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 #3

Redefining and recasting is the essence of any radical gesture. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series a curator not only presents the existing canon but also redefines it in new ways. Curator presents new readings on the existing artworks, schools of art movement, styles, and conceptual formulations. With these radical interventions the field is renewed, new questions are raised, frames are altered, enabling explorations in newer directions. We know, in the history of art, artists have always taken the past styles and forms as a tool to explore the contemporary. In South Asia’s context artists have used the miniature tradition to revive Indian visual arts as a response to the European academic realism, and later on many artists from the contemporary period have used this idiom to address  socio-political issues, aspects of representation and perspective, and its materials and techniques. In such diverse ways of a renewed use of the miniature tradition how does a curator make sense of it? In the third issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we introduce you to the renowned curator and art historian Gayatri Sinha and her exhibition “Fabular Bodies: New Narratives in the Art of the Miniature”, 2011 which has contextualized this renewed zeal in the use of miniature tradition by the contemporary artists.

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The Curator #3

Curator: Gayatri Sinha

Exhibition:  Fabular Bodies: New Narratives in the Art of the Miniature, 2011

 

Gayatri Sinha is an internationally acclaimed art critic and curator whose primary areas of enquiry are centered on gender and iconography, media, economics and social history. She has also initiated Critical Collective, a forum for thinking on conceptual frames within art history and practice in contemporary India.

Hair Burns Like Grass Orijit Sen

Hair Burns Like Grass, Orijit Sen

“Fabular Bodies” was an exhibition which presented the art world with the newer possibilities of miniature in the contemporary. It has clearly moved away from its royal circuits of production and reception, and has ‘moved into the domains of video and digital art, animation and illustration.’ Sinha reminds us about the complexities of fixing this term with a static definition, and asserts that it had always existed in a flux, getting constantly reinvented and redefined.

Never Ending Story, Manisha Gera Baswani

Never Ending Story, Manisha Gera Baswani

Featuring important contemporary artists such as Nilima Sheikh, N.S. Harsha, Mithu Sen, Desmond Lazaro, Waswo X. Waswo, Manjunath Kamat, Chintan Upadhyay, etc., who have been inspired by this medium and a group of young artists who have displayed promising interventions in this idiom such as Varunika Saraf, Lavanya Mani, T. Venkanna, etc., this show remains as one of the most important in the history of South Asian art to engage with miniatures with a complex lens.  The show’s catalog has a brilliantly detailed essay written by the curator along with the bios of the artists and images of artworks.

– Premjish Achari, Outreach Director, Art1st

Varunika Saraf, Tryptich, 2009

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?

She says “I am going to be an Artist”

“Through Georgia’s Eyes” written by “Rachel Rodriguez” and illustrated by “Julie Paschkis”, has successfully conveyed the contemplative beauty at the heart of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings and life. The prose is simple and reflective, mimicking the rhythms of the natural world: “A canyon calls her. From the bottom at dusk she sees a long line of cows above, black lace against a dusky sky.” The illustrations, cut-paper collages, mimic the vibrant intensity of O’Keeffe’s works with the simplicity and wonder of a child.

This picture book biography describes some of the influences on painter Georgia O’Keeffe, touching briefly on her formative years and her family’s wishes that she become a teacher. Despite those wishes and the trends of those times which dictated roles for women, Georgia followed, and perused  her dream to paint, which led her to New York City and the wide spaces of New Mexico.

Both the text and the extraordinary cut-paper collage illustrations help readers understand the personality, determination, and brilliance of this vibrant woman with exceptional talent.

 

 

By

Gopa Trivedi

Artist Mentor