Intermediality: The Transformation of Art and Literature in the International Avant-garde, 1945-75

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


Global exchange and the Nimai Chatterji Archive aims to construct a history of global interaction and connection of the 'avant-garde' 1945-75 through the objects and ephemera of the Chatterji archive. This archive contains a complex nexus of international connections fragmented across publications, correspondence and visual arts. The existence of the archive, its construction and nuances, attests to the existence and importance of transnational communication. This research project will trace global connections in visual arts and literature through the collection. Seeking to remap the 'avant-garde' of 1945-1975, this project will abandon the treatment of experimental groups or nations in isolation. My project will respond to the challenge of conceiving of 1945 as having a coherent and identifiable 'avant-garde' at all. Confronting the inadequacy of studies on and definitions of 'post-war' which do not take account of ongoing colonial proxy wars; this study will contribute to a wider concern about moving away from the eurocentric focus of art histories. Aiming to forge cross-cultural geopolitical and social comparisons, this project will promote greater understanding regarding issues of exchange, interaction and collaboration central to this collection. This focus on collaboration aims to reactivate the paper ephemera, documents and visual art of the archive.
This research project takes as its starting point the international focus of the Chatterji archive; it therefore involves a radical transgression of borders. Utilising literature which proposes a decapitation of conventional notions of national power, I will argue in favour of examples of connection and global dialogue. Through elevating small interactions, visible within the archive itself, the complexities of the 'avant-garde' may be productively remapped.
I hope to challenge the prevailing conceptions of power in international relations, examining how social and cultural relations have causal power in the grander schemata of global power. Conversely, this study will expose a number of engaging narratives surrounding the production and collection of this body of works, which will contribute to the reactivation of the archive itself.
I will view the archive critically, as a space itself for the construction of narrative and histories, and a site for the mediation of objects and ephemera. The contents of the archive will not be treated as necessarily objective documents, but as forming part of a narrative which Chatterji constructed through his practice of collection; I will approach the archive as a complex nexus of narratives codified under Chatterji's own conception of the 'avant-garde'.
A significant focus of the project would be in correspondence and the tangible records of
connection and interaction which the archive contains. Nimai Chatterji's own role in writing to artists, poets and musicians in order to construct the archive of material is central. The collection is one of great eclecticism, due not only to the material located therein, but also to the ways in which it was collected. The project will raise questions regarding the role of Chatterji, and his archive, in international circulation and dialogues. My research is intended to contribute to bringing this collection to a wider audience. Through this project I will utilise objects, correspondence and documentation within the Chatterji archive to highlight together numerous voices and narratives of global experimental exchange. This approach will help to generate narratives capable of fostering close engagement with this remarkable collection.


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Description AHRC Student Development Fund
Amount £4,417 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 08/2019
Description Postgraduate Research Expenses (PRE) Grant
Amount £438 (GBP)
Organisation Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2019 
End 07/2020
Description Tate Travel Fund
Amount £268 (GBP)
Organisation Tate 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 10/2018
Description Talk at Artists Books Residency, Mahler & Lewitt Studios 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Gave talk at Artists Books Residency session, held at Mahler & Lewitt Studios, Spoleto, Italy on my research. Audience consisted of a broad mixture of researchers, curators, writers, artists, musicians, designers, publishers and teaching professionals. The talk sparked extensive discussion and further questions across the residency and public program.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Talk at Association for Art History, New Voices: Art and Text 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Gave a talk presenting my research into visual, concrete and sound poetries at the Association for Art History's conference for 'New Voices', around the theme of 'Art and Text'. The audience consisted of postgraduate students, early career researchers and teaching professionals, artists and writers. My presentation prompted numerous questions and long discussions across the day with practitioners from a range of specialisms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019