Curators from Delhi, Beijing and New York will convene in Kolkata this weekend—not for a mammoth art exhibition, but for a two-day intensive session on the future of curation in India.
Hosted by Gallery Experimenter, the Young Curators’ Hub is a platform where 10 of the most promising curators (below the age of 45) with a focus on contemporary South-Asian Art and an internationally acclaimed Swiss curator, Nadia Schneider Willen, will come together to discuss, debate and present their ideas on curating exhibitions in today’s context.
Through the inclusion of Willen, who was a member of the jury for the Turner Prize 2011, Prateek and Priyanka Raja, directors of Experimenter, are hoping to secure and take forward the exchange of views and possibilities of collaborations with young Indian curators.
Swiss curator Nadia Schneider Willen, a member of the Turner Prize 2011 jury, will be participating in the Young Curators’ Hub.
For Prateek, curatorial practice is one of the most important stepping stones to a well-developed contemporary art scene in the country, which makes events such as this crucial at this juncture. The curators will make 30-minute presentations of their recent practice and conceptual frameworks. These will then be open to discussion.
The Young Curators’ Hub is the latest in a fast-expanding list of interventions in the field of curation over the last couple of years. The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (Fica) and the School of Arts and Aesthetics (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in New Delhi have held several workshops and seminars themed on curation in 2010, as has the Khoj International Artists’ Association. Delhi-based Vidya Shivadas, one of the invited curators and the director of Fica, says, “As the number of curators and the scale of the projects they’re handling in India is going up, there’s definitely been a ramp up in the discourse on the subject.” Shivadas says she is looking forward to the Hub because of its intimate and participatory format.
We spoke to Willen about her expectations from the Hub and her thoughts on the scope for young curators in India. Edited excerpts from an email exchange:
What is your primary agenda for this intensive two-day hub?
The global art world is a very competitive one, where people (artists, curators…) often work in a quite isolated way. Personally, I think that one can achieve much more if you think together and share your ideas. I consider dialogue and exchange as absolutely central to create a network, to cultivate and to widen it. Especially in a situation that is still “under construction” (like in India), dialogue between interested parties is the basis of a successful future.
Also, as a curator I often feel quite bound to the contexts I’m working in (institutions, competitions, etc.). I’m looking forward to talk to people who have a different cultural background, different education, and who work in different contexts, to open my perspective on curating again.
What are your own interests as a curator? What do you consider the most crucial aspect of curatorship and how do you think young Indian curators are faring in that area?
That could be quite a long answer…as the range of my interests in art is very wide. What I think is crucial in my curatorial practice is to put the artist and the artwork in the centre of my interest. I dare to say it in a polemic way: I’m more interested in what artists have to say than in what curators have to say! For me, a good curator is a facilitator who supports the artist’s idea, who is a dialogue partner (perhaps also a sparring partner) for the artist, who helps to realize and concretize the work.
I also like to see my attitude as a curator as a friendly but demanding host: You try to make the artist and/or the visitor feel as comfortable as possible, but you also lay down the rules for how to act (in the space).
What do you think about the scope of avenues for training and development for curatorial aspirants in India?
To be honest, this is my first time in India. I was invited to the hub not because I know the situation in India very well but to be a dialogue partner coming from outside and bringing in other perspectives. So I will not be able to answer this question very well. What I can say is that I’m very keen on learning what the important issues in India are, what kind of training options you have here as a future curator, how curators define themselves, in which contexts they work, what their goal is…
If you had a chance to attend, what did you think of the Ranjit Hoskote-curated inaugural India pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year?
I have to admit that I rushed through… but I definitely noticed the new presence of India and appreciated the spectacular video-installation set within the elevator (by Kerala-born artist Gigi Scaria).
Indian curators are yet to establish themselves internationally. Do you agree? When do you foresee, for instance, a curator from India on the Turner Prize jury?
In what concerns the Turner Prize jury: It’s actually all a question of network. If curators are part of an international network—which means doing collaborations with institutions outside of India, guest-curating in art spaces with an international reputation, being part of curator-networks like IKT, etc.—there is no reason why there shouldn’t be an Indian member in the Turner Prize jury. Well, one reason that makes it difficult to have people from outside Europe in the jury is a very practical one: The artists are nominated for a specific show, which means that during one year the jury members have to travel a lot (unfortunately on their own budget) to see exhibitions of UK artists… which mostly take place in the UK.
The Young Curators’ Hub will take place at Gallery Experimenter, Kolkata, on 15-16 July. Prior registration is required to attend this event. Visit www.experimenter.in for more information.