Prof. Tushar Joag | Shiv Nadar University
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Prof. Tushar Joag

Tushar Joag (1966 – 2018) lived his life as an engaged artist-citizen, locating art as a tool of social and political change, and embedded in real life. Describing himself as a public intervention artist, Joag is arguably one of the pioneers of public art in India through which he honed his guerrilla-like performative actions in the public sphere.

Locating his practice through aesthetics and politics, Joag investigated the geopolitical paradigm of his time, particularly economic liberalization and global capital. He aligned with persuasive subaltern movements that critiqued policies of both the state and capitalist regimes. At the same time, he was aware of his caste, class and gender privileges which extended his quest to understand hegemonies both at home and the world. He co-founded the Open Circle (1998-2008) with the firm belief that art is for people hence collaborated with a range of thinkers and practitioners from other fields at the World Social Forum, Mumbai (2004). He curated exhibitions, performances and social actions within the context of free exchange of ideas and proposals for better governance which functioned through activist modes of protest and resistance in the public domain in Mumbai.

His artistic stance of a paradoxical provocateur came through the establishment of Unicell (2005), a fictitious one-man company that undertook public works through farcical strategies and production plans. His deep involvement with the Narmada Bachao Andolan let him to conceive ‘Riding Rocinante’ (2010), a performative project on a motorbike from Mumbai to Shanghai, tracing the route of displaced people through the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat and the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, China. In 2011, he curated ‘Right to Dissent’ in Mumbai in solidarity for the release of the activist, Binayak Sen.

Joag joined the Department of Art and Performance Art, Shiv Nadar University, as its founding faculty in 2013, and in 2018, took on the role of the Head of Department . He initiated a pedagogical approach that inspired students to engage with issues of democracy, citizenship, resistance, aesthetics, collaboration and the public. Along with Sharmila Samant, he conducted the October School as part of the network initiated by the IFCAR Institute for Contemporary Art Research at ZHdK, Zurich, in which Shiv Nadar University is a partner. Apart from his academic role, Joag mentored a wide range of young people through other art education efforts such as workshops, talks, reading circles, and informal conversations. He was an active educator who helped teachers and children embark on their journey of self-discovery, creativity and imagination through art. Joag’s teaching methods and his pedagogic approach was instrumental in the development of the Art1st vision, its Art Education Program, curriculum development and the publication of various art books from Grade 1 to 8.