Sixth Annual IAAC 2009 Erasing Borders Exhibition of Contemporary
Indian Art of the Diaspora

Pritika Chowdhry

Pritika Chowdhry

Artist Statement

We live in an epoch marked by prolonged and violent conflicts over terrain – geopolitical as well as psychological. To highlight but one of many examples of this issue, I have focused on the specific historical event of the partition of colonial India in 1947 that resulted in the creation of India and Pakistan. A watershed event in the ongoing communal and sectarian violence in the sub-continent, the Partition, as it is called in South Asia, resulted in 12 million people being uprooted and dislocated because of the new national borders. And, over 2 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killed in the Partition riots that ensued. Over 100,000 Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh women were raped and abducted in the Partition riots.

No official monument exists in either country to the Partition, not even a plaque on the border posts, let alone anything that memorializes the women that were raped and abducted. In fact, there have been concerted efforts to erase the memory of this trauma from the national imaginary. As part of my self-titled Partition Memorial Project I am doing a series of installations that memorialize the Partition, and I am documenting these installations by maintaining an online archive at

What The Body Remembers installation is comprised of a series of sculptures that investigate the potential of the twice-life-size fragmented body to invoke collective narratives of trauma. Comprised of lower-halves of the female body, the sculptures are caught in moments of play as they are engaged in childhood games such as playing on a swing, hopscotch or skipping rope. These childhood games engage the body in pleasure of a physical nature, and simultaneously function as a screen memory.

This playground like environment functions as a temporary and mobile monument for the women that were raped and abducted and for the people that were killed in the Partition riots. These half-figures are made of paper pulp, and range in height from 5’ to 6’ and they are rendered in a deliberately anti-classical manner. The material presence of these sculptures is corporeal to convey a visceral embodiment of vulnerability as well as strength. The naked half-bodies are of generous proportions, and their genitalia are clearly articulated. While erotic power is apparent in these new sculptures it is presented as a sublimated, underlying thread rather than a direct representation.

Silent Waters installation is comprised of 101 larger-than-life-scale ceramic feet glazed black inside and out. The feet are androgynous and serve as a surrogate for the abjected human body. This installation memorializes the gendered and sexualized violence that was perpetrated on men as well as women of the Other community in the Partition riots.

Water has a ritualistic and ceremonial role in funerary and other ceremonies of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh communities. Therefore, the presence of water is important in this installation. Also water is a living, moving element and filling the feet with water references the absent bodies. A minimal sound installation accompanies the feet and comprises of the sounds of rain, running feet, and a body falling into water, playing in a loop.

I believe that representations of violence are difficult and problematic to say the least. Therefore, I feel that any kind of monument or memorializing ritual for historical traumas such as the Partition would have to be multiplicitous, fragmented, temporary and peripatetic. My intent with these installations is to create a space of remembrance for the viewers. The installations in themselves provide several entry points for viewers from different cultural heritages.


    Art related Education
  • 2009 M.A. Visual Culture & Gender Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • 2008 M.F.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • 2005 B.S. in Fine Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    Technology related Education
  • 1999 M.S. in Software Systems, Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani, India.
  • 1997 M.B.A in Information Technology Management, All-India Management Association, New Delhi, India.
  • 1995 B.A., Andhra University, New Delhi, India.

Selected Solo/ Collaborative Exhibitions

  • 2009 Womandmade Gallery, Chicago, IL.
    University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
  • 2008 “Silent Waters”, Class of 1925 gallery, Madison, WI.
    “What The Body Remembers”, Commonwealth gallery, Madison, WI.
  • 2007 “Queering Mother India”, George Mosse gallery, Madison, WI.
    "Bollywood Suburbia", ARTSpace, Madison, WI.
    “Reverberations”, collaboration with Jenny DeCarlo, Gallery 734, Madison, WI.
  • 2005 DeRicci Gallery, Edgewood College, Madison, WI.
  • 2004 YWCA Gallery, Madison, WI.
    ArtBeat Gallery, Madison, WI.
  • 2003 Jackie Macaulay Gallery, Madison, WI.
    Haven Gallery, Sheboygan, WI.

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • 2008 National Paper Triennial, Brodsky Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.
    Chicago Women’s Caucus for the Arts Regional Biennial, juried by Beate Minkovski, ARC gallery, Chicago, IL.
    Peter Jones gallery, group show, Chicago, IL.
  • 2007 National Prize show juried by Thomas W. Lentz, Director of the Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge Art Gallery, Cambridge, MA.
    “Women’s Works 2007”, juried by Judy Chicago, Crystal Lake, IL.
    10th International Open, Womanmade Gallery, Chicago, IL.
    “Au Naturel”, juried show in Clatstop College, Astoria, OR.
    “Daughters of Sappho”, juried international show at Gay Arts Center, Milwaukee, WI.
    Annual Juried art exhibit, Porter Butts gallery, Madison, WI.
    “Intersectionalities: The Feminist in Art”, Pyle Center, Madison, WI.
    “Red-headed Step Child”, George Mosse gallery, Madison, WI.
  • 2006 Opening Exhibition, Barrow and Juarez Gallery, Milwaukee, WI.
    Annual Juried art exhibit, Porter Butts gallery, Madison, WI.
    “First Base”, George Mosse gallery, Madison, WI.
  • 2005 “Her Mark”, Womanmade gallery, Chicago, IL.
    “Layered Intentions”, Overture Community Galleries, Madison, WI.
    “Grief/Trauma”, Steenbock Gallery, Wisconsin Academy, Madison, WI.
    “Love: Lost & Found”, Hue Art Gallery, Madison, WI.
  • 2004 “Collaborations”, Wisconsin Academy, Madison, WI.
  • 2003 “Time Capsule”, Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, WI.
    ArtBeat Gallery, Madison, WI.
    “War & Peace – Artists’ Voices”, Gallery 218, Milwaukee, WI.

Fellowships, Grants and Awards

  • 2009 Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission grant for the Partition Memorial Project.
    Wisconsin Arts Board grant for an Artist Community Collaboration project at the Goodman Center, Madison, WI.
  • 2008 Vilas International Travel Fellowship, granted by University of Wisconsin, Madison to conduct field research in India on materials and techniques of large-scale deity statues in clay.
  • 2007 Madison Arts Commission Project grant, granted by the City of Madison Arts Commission to support the creation of works for solo exhibit “What the body remembers”, 2008.
    David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts, granted through the University of Wisconsin, Madison to support the creation of works for solo exhibit “What the body remembers”, 2008.
    Ernie Moll Scholarship, granted by the Art department of University of Wisconsin, Madison.
    Eugene F. Dana Graduate Art Scholarship, granted by the Art department of University of Wisconsin, Madison.
    Several grants from the Multi-Cultural Council, Wisconsin Alumni Association, University Health Services, and the Associated Students of Madison, of University of Wisconsin, Madison to support curatorial projects.
    “Fostering Student Interaction” award from the Office of the Dean of Students, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
  • 2005 Karen Entos award for Ceramics sculpture, granted by the Art department of University of Wisconsin, Madison.


  • 2008 Artist talk at Jersey City Museum as part of a show titled “Nature of Duality”, New Jersey, NJ.
    Presented paper titled “Queering Mother India” at South Asian Conference at Madison, WI.
    Visiting artist talk at Edgewood College, Madison, WI.
    Artist talk about my large-scale ceramic sculptures at University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
  • 2007 Presented paper titled “Transdiasporic Art Practices: A Curatorial Framework” at “International Arts Symposium” at NYU, NY.
    Presented paper titled “Transdiaspora Project” at “The Contested Terrains of Globalization” conference, University of California-Irvine, CA.
    Led panel titled “Transdiasporic Feminist Art Practices” at National Women’s Studies Association conference, St. Charles, IL.


  • 2009 Catalog essay by Jacqueline Micieli forthcoming in exhibit catalog for Partition Memorial Project. Catalog essay by Pavitra Sundar forthcoming in exhibit catalog for Partition Memorial Project
  • 2008 Article referencing my curatorial work in “Exiles, Diasporas, and Strangers”, ed. by Kobena Mercer.
  • 2007 Article published in the August issue of Susceptible to Images magazine about my curatorial projects.
  • 2006 Article published in the December issue of Asian Wisconzine magazine about my art projects.

Curatorial Projects

  • 2009 Curator, “Corporeal Imaginaries: Transdiasporic Art Practices” exhibit at Womanmade Gallery, Chicago, IL.
  • 2007 Curator, “Visceral Mappings: Transdiasporic Art Practices”, exhibit at the Dellora Norris Cultural Arts Center, St. Charles, IL and at the Pyle Center in Madison, WI.
  • 2006 Curator, “Diasporic Art Practices” exhibit in Gallery 734, Madison, WI, as part of the Trans: Visual Culture conference.
    Curator, “South Asian Diaspora Art” exhibit in UW Hospitals Entrance Gallery, Madison, WI.


  • 2007 Published catalog of “Visceral Mappings: Transdiasporic Art Practices” exhibit, ed. 1 available from, ed. 2 forthcoming.
  • 2005 Painting titled “Awakening” published in “Her Mark” datebook, an annual publication by Womanmade gallery, Chicago, IL.
  • 2003 Authored an article titled “Amrita Sher-Gil: the Woman and her Legend”, for the summer newsletter of Womanmade gallery, Chicago, IL.

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