The Curator #18

Most of the exhibitions we have discussed in this series includes different forms of art works. For example, all of the group shows curated by the curators we have discussed features two-dimensional works such as paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, etc., and three-dimensional works such as sculptures, installations, etc. But what about an exhibition which deals with only one of these forms? What if a curator wants to curate an exhibition on the contemporary painting? Or he/she wants to showcase the art historical evolution of painting? That means the show will feature only one form of work. The curator will have to rethink the space in a different way for this show. Also, they will require a historical grasp on the particular form they are dealing with. They should be thoroughly aware about the contemporary developments, the new artists and their techniques.  Mostly such exhibitions also arise out of a passion to survey what is happening in a particular field of practice, for example in sculpting, painting, video-making, etc.

In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Nancy Adajania’s exhibition Avatars of the Object: Sculptural Projections to see how she addressed the recent developments in the practice of sculpture.

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Nancy Adajania

 

The Curator #18

Curator: Nancy Adajania

Exhibition: Avatars of the Object: Sculptural Projections, 2006

Venue: Guild Gallery and Jehangir Nicholson Art Gallery

 

Nancy Adajania is a cultural theorist and curator. She has curated various important shows in India and abroad. She has also edited various publications on art and culture. Her recent editorial venture was to compile a lexicon of affective terms which was published in the journal Aroop. The terms for the compendium were contributed by various artists across India.

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Aroop Journal edited by Nancy Adajania titled Some Things That Only Art Can Do

Her focus of the exhibition was that the ‘classical sculptural object is no longer tenable, and that the most interesting sculpture being produced today emerges from a science of dematerialized objects.’ What are dematerialized art objects? It is the result of a new development in art practice where art object was dematerialized, which means that art production was possible without conventional physical materials. It aimed towards a high-conceptual art. This was done so that art could escape from commodification and commercialization. It was impossible to sell a non-physical idea or work which exists as a concept or which is ephemeral in nature. The term dematerialization was coined by art critics Lucy lippard and John Chandler.

Therefore, the exhibition curated by Adajania featured objects that formed her display comprised ‘video footage of self- destruct sculpture; sculpture as the performance of moving parts; sculpture in a condition of meltdown and remaking; or sculpture that takes the viewer for a walk along a conceptual map studded with text.’

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Jahangir Jena

She notes that sculptors in ever period has revisted their choice of materials. We too know from our previous posts and Art1st books and training programs that apart from bronze, marble and stone, modernist sculptors started using newer materials such as concrete, fiberglass, industrial waste, plastic, etc. Sculptures also acquired movement instead of remaining static like it used to be. Therefore, it became necessary for a curator to understand this change and how to showcase this new change in sculpture-making for the viewers.

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Navjot Altaf

The artists of this show were Jehangir Jani, Shilpa Gupta, Anita Dube, Kaushik Mukhopadhyay, Mithu Sen, M M S Umesh, Navjot Altaf, and Pooja Iranna. Most of these artists, apart from incorporating the latest developments in technology and materials, also used their practice to address significant social issues.

For example, Navjot Altaf’s works has been dealing with social injustice and political violence happening around us. She also deals with the discrimination and inequalities faced by minorities and women. Like Nancy has noted, “She brings to her work a sense of social commitment and a need to expose the social injustice.”

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Navjot Altaf

Shilpa Gupta uses her work to ‘engage the viewer through the provocative and interrogative dimensions of conceptual art.’ She uses video projections, shadows, etc., to create a participatory work with the viewer. She creates artwork using interactive websites, video, gallery environments and public performances to probe and examine subversively such themes as consumer culture. Among the artists on view, Jehangir Jani works with different medium like sculptures, ceramics, fiberglass and sheet metal.

 

Mithu Sen works with found objects, apart from her visceral paintings and sculptures, she has a fascinating collection of dolls. Her works are very playful in nature and they employ a dark humour. Anita Dube as we know ‘often employs a variety of found objects drawn from the realms of the industrial (foam, plastic, wire), craft (thread, beads, velvet), the body (dentures, bone), etc.’

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Anita Dube

According to Adajania, the show concentrated ‘on the performative aspects of sculpture, as objects of art emplace and simultaneously displace contexts of spectatorship and vice versa. The displacement of object and meaning in the extended-sculpture realm challenges, even mocks received ideas about sculpture. This opens the door for two alternatives. On the one hand, we can re-objectify the object along different norms. On the other hand, we can move to a post-object sculpture: we can address the after-life of the object, looking for the lost sculptural qualities and finding them transformed/morphed, made anew.’

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Subodh Gupta

What are your views on conceptual art? What kind of new materials have been used recently to make sculptures? What is the difference between a sculpture and an installation? What is a live-sculpture? Let us discuss more about these aspects.

Also, I wish you all a Happy New Year on behalf of Art1st. We are looking forward for an exciting year ahead with lot of new interesting projects. We will keep you posted about them soon.

Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

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“This is Not My Hat” by Jon Klassen

My emotional response to this book: Hug the book! Hug the beeg feesh!

Klassen tackles the much-disdained children’s book genre of horror with minimalism, grace and humour. This is a tale of caution that is told in the illustrations rather than the words, when a little fish finds a perfectly-sized blue bowler hat on the head of a big fish, and makes an awkward choice.

As an adult, I definitely enjoy the parallel protagonists, but am curious as to whether children ‘get it’. When it comes to any discussions on morality, there are always counterpoints. Is the book too (invisibly) violent? Do children absorb the skewed message, not of the black-and-white ‘stealing is bad’, but ‘stealing is bad if you can’t get away with it’? But are these just the worried moralistic musings of adult readers that are certain they know EXACTLY what children think when they’re reading.

Moving on to a fast-becoming peeve: why don’t the Children’s Illustrated Books share information about the illustrative style? With so many artist videos floating around, I seem to find the beauty in their process as much as their works. Well, Klassen’s wonderful colours and textures are handmade with water-colours and then digitally combined into the simple, yet dramatic visual narrative. (Thank you, dear Google!)

Have you read the book? How would you deal with the concept of stealing? Start a conversation in the comments section below.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

The Curator #17

Throughout this series we have explored how curators have used pre-modern, modern and contemporary art. The category of “art” mainly included sculptures, paintings, videos, photographs, installations, performance art, etc. Even if the sculptures, and paintings belonged to the past they were included in the category of arts or fine arts. But what about forms like patachitras, ivory carving, wood carving, jewelery, pottery, phad paintings, kavads, etc. Why are not they arts? Have you ever thought about this that why are they called folk art/craft and not given the status of art? In the last post we saw how Jyotindra Jain and Dadi Pudumjee curated a show on the picture showmen traditions, masks, puppets, etc. from India which usually do no fall into the ambit of high art? Why is that an artist who is painting in Bengal on a long scroll and carrying it house to house to tell a story not called as an artist and his work not seen as art? Why do we use categories like folk artists and tribal artists to denote their works? We see the high art in museums and galleries, but we collect the craft objects like objects of curiosities at our homes. There are well curated museums for high art, but folk/tribal arts/crafts are always housed in ethnographic museums.

This is a contentious issue in Indian art and art elsewhere. This issue has been addressed by few seminal curators previously, especially by Dr. Jyotindra Jain. In his exhibition Other Masters: Five Contemporary Folk and Tribal Artists of India, curated in the 90s, Dr. Jain takes a different look at this. Usually we are taught to see folk, tribal artists and craftspeople as artists who are stuck in tradition and who are not able to innovate themselves right. Dr. Jain made us see that there are artists who do not want to be part of a tradition and who do not belong to the recognition of the modern art world. They have an identity of their own. We have to respect that and not create the binaries of high art and folk art. Similarly, artist-curator J. Swaminathan has said that we should not treat their artistic expressions as just curious objects, because of their primitive character, instead we should treat them as contemporary expressions. If a patua painter is painting and narrating the story of Indira Gandhi’s death and the destruction of World Trade Towers in his work how is he a primitive artist? His or her expressions, concerns and thoughts are inclined towards the contemporary.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

In today’s Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Annapurna Garimella’s exhibition Vernacular in the Contemporary which opened up this question on the differences between high and folk art, and how can we understand this larger cultural production happening in India, which are situated outside the metropolises.

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Dr. Annapurna Garimella

The Curator #17

Curator: Dr. Annapurna Garimella (Jackfruit Research and Design)

Exhibition: Vernacular in the Contemporary: Working and Working Reflectively, 2010-2011

Venue: Devi Art Foundation

This exhibition used the collection of Anupam and Lekha Poddar of the Devi Art Foundation and also created newly commissioned works by artists who are often categorized as makers of folk, tribal and traditional art. It used a new term called the vernacular to denote this sphere where this cultural production is happening. ‘The exhibition focused on the vernacular and shifts the art historical and institutional terms for understanding and theorizing this cluster of visual art. Moreover, the show foregrounded the diversity and contemporary relevance of vernacular artists’ personas, ideas and concerns through ambitious projects’. This exhibition was the result of extensive field works, correspondences and it also carried out an extensive documentation of these artistic practices.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

 

But why can’t we use terms like folk art, tribal art, and native art anymore. Dr. Garimella has the answer. “Many of the artists are not tribals, so that’s inaccurate.” She says, “If a Madhubani painter uses tubes of paint manufactured in Japan, can you call that process of creating art native? I chose the term vernacular with care. It signifies a traditional art language without the limitations that the terms ‘folk’, ‘tribal’ or ‘native’ have.”

In order to to select the best folk and tribal artists from across the country, Devi Art Foundation and Garimella’s company, Jackfruit Research and Design didn’t go merely by reputation or recommendation. They place public notice was put out in newspapers, announcing a programme in art, much like the way universities seek applications for courses. In addition, suggestions were sought from DAF and colleagues working in art, NGOs in the field were consulted, newspapers were scanned, and the internet was scoured. Letters were sent out in a variety of regional languages, and 175 artists responded with portfolios. Finally, after conversations in a variety of languages, 30 artists were commissioned to create works for the show. So, there is Pata Chitra painting from Bengal and Orissa, Phad scrolls from Rajasthan, Chittara art from Sangam district in the Western Ghats, leather puppets from Dharmavaram in Andhra Pradesh, Bhuta sculptures from Karnataka, among a host of others. The show has been divided into two parts. The first part, titled ‘Working’, has 180 works by 32 artists. Part II of the exhibition, titled ‘Working Consciously, Working Reflectively’, opened in March 2011.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

Photographer Fawzan Husain who had documented this exhibition and the artists observed that this was the first time he was offered an assignment like this, and he grabbed it. “I remember meeting this leather puppet maker, S Anjaneyulu, in Dharmavaram village in Andhra. Leather puppet shows used to be the main form of entertainment here. Movies changed all that, of course. This man, perhaps, is the last such artist remaining. These puppets are usually 6-7 feet high, figures from the epics. It takes more than a week to create one. His sons cannot afford to carry on his legacy. Yet, this man continues to create, showing up cheerfully for work every day, let down perhaps, but not betrayed enough to abandon his art. I won’t forget that man’s face,” recounts Husain.

Sculptor L Rathakrishna has rendered the 108 karanas of the Natyashastra in bronze. This, possibly, is the first time this has been attempted by an artist other than in a temple: karanas are usually carved on the outside of a temple. So Shiva becomes less of a god, and more of a performer.

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Courtesy: Devi Art Foundation

You can read more of Dr. Garimella’s writings on the vernacular art here https://www.academia.edu/1777530/Do_what_you_will_-_Identity_exhibitions_and_contemporary_vernacular_art

https://www.academia.edu/1778077/Making_the_Exhibition

Also listen to her lecture https://vimeo.com/47226311

So friends, have a good weekend and happy Christmas in advance. Feel free to share, discuss your opinions about this series with us.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

 

 

 

 

The Curator #16

We have discussed through various examples, how curator weaves a narrative through objects and artworks in an exhibition. These narratives offered a larger picture about our history and heritage instead of only limiting the exhibition to the artworks and artists. We have seen examples of curators such as Naman P. Ahuja, Ranjit Hoskote, and through the exhibition ‘Where in the World’ how interesting narratives about our present and past can be told through artworks. The Sanskrit word for narrative is Aakhyan. It also means story-telling. India has myriads of story-telling traditions. These traditions are part of a living tradition which means it is continuing for centuries and one can trace it back to history. These practitioners use interesting objects such as scrolls, puppets, masks, etc., to tell these stories. For example, the patuas of Bengal carry illustrated scrolls to tell stories, scrolls from Gujarat portray Jaina myths and the Rajasthan depicts the story of Pabuji and Dev Narayan. Besides these long scrolls from Tamil Nadu and Andhra called yama patas are used to talk about the journey to hell and heaven.  Besides scrolls, masks and puppets are also used in this purpose. Performance traditions across India uses masks. Many of us know about performances like Krishnanattam, Kathakali, Chau, Ramlila, Aji Lhamu, Chham, etc., which uses mask as an important element. These masks are made of different materials. Also important is the use of puppets in performance. Shadow puppetry is a popular performance item in many parts of India including Odisha, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Let us see how can one weave a narrative about narratives and curate a show based on this tradition and the various objects used. In today’s Art1st’s “The Curator” series we introduce you to the exhibition Aakhyan: A Celebration of Masks, Puppets and Picture Showmen Traditions of India curated by Jyotindra Jain and Dadi Pudumjee for IGNCA.

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The Curator #16

Exhibition: Aakhyan: A Celebration of Masks, Puppets and Picture Showmen Traditions of India, 2010

Curators: Jyotindra Jain and Dadi Pudumjee

Venue : IGNCA

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 I have introduced you to seminal art historian Dr. Jyotindra Jain, today I will also introduce you to Dadi Pudumjee who is a leading puppeteer from India and also the founder of The Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust.

Pudumjee also holds a significant collection of masks from different parts of India. Even if you are not familiar with Pudumjee you must be familiar with his masks. You don’t believe me right? I am sure most of you have seen this song from the movie Haider.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVDeDObxbM8

The masks and puppets used in this song are from Dadi Pudumjee’s collection. Dudumjee’s performances and shows have travelled nationally and internationally.

 

Aakhyan, the exhibition was the celebration of masks, puppets and picture showmen tradition of India. According to IGNCA “Aakhyan brings together three distinct traditions of masks, puppets and picture scrolls of India, focusing on the artistic expressions in the visual and kinetic narratives. At the core of the ever- fascinating multiplicity of Indian storytelling lie the epic worlds of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the Puranas.” Furthermore, “The art forms chosen for this event, in their diverse manifestations, represent the larger picture of the cultural landscape of India denoting rituals, epics, legends and ballads, and contemporary narratives. Masks, Puppets and Picture Showmen are living traditions in many parts of the country with a formidable variety of vibrant expressions. By bringing these together, IGNCA is making an effort not only to showcase the rich diversity of masks, puppets and picture scrolls in the larger matrix of storytelling traditions in India but also to project the artistic significance of each form.”

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According to Dadi Pudumjee, “Akhyan attempts to present some of these living traditions of storytelling not just as museum pieces, but as a portrayal of the rich cultural performing arts and crafts of India — the exquisitely carved wood, costumes, jewellery, painting and the techniques of manipulation & presentation which have survived many centuries — highlighting the Indian tradition, where the object is given life and projects its creator’s ideas and essence, through narration of stories of gods and demons, heroes and common people, of love and affection, and beyond.”

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In the wonderfully illustrated catalogue produced by IGNCA, Dr. Jain gives a historical account of the story-telling tradition and picture-showmen tradition in India. By picture-showmen we mean performers who carry images to narrate stories. Using references from classical textual sources, he gives a detailed account of this tradition from different parts of India. It is a must-read essay on the picture-showmen tradition of India. He observes that, “Indian traditions of storytelling, often accompanied by painted panels or scrolls, can be traced back through literary evidence to at least the second century BC and are known to have existed almost all over the subcontinent. Buddhist, Brahmanical, and Jaina literature contains abundant references to the art of painted scrolls (pata chitras) which were exhibited in ancient times to educate and entertain the people. Classical Sanskrit literature has several references to yama patas.”

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This show also used pictures and masks which were related to the contemporary adaptations of these. For example, the picture scroll from Medinipur on Indira Gandhi murder. ‘The mid-20 century scroll titled “After Independence” depicts, with a tinge of sarcasm, the family tensions, social conflicts and agony that arose from the breakdown of existing moral values and economic structures, the effect of modernization around the time of India’s independence.’

This exhibition had also accompanied by various performances.

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You could download the catalogue from here and see the images and read the essays. http://ignca.nic.in/PDF_data/aakhyan_brochure.pdf

Have a wonderful weekend. Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and discuss.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

 

 

 

The Curator #15

In the last two posts we discussed retrospective exhibitions and how they are curated. Today we will discuss about biennales. Have you heard of Biennale before? Biennale is an Italian word for Biennial which means an art exhibition which is held once in two years. Venice Biennale is of the earliest biennales In the world. There are two three important factors which play an important role in a biennale. The location is the most important part of a Biennale. Why have a biennale in Venice and not in Florence or Rome? Venice was one of the important cities of Italy during the medieval period especially due its commercial and cultural activities. It was also an important hub of Renaisaance art. Even in the contemporary times Venice is a sought after destination because of ts beautiful waterbodies, buildings and history. Nevertheless it also faces its own challenges due to financial and environment crisis. Because of this unique blend of history, cultural activities, architectural marvels, and a cosmopolitanism Venice is seen as a perfect destination to hold an art exhibition of such a larger scale. Biennales are mainly known by the city names where it is held. Some important biennales are Gwangju Biennale, Hawana Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Moscow Biennial, etc. In India too we have Kochi-Muziris Biennale which was started in 2012 and since have become a center of attraction of the world. It is held in the city of Cochin and sees the participation of a large number of public. After the establishment of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, there has emerged many biennials across India. The important ones are Pune Biennale, Bodhgaya Biennale, etc. Similar to biennials we also a format called triennials which happens once in three years. India also has a triennial conducted by Lalit Kala Akademi which is a format happening once in three years. It was started at 1968.

Every biennial and triennial appoints a curator. The curators decides the theme for the exhibition and invites artists from different parts of the world to join the exhibition. Unlike usual art exhibitions biennials have larger time gaps in between them, the format is bigger, the participation too is global. Once the artists are selcted based on their practice they are invited to visit the city and the spaces allotted for the exhibition. Mostly, artists make new art works based on their experience but these days some artists also show existing works. Kochi-Muziris Biennale is unique because it only invites artists to be curators. The first edition was curated by the founders of the KMB Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu. The second edition was curated by Jitish Kallat. In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Jitish Kallat’s “Whorled Explorations” curated for KMB in 2014.

The Curator #14

Curator : Jitish Kallat

Exhibition: Whorled Explorations, Kochi Muziris Biennale (Second Edition)

Year: 2014

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Jitish Kallat

 Jitish is one of the most important contemporary artists from India whose artistic presence has reached a global level. His exhibitions and artworks have featured in the most important museums and galleries of the world. Jitish was appointed as the curator of KMB. One important thing we have to know about Kochi-Muziris Biennale is that it is not inspired by one location. It draws its influences from two sites – Cochin and Muziris. Muziris is a historic site near to Cochin which was a port and a gateway to the world. It was an important trade destination and also had many foreign settlements. Biennale wanted to highlight this historic cosmopolitanism of Cochin and Muziris and how Kerala’s public sphere was shaped by these cultural exchanges.

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Anish Kapoor, Descension, 2014. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

The exhibition was titled as Whorled Exploration. Citing two historic currents from the 14th to 17th century—the maritime explorations of the Age of Discovery and the astronomical propositions made by the Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics—the exhibition draws upon a wide glossary of signs from this legendary maritime gateway. The project metaphorically exaggerates the gestures we make when we try to see or understand something: We either go close or move away from it in space; we also reflect back or forth in time to understand the present. Whorled Explorations draws upon these gestures of deliberation across the axes of space and time to present artworks that interlace the bygone with the imminent and the terrestrial with the celestial.

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Marie Velardi, Future Perfect, 21st Century, 2006/14. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

The participating artists were Adrian Paci / Aji V N / Akbar Padamsee / Andrew Ananda Voogel / Anish Kapoor / Annie Lai Kuen Wan / Aram Saroyan / Arun K S / Benitha Perciyal / Bharti Kher / Bijoy Jain / Biju Joze / Charles and Ray Eames / Chen Chieh-jen / Christian Waldvogel / Daniel Boyd / David Horvitz / Dayanita Singh / D​inh Q Lê / Fiona Hall / Francesco Clemente / Gigi Scaria / Guido van der Werve / Gulammohammed Sheikh / Hamra Abbas / Hans Op de Beeck / Hema Upadhyay / Hew Locke / Ho Rui An / Ho Tzu Nyen / Iqra Tanveer / Janine Antoni / Julian Charrière / K G Subramanyan / K M Vasudevan Namboodiri / Kader Attia / Katie Paterson / Khalil Rabah / Kwan Sheung Chi / Laurent Grasso / Lavanya Mani / Lindy Lee / Madhusudhanan / Manish Nai / Marie Velardi / Mark Formanek / Mark Wallinger / Martin Creed / Menika van der Poorten / Michael Najjar / Michael Stevens / Mithu Sen / Mona Hatoum / Muhanned Cader / N S Harsha / Naeem Mohaiemen / Nataraj Sharma / Navin Thomas / Navjot Altaf / Neha​ ​Choksi / Nikhil Chopra / Parvathi Nayar / Peter Rösel / Pors & Rao / Prajakta Potnis / Prashant Pandey / Pushpamala N / Rafael Lozano-Hemmer / Rajan Punalur / Raqs Media Collective / Rivane Neuenschwander / Ryota Kuwakubo / Sachin George Sebastian / Sahej Rahal / Sarnath Banerjee / Shahpour Pouyan / Shantamani Muddaiah / Shumon Ahmed / Sissel Tolaas / Sudhir Patwardhan / Sumakshi Singh / Sunoj D / Surendran Nair / Susanta Mandal / Tara Kelton / Theo Eshetu / Unnikrishnan C / Valsan Koorma Kolleri / Wendelien van Oldenborgh / William Kentridge / Wim Delvoye / Xu Bing / Yang Zhenzhong / Yoko Ono

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Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten, 1977. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

Please see the interview with Jitish Kallat here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clBJ92mmiWM

Also see the opening day video of KMB here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8j8XFAO4ac

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Bharti Kher, Three Decimal Points \ Of a Minute \ Of a Second \ Of a Degree, 2014. Courtesy: Erika Balsom

Artist Anita Dube is the new curator for the next edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale. Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st