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Current exhibition: Paper Cuts - Art, Bureaucracy, and Silenced Histories in Colonial India

Image from the Peltz Gallery PAPER CUTS exhibition
Ravista Mehra, Kusmi Tea, English Breakfast, 2016

Book a free ticket to the PAPER CUTS launch event.

Exhibition: 25 April - 12 July 2024, 10am-8pm, Mondays to Fridays only, (Closed Monday 6 May and Monday 27 May)

Who gets remembered, and who forgotten? This exhibition examines a collection of works on paper made by British colonialists in nineteenth-century India. Seen in public for the first time, the collection is placed into dialogue with contemporary artworks by Ravista Mehra and Divya Sharma. Paper Cuts critically reflects on the silencing effect of the colonial archive - and points toward a more equitable future.

More information

The British governed India by paper as much as by force. Reams of it circulated in the form of records, contracts, and trade receipts. Taxation and other methods of extracting wealth likewise relied on paper.

Paper also created a visual record. In 1851, Scottish engineer George Turnbull arrived in India tasked with building its first long-distance railway. While there, Turnbull collected drawings and watercolours by his colleagues, creating an archive that depicts the region from the perspective of the British engineers building the railway. Using archival reproductions, Paper Cuts is the first time these images have been publicly displayed.

Like many colonial archives, the Turnbull Collection foregrounds the British while silencing the stories of the Indian people portrayed. How can we remember what has been forgotten? This exhibition invites two Indian artists, Ravista Mehra and Divya Sharma, to intervene through contemporary artworks. Combining past and present, we can create a more equitable future.

Paper Cuts is curated by Birkbeck PhD candidate Surya Bowyer.

Supported by the British Art Network, the British Society for the History of Science, and Birkbeck, University of London.

The Turnbull Collection was acquired in 2017 by the Science Museum Group, without whose support this exhibition would not have been possible.


Artists’ Talk: Ravista Mehra and Divya Sharma

Tuesday 28 May, 6-7:30pm

Keynes Library, Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD

Book tickets to the Artists' Talk

Join the two exhibited artists of Paper Cuts, Ravista Mehra and Divya Sharma. They will discuss their work to date, artistic education, and the ideas that permeate their creative practices.

Supported by Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality.

Expert Panel: Curating Colonialism and Silenced Histories

Tuesday 11 June, 6-7:30pm

Online, via Zoom.

Book tickets to the Expert Panel.

Early Career Workshop: Curating Colonialism and Silenced Histories

Tuesday 18 June, 6-8pm

Keynes Library, Birkbeck, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD

Book tickets to the Early Career Workshop.

Are you an early career academic or cultural sector worker? Join this friendly, hands-on workshop on curating colonialism and silenced histories - and get a chance to re-curate Paper Cuts. Spaces extremely limited: booking essential.