hope that Ligament can grapple with the idea of how dance might hold a place in-step with the patterns of active and forming histories, rather than remaining a canonised and pondered response to a bygone world. We’d like to embrace the immediacy of “contemporary”, and invite contributions from dancers, choreographers, arts practitioners, scholars, audience members, readers. In this way, we hope to reach for the intimacies, resistances, and fragilities that permeate the developing field of South Asian contemporary dance.
Articulating a medium as visceral, visual, and ephemeral as dance requires making connections to methods of thought and critique that lie outside evaluative language. So for Ligament 2016-17 we welcome, of course, the critical essay, but also audio, photographs, ekphrastic poems, interviews, and hybrid media of various kinds that might speak to us about dance, carefully and proximately. Like the anatomical connective tissue for which it is named, Ligament, we hope, can help us locate dance in tandem with the many bodies that produce and encapsulate it.
To those who find themselves here for the first time, welcome. And those whom we have met before, we are glad you are back.
—Poorna Swami, Editor
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