Fifteen young curators on mentoring art students for the Students Biennale 2016 and their expectations
Four years ago, when the Kochi-Muziris Biennale was launched, it was almost akin to manna for the contemporary art scene. Then the Biennale Foundation expanded its vision, by introducing the Students Biennale in 2014—showcasing a selection of the best works produced in Indian art colleges and creating a platform for art students from 37 government art schools. The next edition, in 2016, will be bigger as students from 50 art schools from around the country are expected to participate. Fifteen youngsters from various arts backgrounds have been selected (by a jury consisting of Bose Krishnamachari, Riyas Komu, Meena Vari and Vidya Shivdas) to serve as curators and researchers. “This year’s Students Biennale will prove to be a model art outreach programme at the pan-India level. Our expectations out of this initiative is to imbibe confidence in art students and to see art that is sure to be diverse, as it is produced by students from different backgrounds from all corners of our country,” explains Komu. We speak with five young curators on their work and why such an initiative is important.
Faiza Hasan loves to work with embroidered watercolours and fabrics of domestic use that are frequently and stereotypically associated with women—in order to talk about misogynistic violence. This Hyderabad-based artist—who graduated (with a gold medal) from Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University—was one of the curators at the 2014 Student’s Biennale and worked with students affected by cyclone Hudhud. “I learnt then that no matter what preconceived ideas you may have, when you start working with students, you will inevitably end up discovering new and amazing things,” explains the 26-year-old, adding that besides organising workshops she hopes to work with government funded art schools in Hyderabad to gain an understanding of the art pedagogy.
As deputy curator at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, Shruti Ramlingaiah believes that archiving and documenting art is equally important to making art—in fact, it is an art in itself. “Without a shot at the Biennale I would never have experienced the impressive video art of Adrian Paci or the life size paintings of N S Harsha. It is essential that students of art are exposed to and inspired to produce art among these masterpieces,” says Ramlingaiah, whose first inspiration for art was her mother’s careful arrangement of things at her household. With an advanced degree in museology under her belt, Ramlingaiah is looking forward to the Students Biennale curatorship as a self development exercise for her own stint as curator.
A full time architect with expertise in placing art in the public realm, Naveen Mahantesh believes one can easily sense societal changes by studying art. “Art is not entirely about recognition, and student artists should not be disheartened or feel judged if they are not able to be part of the Biennale,” says Mahantesh, who once organised an art exhibition on the 12-foot pavement of Bengaluru’s Golf Course Road. The Pratt Institute alumni also believes that mentoring students of art is complicated and that he was personally moved by the works of art students from Kashmir, who, in the last Biennale, had the resolve to produce art even after losing all their belonging to the 2014 Kashmir floods.
This curator, with a degree in visual arts, believes it is essential for emerging artists to share space with accomplished artists, observe them closely and understand their aspirations and sources, to understand art practices better. He is looking forward to having a thorough engagement with students and institutions as a curator. “In 2012, I co-curated an exhibition that focussed on indigenous and folk art practices from across the country. Curation was also a component of my MA programme (at Ambedkar University), where I had to curate our students’ exhibitions,” states the 35-year old.
Text: Anoop Menon & P Peter