The nine-month long Sarai Reader 09 exhibition, which opened in the Capital recently, is pregnant with possibilities

The Sarai Reader 09 exhibition opened at Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon recently. But the word exhibition doesn’t quite capture the intention of Raqs Media Collective, the curators of the ambitious project that will conclude after nine months in April next year.

Collapsing the distinction between a studio and a gallery, the exhibition opened with empty space which will fill up over the next nine months with the “visions, concepts, speculations and projections” of over 100 artists. The idea of opening with emptiness was a considered one, says Jeebesh Bagchi, a member of Raqs, the trio that also comprises Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Monica Narula. “Empty space is not vacant space; we wanted to push the idea that it can be inviting and mysterious. In the object centric world of art, people forget that the experience of art space can be beautiful.”

The exhibition borrows its name from the Sarai Reader book series, whose ninth edition titled ‘Projections’ will be published subsequent to the conclusion of the exhibition. The exhibition is similar in ethos, too, to the readers which bring together creative and critical thought by contributors from a range of disciplines. “The purpose of the exhibition is to facilitate a conversation between the artists,” Jeebesh adds.

The proposal room inside one of the galleries of Devi Art Foundation gave an idea of the kind of conversation that is going to take place. On display are 27 proposals which will be worked on over the next few months. Ishita Tiwari’s Amateur Film Archive is an attempt to rethink amateur filmmaking in a culture that obsesses over “professionalism”, and Gurgaon Glossaries, a nine-month research project by Mumbai based urbanists Rupali Gupte, Prasad Shetty and Prasad Khanolkar, looks into the experience of Gurgaon. Some of the other contributors are Amitabh Kumar, Rana Dasgupta, Lawrence Liang, Vahni Capildeo, Vivek Narayanan, Jacques Ranciere and Aman Sethi.

Also on display is the 3x6x9 prototype of the Cybermohalla Hub, designed by Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Muller. The prototype, made possible by a grant from Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, raises the question of cultural infrastructure in urban life. It will host “a complex of practices and artist initiatives” including the Bureau of Contemporary Jobs by Cybermohalla Ensemble.

These projects will be punctuated through “episodes” in October, December and February wherein some processes will conclude and others will be initiated. The episodes will also feature workshops, performances and screenings.

Hopeful that the exhibition will change the way art is “conceived, produced and consumed,” Jeebesh said very few exhibitions of similar scale and intent have taken place globally. The ambition of the exhibition derives from the renewed desires of the art public of Delhi, and an urge among artists to redefine art practice, he added.