About Archipelago Archives

Essay-Performance, variable duration

Initiated in 2016 by Kiran Kumar, this long-term artistic research project is an emancipatory gesture of (re)imagining dances danced on an imaginary archipelago somewhere in the Indian Ocean. By studying practices of Hatha yoga, temple dance and music in South and South-East Asia, the archives offer artistic counterproposals to dominant Eurocentric understandings of being human in the world. In the wake of mounting questions of ecology, feminism and decoloniality in our present moment of modernity, the archives are an urgent investigation of both historically pre-modern and contemporary non-modern cultures.

The project is realised through a series of Studies which are critical, conceptual and artistic inquiries unfolding between studio-work and field-work, and often in collaboration with artists, scientists, philosophers, scholars and other interlocutors.

The project is shared through a series of Exhibits which are conceived as a growing collection of transdisciplinary essays that take the form of writing, performance, drawing, installation or video works. These essays are deliberately epistolary in form, addressed as open letters to dead people, and in so doing, consciously co-opt an idiosyncratic, heterogeneous ancestry of inquiry.

Through a perspective of looking-at-from-within, this circuitously titled presentation will describe the interconnected and iterative methods of investigation and publication inherent to this artistic research project.

SELECTED PRESENTATIONS 2019 Starting Realities: Documentary Theatre Symposium (Goa)
2019 The Talking Dead: Explorations on the Absent Present, ZHdK Research Academy (Zürich)
2019 Museum Collections in Motion, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum (Cologne)
2019 Postcolonial Oceans Conference (Bremen)

The project has been supported by:
2019 Robert Bosch Foundation (Germany)
2019 Literary Colloquium Berlin
2016-19 Arts and Science in Motion, Volkswagen Foundation (Germany)
2016-18 Berlin Centre for Advanced Studies in Arts and Sciences
2016-18 Einstein Foundation Berlin (Germany)
2016 Dance Nucleus (Singapore)
2016 Centre42 (Singapore)


Dear Dead Dancer

Essay-Performance, 65 minutes

Documentation: Daniel Teo, Florence Freitag

Addressed to Kelucharan Mahapatra, a pioneering reconstructionist of Odissi dance, this letter comprises auto-ethnographic notes, documentary video footage and live performance of song and dance. The work throws open questions on pedagogy, aesthetics and poetics in dance.

SELECTED PRESENTATIONS 2017 Uferstudios (Berlin)2016 Dance Nucleus (Singapore) 2016 Centre42 (Singapore)

Developed in residency with Dance Nucleus (Singapore) and Centre42 (Singapore).


Demystifying Indian Classical Dance

Essay/Lecture, 25 minutes

Untying some of the political and cultural entanglements inherent in the prefixes ‘Indian’ and ‘Classical’, this work is a proposal to arrive at ‘Dance’ as a renewed practice of aesthetic and ethical proportions. The essay is addressed as a kind provocation to Rukmini Devi, a woman who was pivotal in shaping the identity of a post-colonial Indian nation-state through her stalwart work on and in dance.
SELECTED PRESENTATIONS 2020 “Aesthetic Practices of Learning and Unlearning”, Fink Verlag 2017 “Decolonising Aesthetics”, University of Arts Berlin



Video-Essay, HD video, colour, sound, 55 minutes

Video Stills
This debut collection of poems in words, sounds and images, reaches out to Bhanusingha Thakur, the pen name under which Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali polymath published his own first collection of poetry. Here, field notes and sound recordings, quite still and moving images, documented and hearsay anecdotes, together aspire to a poetic field of relations.
SELECTED PRESENTATIONS 2018 Jeu de Paume (Paris) 2017 University of Arts Berlin 2016 Goodman Arts Centre (Singapore)



Installation-Performance, variable duration

a dancer in a liquid pond
a being moving to fluid sounds of breath and water
a tectonic intersection of performance, sculpture and story a ripple is often the fastest thing in the room

a dance-letter to Chandralekha
and her last choreographic work ‘Sharira’
SELECTED PRESENTATIONS 2018 Archive Kabinett (Berlin) 2017 Goodman Arts Centre (Singapore)

Developed in residency with RAW Moves (Singapore).