The Curator #4

In the last few posts we saw how curators weave a narrative around the existing collection to make it viewable and legible, and how some redefine collections. But how would you curate something which is not there? Something which is absent and whose presence is anticipated. Something which will appear much later in the curatorial process. These are complicated questions, but these were some of the important questions which Raqs Media Collective had encountered while curating the seminal exhibition Sarai 09. Earlier we had discussed about looking at curation itself as a process and how to not see the final exhibition as the most important aspect of that journey. Curation is a map of that journey, and the final exhibition is one of the halting points. But where does the journey end. That is another important question which was raised by Raqs, “When does curatorial work end?” It is an important question which draws our attention to the practice of curation itself. With the conventional form of exhibition making we assume that once the exhibition is open for public viewing it starts its life cycle and once the works are taken away on the closing day, the exhibition is over.

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

In Raqs Media collective’s own beautiful description, “To curate is to offer, metaphorically speaking, not just old wine in new bottles, or even new wine in no bottles, but also all that is entailed in so far as the cultivation of a vineyard, running of a distillery, maintenance of a cellar and the animation of a tavern are concerned, and all at the same time. It is to create the conditions necessary for the intoxication of what is called ‘rasa’ (aesthetic jouissance) in the Indic traditions to occur, and for sobriety to be called into question, as an aide and afterthought to the revelry, all the time. The curator is the distiller, bootlegger, tavern-keeper and barmaid of rasa, or aesthetic experiences.” Here we see the varied roles of the curator. As the world and the object domain of the contemporary art expands the functions of the curator too broadens.

In the fourth issue of “The Curator” series we present artist collective and curators Raqs Media collective.

The Curator #4

Raqs Media Collective: Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Exhibition: Sarai 09 

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Raqs Media Collective:  (L to R) Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and

“The Raqs Media Collective enjoys playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as curators, sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs. They make contemporary art, have made films, curated exhibitions, edited books, staged events, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors and have founded processes that have left deep impacts on contemporary culture in India. Raqs (pron. rux) follows its self declared imperative of ‘kinetic contemplation’ to produce a trajectory that is restless in terms of the forms and methods that it deploys even as it achieves a consistency of speculative procedures.”

 

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

 

Sarai 09 was stretched across nine months as a series of propositions, in an empty space, ‘like a blank space” which would eventually unfold into objects, situations, utterances, gatherings and questions. I had a chance to visit the final exhibition in Devi Art Foundation. The energy there was tremendous. Viewers moving from work to work, interacting with the artists, works, and performances. Even few of my friends who were part of the exhibition found the experience very useful. It helped them to see art making and participating in an exhibition as a process and a collaborative experience. The exhibition too featured different kinds of “works” which we do not see as art works in a conventional manner but which had a deeper sense of belonging to the contemporary world in terms of its content. According to Raqs, “the term “artist” got thoroughly dismantled and explored by each protagonist; it became elastic. Our role as curators in this situation was also to observe overflow.”

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

This democratisation of participation, the expanded notion of what is art, and the emphasis on the process and seeing curation as an ongoing journey has made Sarai 09 a memorable experience in Indian art. As far as the important question of when does curatorial work end. I would say curation is an incomplete work, it is an ongoing journey. Once started it keeps on traversing the landscape of art and history. It accumulates new meanings, interpretations, responsibilities, and attracts new “consumers”. The work of curation never ends.

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Sarai 09, Courtesy: Raqs Media Collective

The details of this exhibition could be found in the Sarai catalogue Sarai 09 with the proposals of the artists and the curatorial note of Raqs (http://sarai.net/sarai-reader-09-projections/). Here is another important interview with them on the exhibition which appeared in On-Curating magazine ( http://www.on-curating.org/issue-19-reader/interview-with-raqs-media-collective-on-the-exhibition-sarai-reader-09.html#.WZbaWfig_Mx ). The magazine is free to download and also look for other topics which interest you.

We wish you a happy weekend. Please share, comment and discuss.

-Premjish, Director, Outreach

Story, First..

 TAW-MP-coverThe Artist’s Way by #JuliaCameron

Story, First..

Books, leading to books is a calling.

A few years ago, when I picked up ‘Who will cry when you die’ written by Robin Sharma, little was I cognizant that it was my calling for a transition. Though it took a few years to realize it, the rusted levers were set in motion by the latent forces of nature, then.

Robin Sharma suggested two books to readers; Walden by Henry Thoreau and The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron.

Unaware of the instant shift in FOC, that evening, I went to the book store and picked up both – it was not an easy decision because The Artists’ Way was a costly ledger – the trade off between entertainment, pleasure, and fun vs. addressing & rediscovering essential deeper self.

I took that chance then….

….and realized a few years later that NATURE could never go wrong. It craves for alignment, always.

I left Walden after fifty pages; my cerebral taste buds were not so accustomed to the compound and dense creation of art. So, I began reading The Artists’ Way which is much easier to eyes and brain. (Confession – I have not yet finished Walden, but plan to do it soon).

Reading through it, this is what I have come to learn about Creativity & how ignorant we are about it.

Let me ask you a questions.

As a parent, would you ever insult your own kid?

I know your answer, it is a big NO!! Isn’t it?
What if I say, You DO, we all DO it consciously or unconsciously.

Don’t believe?

Here is something for us to assimilate.

– We want to be a Singer, but we compare our voice with a celebrity’s voice, the moment we open our mouth.

– We want to be a writer, but we expect to match up to Stephen King or Lee Child, right from the time we write our first page.

….and so on and so forth…

Is this not an insult to our creative child?

Why we forget that time defines the evolution of an artistic flair. Why are we so unfair to us, not ready to give time and chance to the creative child to metamorphose into an adult.

Why do we deny the basics – pampering, grooming, nurturing and hand-holding, every creative child inside us deserves so badly.

Above all, many of us do not even realize that we have a creative child breathing inside us.

Book Review

A book that can be classified primarily as self-help by many but is more like common sense. It is designed to help readers reject the evils of self-doubt and seek for creative indulgence not as a profession or professional but as a form of therapy.

At the core of the book is a custom called “morning pages,” based on the belief that free-form writing, each morning, will unclog one’s mental and emotional channels of all the waste that gets in the way of being happy.

The other essential ritual involves taking oneself on an “artist’s date” each week – planning an outing to a museum or some other site of thought, free from the weight of responsibility or work.

Ending Remarks

Some day I will write a book on this master art, but today, I have to end my review here with two life changing lines by the Author and then my own comprehension of what this book has taught me over the years, and when I re-read earlier this year.

‘Practice Mystery, not Mastery’
‘Artistic people must learn how to emotionally guard themselves against the tides of negativity -both external and internal.’

Creativity is beyond the realms of semantics, a divine blessing guided by higher planes. Unfortunately, our limited intellect barely qualifies to decipher even a spec of it, unless, either it’s HIS will or our aspirations guided by the subconscious.

 

By Maniissh Aroraa

The Visionaries – 1

S. Radhakrishnan

 

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S. Radhakrishnan, image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Recently I came across a quote by the former US President John Kennedy written in honour of the great poet Robert Frost. Kennedy wrote, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
The times we are living in are crucial to remember the generation which laid the progressive foundations of this nation. An inadequacy we have to urgently address is to honour and remember the luminaries who have built the cultural foundations of this nation. Like a wise man has said, nations are not built by politicians but by poets and artists. We have to honour the great endeavours of a generation which has laid the spirit of debate, discussion, research and thinking as an active pursuit.

In our attempt to remember and honour these stalwarts, Art1st presents a new series on important pedagogues of Indian arts and aesthetics, titled “The Visionaries.”

In our first issue we introduce you to the great thinker, teacher, philosopher, statesman and former President of India Sarvepally Radhakrishnan. Our country honours his birthday by celebrating it as Teacher’s Day. Emphasising on the role of teacher’s in the progress of a nation and mentoring the young minds, S. Radhakrishnan had remarked, “Teachers should be the best minds in the country.” This statement came at a time when his friends and students were seeking his permission to commemorate his birthday as an important day. He said, “Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers’ Day.”

S. Radhakrishnan was born in small village in the border of present day Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states. He was a bright student and recieved scholarships consistently in his academic career. After completing his Masters in Philosophy, Radhakrishnan went on to teach at various universities in India. He was knighted in 1932 by George V for his services to education. He was elected as the first Vice President of India and later on he became the second President of India.

His remarkable contributions in Indian philosophy and comparitive religions is seminal. Radhakrishnan was writing at a time when Indian philosophy and aesthetics were used by the Western scholars to project the inferiority of India. His studies on Indian philosophy were a post-colonial response to this misunderstanding of Indology and Indian intellectual tradition.His significant publications include “The Hindu View of Life”, “The Dhammapada,” “The Bhagavadgita: with an introductory essay,” “A Source Book on Indian Philosophy.” He was one of the most sophisticated thinkers of modern India.

– Premjish, Director, Outreach

 

 

 

The Curator #2

Curation, as we read in the last post, emphasized on presenting a group of artworks clubbed together with a particular theme or a narrative. This particular process gave importance to the final show, the exhibition. It foregrounded the final exhibition as the most important event in this entire process while neglecting the role of the curatorial process. For example the curator’s interactions with the artists, his selection of works, why did he or she selected that work, the process of displaying the work, the selection of a theme or a narrative, these all are part of the curatorial process. But conventionally our sole focus remains on the final exhibition which remains static throughout the display period. What can one do to activate the exhibition that it becomes interactive and participatory? Is contemporary art exhibition only about art making and displaying? What about its role as a platform to educate and create awareness?

You see, there are so many questions and the ways to address these through is new ways of curating which highlights the importance of the process of curating, art making, displaying and viewing. This week in Art1st’s ‘The Curator’ series we introduce you to Premjish Achari and his exhibition ‘Inquiries on the Contemporary’.

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The Curator #2

Premjish Achari

Exhibition: Inquiries on the Contemporary

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Premjish Achari is a Curator, Writer and Translator, he is also the Outreach Director of Art1st. He has conceptualized a curatorial platform called Future Collaborations to reclaim the political potential of 1) curation 2) collaboration 3) exhibition and 4) writing. This platform’s main objective is to bring together artists, writers, poets, performers, activists, etc to collaborate with each other, to mainly question the alienated individual spaces of art practice. It initiates collaborative practices between participants to turn exhibition spaces into sites of experimental research. Through this Future Collaboration’s turn public spaces into a battleground of different ideas to allow multiplicity of perspectives.

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The first edition of Future Collaborations adopted inquiries as a methodology. It drew inspiration from Karl Marx’s seminal text ‘A Worker’s Inquiry’ written in 1880 to understand the nature of labour and the condition of the working class. Seven practitioners from diverse fields were brought together to expand the scope of this text through their inquiries into issues related to caste, sexuality, displacement and disability. Before leading to the final exhibition the group collaborated on various performances, interactions and activities. Also to highlight the educational aspect of the curation,  artists like Gigi Scaria, Dayanita Singh, etc. were invited to give interactive public talks.IMG_2320.JPG

This meant that curation and exhibition was not only about the final display but has to be seen as a continuous exchange of ideas. The project grew out of monthly meetings based on shared reading and engaging with strategies of exhibition-making to activate art’s political potential.

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Through this project Future Collaborations attempted to shape a practice of knowledge production that seeks to bridge the lacuna between practice and theory in order to transform the white cube space into a location for debate, inquiry, and reflection. This exhibition featured installations, live-performances, artworks, etc. jointly created by the participants.

 

We would be very happy if you leave a comment for further discussion or clarification.

This Truck has got to be Special

Author: Anjum Rana
Illustration Design: Sameer Kulavoor
Truck Art: Hakeem Nawaz, Amer Khan
Publisher: Tara Books

This Truck has got to be Special says Truck artist Zarrar to China's Gul, a truck driver from Pakistan. Gul- who drives along the mountain roads of the Karakoram and the Hindu Kush- has finally bought his own vehicle and wants it painted beautifully.

As Zarrar gets to work, Gul waits in the yard, thinking about his many journeys, the splendour of the hills and the intricacies of Truck Art- until everything is at last ready and it's time to be off, on the road again!

A richly imagined collaboration between a Pakistani writer, Pakistani Truck artists and an Indian Illustrator, this book celebrates the energy and joy of Pakistani Truck Art, as well as the artists whose skill and labour breathe life into it. All along, the bold graphic vigour of Truck Art tells its own story.

India has its history of Truck Art with the most eye catching slogans painted at the back of the truck. Can we share what we remember?

Tushar Joag at TEDx on the 31st of March in 2017, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

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Chinmaya International Residential School (CIRS

Siruvani

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

on the 31st of March in 2017.

Everyone in Coimbatore, look out for the Ted Talk by eminent Artist Tushar Joag on 31st March.

Tushar Joag has been associated with Art1st as an advisor since many years. He is a Delhi-based artist, academician, and activist who injects himself and his ideas into the public realm before creating works that are celebrated in a gallery context both in India and abroad. Joag studied at the Sir JJ School of Art and was a founder member of the artist initiative Open Circle, which existed between 1998-2000. This idea of community building has remained with the artist and he creates ironic works which help viewers re-think the constraints of the world around them, and call attention to problems that they might not have known existed.

He is currently an Associate Professor, in the Department of Art Design and Performing Arts,
School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida. He has also been visiting faculty at the Kamal Raheja Vidya Nidhi Institute of Architecture, Bombay as well as at the Faculty of Fine Art, M.S. University, Baroda.

Artist Mentor: Mona Rai, Day 4

The last and final session with Mona Rai began at 3 pm on 27th November.

All the participants reached on time and continued their work, which they were doing in the previous session.

 

Our mentor kept a close eye on each one of them, and the moment a few said they were done!!!! Mona asked them to work over again and try to deform the image.

On sensing a subtle reluctance, in doing so, by the participants, our Mentor indulged the participants in a discussion on, having the urge to work on issues.

A thought-provoking discussion that  began with addressing the major difference between an advertising poster and a painting. The discussion continued for nearly half an hour, that left the participants thinking.

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We are sure that the participants and the Mentor Mona Rai enjoyed the experience…..

 

 

 

Artist Mentor: Mona Rai, Day 3….

The third session with Artist Mentor Mona Rai began at 3pm on 26th November.

Despite the heavy traffic everyone reached on time.

The sessoin began with the discussion about the artists that each of them were asked to look up. Post the discussion all of them took out the Materials they had collected and began working on their works.

The materials they used ranged from threads, cloth, cardboards to found objects.

All of them worked on ideas that interested them, some worked on social issues, where as others indulged in surrealist landscapes. Some tried their hands on embroidery for the first time.

By 7pm it was time to go.

They were supposed to complete their works in the next session.

 

November 2016,Day 2

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All of us look outside our windows, but how many of us observe?????

Do we feel the changes in light with the seasons?

Do we observe the changing textures of the trees and the land?

Most of us click a picture to savour the moment, hoping to enjoy it later, rather than pausing for a moment and observing it then and there……..

Our mentor Mona felt that the children need to learn how to observe more keenly, through   their eyes rather than their smart phones, they need to learn to pause and grasp things.

On November 13th by 2:30 when all the participants had come in the, they were just asked to stand in the studio Balcony and observe the landscape….. the texture of the trees, the colours, the ground etc.

 

Our Mentor Mona stood with them and hinted at the ways they could look at the different textures and colours. After that they were left to their own, to sketch.

Mona asked them to use only three colours in their work, and they were also allowed to use several spices for colours and textures.

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The work that they were to do on 13th was meant to be a preparatory sketch ….

All of them quickly began their work….

 

Unlike the other days one could see a disinterest in their works. Only after much coaxing did they divulge that they did not like working on landscapes much , this revelation lead to many more discussions about their interests and reading habits.

At the end our mentor suggested names of artist that each one of them had to look up and come, for the next session.

Looking forward to see, what challenges our Mentor has for them , in the next session…..