Work in Progress: Dialogues on Curation (Part 1) in collaboration with Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA)

Work in Progress is envisioned as a platform whereupon artists, critics, curators and cultural theorists gather to discuss contemporary trajectories of curatorial practice in the South Asian context, including the changing role of the curator and innovative shifts in exhibition making as well as Arts programming.

From performing as a ‘caretaker’ of museum collections – the curator, once responsible for store-keeping, taking inventory and taxonomizing has transformed into a hybrid creature acting as a vital fulcrum linking gargantuan artworlds. Contemporary curators are seen playing multiple roles as navigators, composers and story-tellers. Thus, critical curatorship in the present is inherently a polymorphous, ‘hyphenated practice.’ Artist curators, new media curators and curatorial collaborations are some visible resonances that reflect the constellatory nature of current curatorship. With the expansion of the curatorial field, the ‘place’ of the curator is no longer restricted to the museum and the art gallery; it includes the street, public grounds, cultural centres, abandoned sites as well as historical monuments.

Contemporary India has witnessed the rise of an ‘etc. curator’(i) as until very recently art historians, artists, writers and cultural theorists have taken on the role of curating, without formal ‘education’ in the field. The practice of forming discursive spaces for art-viewing, cultivating formats of presentation and display has been carried forward by complex processes of self-learning, negotiating international creative schemas and collaborative interventions. We (in South Asia) seem to be at a crucial turning point as there appears to be a growing commitment towards the development of critical pedagogies which support curatorial concerns that are localized while being simultaneously connected with larger cultural webs.

The conscious efforts toward the professionalization of contemporary curation require shared analysis and community-driven vision. Curators perform significant knowledge-functions in contemporary societies by re-evaluating aesthetic norms, organizing and consolidating social memories as well as addressing social exclusions by marking political fissures and illustrating gaps. While authoring philosophies of inter-connectedness and creative exchange, curators emerging from the non-western world have greatly fostered an inclusiveness that maintains a deep respect for differences – social, cultural and psychological.

This is perhaps an ideal moment to survey the potentialities of curation as live praxis and an assembly of possible pedagogic approaches. Hence, this event proposes to be a thought-mapping exercise charged with a dual gaze that is inward-outward, self-reflexive as well as interpenetrative. We will begin by screening the film ‘Friendly Enemies’ (Dir. Danila Cahen) set against the backdrop of the 9th Istanbul Biennale (2005), the documentary explores art historical archives as well as contemporary creative spheres to chart the vacillating relationship between artist and curator. We invite participants to debate the artist-curator relationship, the artist as curator and pedagogue, as well as the gradual development of curatorial commitments in contemporary India. The second part of the programme will include presentations by young critics and curators, followed by discussions on emergent curatorial trends as well as strategic curation-based interventions led by institutional heads and established cultural theorists.

(i)Ricardo Basbaum. Documenta, I Love Etc.-Artists. The Next Documenta Should Be Curated By An Artist. An E-Flux Project Curated by Jens Hoffman

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