The Curator #5

Today let us begin with an important question, “Is the curator only the caretaker of museums and galleries, or is he/she also the caretaker of communities?” Before delving deep into this question and ponder over answers let us look at why I have raised this question. As we know the word curator in its foundational moments is connected with a person who is the caretaker of a collection of museums or galleries. The few examples we saw barring the Future Collaborations exhibition had dealt with a collection or a body of work belonging to an institution and is displayed in an institution. In the changing circumstances when the role of curator is redefined and it has become more democratic the attempt is also to come out of institutional structures and reach out to the public. Dissemination becomes an important issue. We are aware of the lesser footfall in galleries and museums in India. Also how people are intimidated to go to these places thinking they need to be initiated to understand art. In this complicated situation, how can we take out art to the public? Curator has an important role in taking out art to the communities or builds art and institutions around the communities. A city is rife with such possibilities. Due to the migration, existence of different ethnic and linguistic communities, the presence of economic disparities, environment pollution, etc. post challenges to engage with communities but it is also a risk worth taking.

In this issue of “The Curator” we introduce you to Pooja Sood’s 48C.Public.Art.Ecology, the first public art project in India of a mammoth scale which addressed the nature of ecology in a city through contemporary art. More than an exhibition this project was envisaged as a festival or public interventions at various parts of the city.


Pooja Sood, Image Courtesy:


The Curator #5

Curator: Pooja Sood

Exhibition: 48C.Public.Art.Ecology

The title 48C refers to the soaring temperature as a result of global warming which keeps on increasing year by year. This is compounded with large scale constructions which only aggravate the environment pollution. Delhi was the perfect setting for this because of its dynamic and complex urban setting. The influx of migrants from other states is rapid, the economic disparity is evident, it has gone through a large scale makeover with the arrival of new flyovers, metro train, shopping malls, lofty apartments, etc. Also, the co-existence of a historic past and the new Delhi is very unique. This layering of history, languages, ethnicities, is what makes Delhi an interesting site for exploring. According to Pooja Sood, ” Like most other Indian and south Asian urban centres, the city is characterised by an intimately layered historicity and multiple, demanding, expanding urbanisms that clash unremittingly as they stake different claims to validity, autonomy and expression within Delhi’s material and cultural fabric. With over 16 million people, the city faces new challenges of growth and change both from self-generated internal demands and the externally imposed pressures of globalisation. Though it retains its historical place as the political and administrative capital of India, and as the modern „centre of power‟, it is today, in both logistical and aspirational terms, a node in a global political-economic scenario increasingly subject to the forces of capital, seen and unseen.”

In this project, she identified eight sites in Delhi which were used for temporary art projects. These were divided into three categories: of interfaces, encounters and memories; of ceremony and the every day; of community aspirations vs. metropolitan mega-dreams.


48 Degrees Celsius. Public. Art. Ecology, Delhi. Image courtesy of Sanjit Das and Khoj International Artists' Association..jpg
Image courtesy: Sanjit Das and Khoj International Artist’s Association


The common themes connecting all these three categories were the concern for environment. Through this the curator was able to raise an awareness on the topography of Delhi, civil society’s role in conserving the environment,meteorological conditions, the environmental hazards, the presence of water table, water pollution, air pollution, industrial pollution, etc.

The artists who participated in this project were from India and other parts of the world. The festival included performances, conversations, art projects, urban ecotours, urban ecotalks, film screenings, concerts, etc. in public spaces.


Mary Miss, Roshanara's Net, 2008. 48 Degrees Celsius. Public. Art. Ecology, Delhi. Image courtesy of Sanjit Das and Khoj International Artists' Association..jpg
Public Installation by Mary Miss, Image Courtesy: Sanjit Das and Khoj


You will find more details about this project in the website The curatorial note and many other important readings are available on the website related to this project.

So what do you think now? Is curator a caretaker of institutions or the communities? Please share your thoughts.

  • Premjish, Director, Outreach – Art1st

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