The Secret Lives of Objects and Images | FICA Master Class with Sarada Natarajan

October 23rd, 25th and 26th | 11 am - 5 pm

The workshop focused on the lives that images and objects have through various modes of circulation. On the first day the participants looked at different images and tried to find connections between them through formal similarities, seeing how the images survived and reiterated themselves in completely different contexts and cultures,often taking on contradictory meanings in their survival. The participants also spent a day at the National Museum excavating material histories and fictional understandings of a chosen sculpture. The exercises culminated in them talking on the final day about their ideas and findings indiscussions and presentations.

Concept note: Visual artefacts are uncanny things – they often live longer than most of us will, surviving materially in all kind of circumstances, emerging in new avatars in the unlikeliest of locations. As objects, they occupy our space and breathe our air – insinuating their presence and their materiality into our consciousness. As images, they persist, reproduce, migrate, conflate and subdivide almost as if they have broken free of human agency.

This workshop cheerfully fetishizes visual artefacts and deploys two probes to spy on their secret lives. The first draws its inspiration from Aby Warburg’s idea of Nachleben and a free interpretation of meme theory. In the first module, participants chase a selection of images – some chosen from popular art, some from ‘fine art’ - through their migrations and transformations in space and time, speculating on how and why these images survived as they did.

The second probe, into the materiality of objects, is influenced by the philosophy of Heidegger and other theories of art which have a phenomenological orientation. For this module, students encounter a group of sculptural artefacts at the National Museum, directing their attention both outwards - at the artefacts themselves - and reflexively, at their own responses to the material presence of their special objects. Subsequently, participants become amateur detectives, using observation, inference and their knowledge of art-making processes to persuade these objects into revealing secrets about their birth, lives and afterlives.

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About the facilitator:
Dr. Sarada Natarajan is currently Visiting Professor at the Department of Art, Design and Performing Arts, Shiv Nadar University, Noida and Visiting Faculty at the Department of Theatre Arts, Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication. She has taught at universities and colleges in Hyderabad, Chennai and Bogota, Colombia. She is based in Hyderabad where she has been Guest faculty at both the Fine Arts and Theatre Arts Department of the University of Hyderabad for 12 years.

Natarajan completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the Department of Art History and Aesthetics, Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University of Baroda. Her doctoral dissertation was on the historiography of ancient and medieval Indian sculpture. Her current academic interests include art history pedagogy for artists, art historiography and popular visual culture. She is a trained vocalist, experiments with voice and music for theatre and illustrates for children.

The FICA Master Class is a series designed for young artists who are looking to closely engage with an experienced practitioner through a set of workshops that explores his/her practice. These intensive learning modules focus on innovative approaches to diverse mediums and materials. They open up possibilities of conceptualizing and making through the process of research, reading, exploring material/mediums, collaboration and exchange. Each class has been designed around the practice of the artist who conducts the session and provides triggers to young practitioners to experiment and explore. The Master Class series will be held on a monthly basis between May and August 2015. 

The workshops will generally be week-long sessions, with 3-4 hours classes. Classes include both practice and theory. Basic materials for the classes will be provided. Participants will need to bring their own laptops/cameras as required.

The Master Class is part of FICA's larger educational programming. FICA’s educational outreach focuses primarily on two questions – how do we use the art resources that are available in a gallery/museum/library to engage better with the audience; and how can we use art education as an important cultural tool that can extend itself to everyday life? Each programme is thus tailored for a particular audience, developed in collaboration with practicing professionals, and creates a space for exchange and deeper engagement with the subject in hand. Participants are invited to share their work and open themselves to constructive feedback from their peer group. For any queries write to us at