The Curator #19

The Curator #19

We are living in the time of greater environment crisis. Our land, air, and water are heavily polluted. It has become so common and dangerous that we have even turned a blind eye towards the issue. As if it is not happening. Many rivers in our country are extremely polluted. They churn out chemical foams. The thick smog in many parts of the country have risked thousands of lives. Have we ever thought what can we do about these issues? As artists, curators, teachers, pedagogues, art lovers how can we use art to raise our voice against this situation. Most importantly, how can we use curation to address this issue? How can we shake up people who are ignoring this ecological disaster? Can curators and artists across the world come together and imagine a possibility to create an awareness, and throw some light on the magnitude of the situation? Art and curation are not only to create beautiful exhibitions, but they are also tools for social change.

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In this issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” series we discuss about the ‘Yamuna-Elbe. Public.Art.Ecology’ curated by Ravi Agarwal (Delhi) and Till Krause with Nina Kalenbach (Hamburg). We will see how by bringing two rivers from different countries Yamuna and Elbe, curators have tried to connect the ecological issues. We will also see how artists from these two countries created art projects by their involvement with these two rivers.

 

The Curator #19

Curators: Ravi Agarwal (Delhi) and Till Krause with Nina Kalenbach (Hamburg)

Exhibition: Yamuna-Elbe. Public.Art.Ecology, 2011

Venue: Yamuna and Elbe

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Ravi Agarwal

Ravi Agarwal is an artist, environmental activist, writer and curator. He has pursued an art practice integrally with his other pursuits. His earlier work, in the documentary oeuvre, encompasses ‘nature’, ‘work,’ ‘labour,’ and the ‘street.’ His current interest span questions around ecology and society, urban space and capital in interrelated ways. He works with photographs, video, and public art.

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Atul Bhalla

This was a public art and outreach project initiated by the Ministry of Culture, Hamburg, and carried out in the framework of “Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities”.

The participating artists in the two cities were:

Delhi: Asim Waqif, Atul Bhalla, Gigi Scaria, and Sheba Chhachhi from India and Nana Petzet and Jochen Lempert from Germany, with contributions by Vivan Sundaram and Till Krause.

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Gigi Scaria

Hamburg: Atul Bhalla, Navjot Altaf, Ravi Agarwal, Sheba Chhachhi, and Vivan Sundaram from India and from Germany, Daniel Seiple, Anna Möller, Jochen Lempert, and Ines Lechleitner with in collaboration with Prof. Vikram Soni from Delhi.

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Asim Waqif

As part of this project various school outreach activities were conceptualized which included

Art installation making from collected trash, Interschool poster-making competition, Interschool debate on urban development and sustainability, and Eco-walks.

This also featured

River Walks: Historians such as Sohail Hasmi and environmentalists such as Vimlendu Jha will conduct walks around the Yamuna as well as Delhi’s water systems to sensitize the general public as well as school children to their natural heritage and the impact of urban development on it.

Public Discussions on subjects related to the river and the environment will also take place.

Films and Musical Concerts: Films on the water and the Yamuna will be screened. A classical musical event will be organized by the river Yamuna.

Writing workshops

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According to Ravi, “With the city appropriating the river back into its gaze, there is fresh demand to ‘clean’ the river, especially from the city elite. This is the new ‘view.’ Though there have been major plans and a huge amount of money already spent to clean the river in the past, all have failed. The current proposals however are the most ambitions in terms of resources needed. There are demands to channelize the river to a small narrow flow, instead of the wide riverbed. This, it is said, will allow land to be freed up for fresh commercialization and urbanization. Linked to the idea of a clean river is the new requirement of land for those who can afford such housing and it is invested in by international capital. It is no surprise that the Commonwealth Games village has been built by a large international developer and its flats are being allotted to the rich and powerful.”

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Elbe Walk

 

The exhibition connected two different rivers, and two cities but with an interconnected future. It emphasized that river ecologies have been cradles of civilization and some of the most vibrant cities in the world lie along them. Today as local interconnectivities become more global, contesting views of the river, predicated on technology and capital have emerged. Rivers are increasingly seen as mere water channels, or even real estate. New threats of climate change have complicated the challenge. This exhibition tried to foreground these issues.

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Project partners for the outreach and educational activities included:

Toxics Link, World Wildlife Fund, Swechha, Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, KHOJ International Artists’ Association,A Wall is a Screen, and several important historians and environmentalists in their individual capacity.

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Sheba Chhachi

Let us discuss how can we use art and curation to address issues of environmental crisis. How can we do an exhibition on the ecological crisis. Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st

 

 

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The Curator #10

The Curator #10

Most of the curators whom we have discussed in this series, except Naman P. Ahuja, had in a way represented Indian art in India. It would be too simple to call them as Indian art because their approaches were thematically diverse, concerns were different, the choice of artworks, artists and spaces were also individually motivated. In the exhibition “Body in Indian Art” we saw the two possibilities of an exhibition representing Indian art abroad and Indian art in India. The act of representing India is a nationalistic act. It means that you put together artworks of artists from different linguistic, ethnic, geographical groups under the category of nation. How does it function in the age of globalization especially during the beginning of this decade when the idea of nation-state has not strongly returned as it has returned now?  How do we define citizenship in this new context where people move freely, artists collaborate internationally, show their works across the world? How does a curator represent the cultural diversity in this context, still being placed in a homogenizing platform like national pavilion?

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We know that Venice Biennale, one of the oldest in the world, is a platform which actively encourages national pavilions. Countries try to send their best artists and curators to represent their art world. Though Indian artists have been represented in Venice Biennale in the past it was the first time in 2011, the 54th edition, that India got an official pavilion. Renowned curator, poet and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote was selected by Lalit Kala Akademi to curate the pavilion. Today in Art1st’s “The Curator” series we will discuss Ranjit Hoskote’s exhibition ‘Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode…’curated for the Indian Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

The Curator #10

Curator: Ranjit Hoskote

Title: ‘Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode…’

Venue: Venice Biennale, 2011.

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Ranjit Hoskote

 

According to Ranjit Hoskote, his objectives in curating this show was to, “mark a sharp rupture with these pre-existing notions of how India’s national art scene should be represented. Since I have long argued that contemporary Indian art is defined by multiple horizons of value, I wished to disclose artistic practices from locations other than those synonymous with the Indian art market: practices that transit among disparate economies of image production, traverse asymmetric cultural and political situations; that are nourished by diverse circulations of philosophical ideas; and that grow, often, from improvisational forms of research and collaboration.”

Hoskote’s focus was to draw attention to multiple locations from which value is created in the context of Indian art. Instead of giving importance to the aspect of nationality and fitting artists into the institution of nation-state, the curator emphasized on the idea of cultural citizenship. This was a significant shift from the idea of monolithic culture to a transcultural existence. It expanded the idea of what is India especially through the lens of migration and hybridity.

The four artists/ artist groups chosen to represent India in this pavilion were:

  1. Zarina Hashmi (print-maker and mixed-media artist; born in Aligarh, 1937; now lives and works in New York).
  1. Praneet Soi (painter, sculptor, video artist; born in Kolkata, 1971; now lives and works in Amsterdam and Kolkata).
  1. Gigi Scaria (painter, sculptor, video artist; born in Kothanalloor, Kerala, 1973; now lives in New Delhi).
  1. The Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain, born in Shillong in 1975, and Mriganka Madhukaillya, born in Guwahati in 1978; DMC is a media collective based in Guwahati, Assam, and works across film, installation and public space projects).
Installation view of India Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Praneet Soi's mural (L), Gigi Scaria's interactive video installation (R), Desire Machine.gif

Installation view of India Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Praneet Soi’s mural (L), Gigi Scaria’s interactive video installation (R), Desire Machine. Courtesy: Ranjit Hoskote

The exhibition was a ‘laboratory, stage and school’ for the curator to understand these developments. It became a site to map these important shifts post 90s in India. According to Hoskote, “Zarina Hashmi, Praneet Soi, Gigi Scaria, and the Desire Machine Collective act as compass points for an alternative atlas of references. An idiosyncratic line of latitude connects them across the globe, running west-east to link their theatres of life and work across New York, Amsterdam/Kolkata, New Delhi/Kerala, and Guwahati. To my mind, it was vital to honour the historic occasion of India’s first national pavilion at the Venice Biennale by proposing such positions, which demonstrated the linkages between contemporary Indian art and global art at large, while retaining the distinctiveness of sensibilities engaged with the South Asian predicament.”

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Gigi Scaria’s Elevator from the Subcontinent, Courtesy: Domus

Through their works, Hoskote used the exhibition space as a laboratory to test the ‘idea of India’, a conceptual phrase developed by Sunil Khilnani. The artists developed their works to re-imagine what it means to belong to India. The title of the exhibition was taken from a a book by an anonymous group of theorists called The Invisible Committee which was shared by Mriganka Madhukaillya of the Desire Machine Collective. The opening of the book read: ‘Everyone agrees. It’s about to explode. It is acknowledged, with a serious and self-important look, in the corridors of the Assembly, just as yesterday it was repeated in the cafés… The newspapers conscientiously draw up the list of causes for the sudden disquiet. There is the financial crisis… the failure of the educational system… the existence of a youth to which no political representation corresponds… what power is confronting is neither just another crisis, nor just a succession of chronic problems, of more or less anticipated disturbances, but a singular peril: that a form of conflict has emerged, and positions have been taken up, that are no longer manageable.”

The pavilion was conceived not only to ask questions on what is nationality and on nation-state but also to enquire what is global art.

You can listen to Ranjit Hoskote talk about the exhibition in this link https://www.aaa.org.hk/en/resources/videos/everyone-agrees-its-about-to-explode-curatorial-reflections-on-the-india-pavilion-54th-venice-biennale-by-ranjit-hoskote

A video of Gigi Scaria’s installation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vasYjXFzlg

Please read, share and comment. Happy weekend!

  • Premjish, Director-Outreach, Art1st.

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.