The Curator #5

In the last few issues we had introduced you to few important exhibitions and the curators of those shows. If you notice in the recent times the word curator and its usage has become very democratic. There are curated food festivals, music nights, books readings, curated trips, and so on. In all these cases the term curator is used to refer the act of selecting, excluding and making it consumable for an audience. Very much allied to its original meaning. But is that all curating about? What about the most important “taking care” part? Though one is happy to see the expanded usage of the term, one is also alarmed at how the usage is based on a selected reading of its function.
Then the important question to raise is how does one become a curator? Most of the senior and active curators in India have not done a course in curating. Most of them are art historians, artists, or have a background in literature. But their consistent engagement with the art world, their historical knowledge, exposure to exhibition practices, etc. played an important role in foestering their growth. Despite the strong presence of important exhibitions and shows curation has not been part of a full fledged academic program in India. It is very recently that certain art institutes have started offering programs on curation. Unfortunately these are not a masters level program, but runs through a semester and helps students to get an experience in curating a show. This issue of Art1st’s “The Curator” is about such an initiative. This post is about the “Where in the World” exhibition at Devi Art Foundation curated by the students of School ofArts and Aesthetics along with the faculty members Kavita Singh, Naman P. Ahuja and Shukla Sawant.

The Curator #5
Exhibition: Where in the World
Curators: Students of School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU and Professor Kavita Singh, Professor Naman P Ahuja, Professor Shukla Sawant.

This exhibition was part of a semester long course called “On Curating” offered by Prof. Kavita Singh. The course introduced students to the history of museum practices starting from its colonial roots, to nationalist appropriation and its contemporary resurgence. The course took these multiple directions and introduced students to the institution of museums, galleries, curatorial practices. This course also allowed students to interact with curators, designers, light and sound technicians. Devi Art Foundation which has a strong colleciton of contemporary Indian art was involved throughout the project and gave the responsibility to the students to select the artworks for the show. A collaborative effort was required in these efforts to jointly discuss and debate about the inclusion and exclusion of works. Students were also assigned different tasks related to writing texts for the catalog, publicity, exhibition design, conducting interviews with artists, etc. They were constantly in touch with the Foundation team and were able to develop an idea about the space. Besides this students were also offered visits to National Museum, Crafts Museum, etc.

The exhibition was one of the biggest and critically acclaimed shows on contemporary art. It included works by A Balasubramaniam, Atul Bhalla, C. Nannaiah, ShebaChhachhi, Krishnaraj Chonat, Nikhil Chopra, Atul Dodiya, Anita Dube, Nicola Durvasula, Sheela Gowda, Probir Gupta, Shilpa Gupta, Subodh Gupta, Sonia Jabbar,Bharti Kher, Sonia Khurana, Susanta Mandal, N. Pushpamala, Jeetander Ojha, JagannathPanda, Srinivasa Prasad, Ashim Purkayastha, Gigi Scaria, Mithu Sen, Tejal Shah, Sudarshan Shetty, T.V. Santhosh, and Navin Thomas.

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The central concern of the exhibition was to reflect on the contemporary art and its influences and response from/to globalisation. ‘Opening out’ to the world has brought a range of new influences, opportunities, audiences, forms of circulation and means of production to Indian art in the last ten or fifteen years. What does the new Indian art look like? Whom does it address? And how will we remember this era in the future? These were some of the key questions that this exhibition addressed through its four sections. The first section, ‘Export,’ traces the strategies used by artists asked to enact ‘Indian-ness’ in their work. The following sections, ‘Outraged’ and ‘Outrageous,’ examine the ways in which artists engage with issues and the larger public beyond the artworld. And finally, ‘Uncollectable’ considers the movements of objects through markets and into collections.

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This course and subsequent exhibition was an important experience in our academic life. We were not only exposed to the nomenclature “curator”, but also provided hands on experience in handling works, logistics, preparing texts, designing catalog, desigining exhibition layout, etc.

The exhibition images and texts are accessible through a beautifully designed catalog. Some images are available here in this link http://www.deviartfoundation.org/content/behind-scenes-where-world

Have a wonderful weekend. Please comment, share and discuss.

  • Premjish, Director, Outreach – Art1st

 

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The Curator #1

Do you know that the word Curator means “a person who takes care of” or “the one who heals”? The primary task of a curator was to take care of a collection or a museum. But as times changed the practice of curating involved presenting a collection of works with an interesting theme or narrative. The practice also extended to works outside museums and institutions. Over the years curators have used collections to weave stories, re-define the idea of collections, present new art historical and visual possibilities to understand and see artworks. In this weekly series titled “The Curator”, updating every Saturday, we will introduce you to curators from India who are doing path-breaking works by using art collections and artworks to generate meaningful and participatory exhibitions.
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The Curator #1
Naman P Ahuja
Exhibition: Rupa-Pratirupa
The Body in Indian Art
Naman P Ahuja is the Professor of Ancient Indian Art and Architecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. ‘The Body in Indian Art’ was a seminal show curated by him at Europalia in Brussels which later travelled to National Museum, Delhi. The show was important for the wide range of materials it brought together from different museums, galleries and collections across India (largest ever mounted at National Museum with over 350 objects) to address the complex idea about body referring to diverse Indian philosophies and spanning across many periods of history.
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It also foregrounded the plurality of our country by showcasing diverse views, beliefs and expressions in art on the idea of body. The exhibition was divided into eight thematic categories ranging from birth to death and also dealing with heroic bodies to ascetic bodies. Those who have missed the show could take a look at the catalog produced by National Museum which is also very affordable. It also comes with a CD featuring the exhibition music and soundtrack.
– Premjish, Outreach Director, Art1st