Specialisation Studies / Anuj Daga

Living in a Metaphor - Curatorial and Exhibitory Practices

Unlike the earlier cycles of this course where students begin to come up with exhibition ideas from the second week, this year, we experimented with inviting pitches for exhibition-ideas right from the first week. The student cohort of twelve decided to curate a single exhibition around the drawings produced over the last decade at the School of Environment and Architecture. Drawing being one of the key critical and conceptual tools of thinking architecture at the school, the subject gave them an opportunity to
  1. Build an archive of drawings
  2. Categorize and develop an exhibition strategy
  3. Think of space and drawing-exhibition together

Through the course, we visited studios of several artists in the neighbourhood to understand their space and methods of working, which may work into the politics of viewing artworks in which they are eventually exhibited. The artists included Pratap Morey and Teja Gavankar. In addition, the students interacted with Arts Manager and Programmer Ketaki Verma who believes in furthering the mandate of existing arts organizations to facilitate their relationship with the arts and mediating collaborative exhibitions. She opened up the idea of Exhibition as a Laboratory through four questions
  • WHAT does an exhibition offer, what shape does it take and what meanings does it mould in given the contexts of its past and future.
  • HOW does it come to life, how does it operate and produce encounters, and how it grows?
  • WHO are the people making it?
  • WHOM is it intended for.

Several temporal dimensions of experiencing exhibitions and their lives came up in our interactions with Ketaki Verma. For one, she opened up how the audience of an exhibition is not always present in the same moment of it being exhibited. Afterlives of exhibition may produce its own audience over time when it may gain social and political currency. Using the metaphor of the Russian Dolls, Verma suggested that certain exhibitions are layered, and they reveal to us differently at different durations. Which layer do we inhabit/interact with, when encountering the exhibition in a given time? Further, how can curation layer exhibitory material that may unfold in time? It is here the Ketaki articulated how curatorship is a lot of hard work - a practice that must be nurtured.
Other questions that were opened are ways of reducing or minimizing the boundaries between exhibiting and art making. How do we make connections between things, and have the foresight for its reception?
Soaking through these discussions, the Exhibition ‘A Drawing is Worth a Thousand Words’ was spread over the public spine of SEA on the first floor. It leaked out from the AV room into the passages, staircase and meeting rooms with an intent to pull in the audience that visited the school during the admission period. The exhibition thus served as a window into the culture of drawing and thinking at the school for prospective students. The material including reproduced prints, models and postcards were structured under five sections of Ethnography, Ontography, Morphography, Sensoriography, Topography where ‘graphy’ hinted at the act of visual writing while others argued the form it took. Each drawing was annotated rigorously that elaborated upon the arguments of curatorial endevour.
The work has been archived on the course website here.