Uncommitted Crimes: The Defiance of the Artistic Imagi/nation


by Tara Atluri

Print copy: 978-1-77133-393-1 – $29.95
Accessible ePUB: 978-1-77133-394-8 – $14.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-396-2 – $14.99

320 Pages
July 23, 2018

Theodor Adorno once remarked that, “…every work of art is an uncommitted crime.” This book is a tribute to political artists who deviate from the mainstream and create art that engages with questions of societal oppression, survival, and resistance. It draws on interviews with transnational artists whose work is representative of emerging trends in art, visual culture, and political aesthetics. Uncommitted Crimes reflects on a new generation of artists whose creative praxis, sensibilities, influences, and frames of reference derive from multiple national, religious, and cultural genealogies, and an ambivalent relationship to Western and European nationalisms. Courageously, these racialized, Indigenous, and migrant artists straddle the divides of many categories of identity in regards to gender, sexuality, and ‘race.’ Their art challenges the silently imbibed worship of whiteness, heteronormative patriarchies, and colonial settler ideologies of “home.” These exceptional cultural producers enter into uncomfortable dialogues, creatively. Inspired by their visionary praxis, this book is an uncommitted crime, attempting to smuggle arresting artistic ideas into a site of intellectual imagi/nation. Artists whose works are explored in this book include: Andil Gosine, Syrus Marcus Ware, Elisha Lim; Amita Zamaan and Helen Lee; Shirin Fathi; Kara Springer; Rajni Perera; Joshua Vettivelu; Brendan Fernandes; Kerry Potts and Rebecca Belmore; The Mass Arrival Collective (Farrah Miranda, Graciela Flores Mendez, Tings Chak, Vino Shanmuganathan, and Nadia Saad.). The book includes 65 pages of artwork.

“This book is beyond timely. Not only does it document the artistic and political contribution of queer, two spirit and transgender people of colour in Turtle Island and transnationally, it is a testament to the crucial richness the critical analysis and contextualization that this work deserves. Atluri forces open the application of critical theory in a decolonizing gesture that is inclusive, reparative, hopeful, life giving, heartbreaking and leaves us wanting more. This book is a tool — create and mobilize!”

—Allyson Mitchell, artist, gender studies professor, and co-founder of FAG feminist art gallery

“While Tara Atluri’s Uncommitted Crimes delves deep into the form, field and thematics of contemporary art made by Black, Indigenous and diasporic people, its success is in the way that those works expose the mechanism of a settler state (known as Canada), white supremacy and the death of liberal multiculturalism.”

—Indu Vashist, Executive Director, South Asian Visual Arts Centre

“I am not an academic, but Tara Atluri’s work and passion around arts and activism has been inspiring and encouraging because so many of us who are in the “margins” bring these worlds of art and activism together. Brick by brick … we are creating, with Tara, something new. So many important voices, that are often not included, are welcomed. Uncommitted Crimes is brilliant and a necessary piece of writing.”

—Rosina Kazi, lead singer of the radical electronic duo lal and founder of Unit 2

Tara Atluri has a PhD in Sociology and has taught classes in gender studies, visual cultures, politics, and media studies at scholarly institutions throughout the world. She has also held several research fellowships at universities throughout Europe and Asia. As an artist and performer, she has participated at exhibitions and events such as the Edgy Feminist Arts Festival in Montreal, Quebec, and the Feminist Arts Conference held in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has been published in scholarly anthologies and iacademic journals as well as on a number of blogs. Her most recent book, Āzādī: Sexual Politics and Postcolonial Worlds, was published in 2016. She is an active in #WhyLoiter? and other social movements in the Indian subcontinent, throughout the Global South and transnationally. She currently lives in Toronto.

To review individual chapters please click on the name linked below:

Artistic Imagi/nations and Opening Scenes: By Way of Introduction

1. The Transient Aesthetic:The Timeless Archives of Andil Gosine, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Elisha Lim

2. A Shot in the Dark: Amita Zamaan and Helen Lee’s Explosive Filmmaking

3. Fashion Crimes: Orientalism Frays in the Sartorial Worlds of Shirin Fathi

4. A Simple Strand? Kara Springer’s Resplendant Minimalism

5.  And Their Gods Were Blue-Eyed: Rajni Perera (Re)Colours the World

6. Smuggled Skin: Mass Arrival Finds Refuge in the Creative

7. Brown Skin, White Mirrors: Joshua Vettivelu’s Enthralling Affect

8.  Unsettled: Transitory Lovers and the Boundless Art of Brendan Fernandes

9. Seeing Red in the Streets: Taking Shelter in the Sublime Worlds of Kerry Potts and Rebecca Belmore

10. Should You Stay or Should You Go? Beyond a Blur of White Picket Fences


The artistic realm may offer one of the remaining bastions of publically articulated emotion. In the art work of Andil Gosine, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Elisha Lim, affect resonates throughout all of these creative workers poignant installations. Beyond the colonial categorizations of bodies, these artists offer archives of feeling. The work of these artists also offers handmade and heartfelt creations that comment on the relationship between the sacredness of art objects and human feeling. Gosine and Ware use letters to comment on political history, while Lim uses comic books, calendars, and the medium of the graphic novel to tell touching stories that move one beyond static narratives of white, heteronormative romance. Joshua Vettivelu’s art work is also a testament to the powers of emotions and affect that emerge through creative acts, through staged moments of feeling that emerge between the artist, the art object, and the spectator. Finally, the artistic work of Brendan Fernandes is one that moves the viewer beyond colonial narratives of settlement and outside of paradigms of multicultural fetishism of the ostensibly authentic. Several of Fernandes’s remarkable artistic works are exemplary of the political, visual, philosophical, and affective importance that lies in the creative oeuvre of this gifted artist. Drawing on an interview with Fernandes, I argue that his staging of public art in the context of a contemporary technologically driven moment is both unique and needed.


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