Sudhir Mahadevan (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)
"States of Legibility" focuses on the works of Bangladeshi artist Mohammad Kibria, particularly those from the 1950s-1970s, the decades around the time in which the artist studied in Japan at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. The paper examines how the network of artistic exchange between Bengal and Japan has persisted and transformed through periods of decolonization and independence. I situate Kibria’s practice within the historical context of Pan-Asianism and engage more recent scholarship on calligraphic and global modernism. The paper proposes a reading of the artist’s work that considers the shifting relationship between the artist and the nation-state in postcolonial Bengal, as well as the hazy distinction between word and image in calligraphic modernism.