Curators' speak

Amit Kumar Jain   | Photo Credit: 16dmc amit

With a whole lot of them in sight, it becomes slightly tricky to pick three interesting names but paucity of space and other reasons make us zone in on these three. But it would only be appropriate to mention other notable names in the field like Berlin-based Natasha Ginwala — who is currently at the 56th Venice Biennale where she has curated Gujral Foundation's project “My East is Your West” featuring Shilpa Gupta and Rashid Rana, Mumbai’s Sumesh Sharma, Geetanjali Dang, Veeranganakumari Solanki, Delhi’s Naman Ahuja who curated the stunning exhibition “The Body in Indian Art” at National Museum last year.

Amit Kumar Jain

Current engagement: I was hoping to open an exhibition on contemporary art from Nepal later this year but that has been postponed for reasons known to all. I am sure that the exhibition will provide a unique and exciting insight into cultural practices of Nepal. Since I mostly work with artists from South Asia, a solo presentation from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is planned for early next year. Apart from my curatorial projects, I have recently launched an award for an emerging curator to work at my studio in Vadodara. Dedicated in the memory of a close friend, Chinmoy Pramanick, I hope that this award can inspire young curators to work across a broad spectrum of projects with me.

On his big ticket show: The “Reading Room” was much more recent and exciting as it made me look at an under acknowledged art form. The exhibition was very important as it allowed for book artists to showcase their works, that many times were shoved in their archives as there were no buyers. The exhibition's success, first in New Delhi, then Mumbai and finally as a partner project at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale has led a leading law firm to look at book art as a catalyst to inspire their collecting habits. The next edition of 'Reading Room' is at the University of Winchester in United Kingdom and is evolving into another exciting project.

On his style: My exhibitions stem from my personal research and interests which range from politics, social or culturally relevant projects, like the 'Reading Room' and 'Daring to Dissent: The Art of Khalid Al baih'. Many a times, my shows tend to turn towards not-for-sale or hard-to-sell exhibitions as they look mostly beyond commercial norms, and thus, I am always looking for galleries who are willing to take risks in their programmes.

Other noteworthy projects: Amit founded NAVSAR, a platform to support the upcoming talent through residencies and exhibitions. He was also the regional curator of Colombo Art Biennale, 2014. He also spearheaded an interesting project — Abhisaran, a JSW initiative in which 10 artists came together to create art works from trash.

Himali Singh Soin

Current engagement: Himali is a poet. She has a bachelors’ degree in English Literature (with a focus on creative writing) and Theatre, an MA in English Literature and is currently in London pursuing MFA in Fine Art. “I think this allows me to view writing, curating, making art and even thinking, as a studio practice”.

On her big ticket show: I think “We are Ours: A Collection of Manifestoes for the Instant” (At Khoj in December 2013) was a challenging project because there were 27, mostly original works involved, by 27 Indian artists all over the world. It felt urgent in a way that art often can.

On her style: The show should (loosely) formally reflect the concerns of the content. So, for example, the collection of manifestos, though rendered in various mediums, were constrained by the A4 size. Another by words and storytelling. But I also aspire to make shows that are both political and poetic, straddling realism and fantasy.

In 2011 when I curated “Words: A User's Manual”, I was physically preoccupied with words themselves. Even just in the last few years, so much has changed. There is language even where there isn't language. For example, every image on your computer is comprised of reams and reams of code. Every object is made of stories. So while I do have an affinity for the literary, I recognize that the word is more embedded now and possibly terrifyingly so in the future.

On her first show: “Really”, in 2010 at The Loft in Mumbai, as part of a young curators program. But maybe even earlier, in college, as a theatre director, composing tableaus and setting a dramatic event up in time.

Meenakshi Thirukode

On her big ticket show: I don’t usually think of my shows in terms of one idea or a theme but I see it as a manifestation of the ideas and conversations I want to confront, question, think through and make visible. So in that light I suppose the turning points so to speak was curating simultaneous shows in New York and India in 2009-10 - in NYC I was working with the context of what it meant/means to be ''South Asian'', while in Cochin (where I curated 3 shows between 2009-10) I was showing a lot of the same artists (those who belong to the South Asian/Middle-eastern diaspora) alongside artists based in India. To me it moulded the ideas I have since been interested in and have been exploring as a curator. It includes what it means to be defined by geography, nation, how we define and place ourselves willingly or by default in positions of power and privilege, this idea of a 'home' and very specific ways in which we define who we are and where we belong. I am really interested in the idea of intersections - of how the way we understand all these things are never straightforward.

On her first show: My first project was at Guild Art Gallery in New York in 2009. I just graduated from the Masters programme at Christies, New York, and I curated “Whose Territorial Imperative” which involved three seemingly disparate art practices. The artists worked in the gallery for a month, and the resulting work produced was up for a month after that. It brought up a lot of interesting questions on power structures and who controls the contexts of artistic practices. I don’t work on themes, rather I am interested in each project I curate as an extension of a practice - be it the artists, or the curators or even the focus of the institution.

On her style:

I draw a lot from the histories of Institutional Critique. I am also interested in alternative histories or histories that are being redeemed or reclaimed because they were lost to us or told from one dominant perspective. I am interested in practices that are not easy to categorize - ones that can be ambiguous, draw from many discourses and don’t always take on one distinct form.

Current engagement: “False Alternatives” at Gallery Veda in Chennai which is on for six months. And moving from Chennai — where she was engaged with Dakshina Chitra as Creative Director — to Delhi, Meenakshi has joined Exhibit 320 as researcher and writer.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 5:01:58 PM |

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