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What to expect at The Experimenter Curator’s Hub this year, featuring 10 big names from around the world

What started out as a platform for artistic discourse three years ago has evolved to be one of the most significant and critical engagements in the Indian art scene today. The Experimenter Gallery Kolkata plays host to the third edition of the Experimenter Curator’s Hub, which brings together 10 curators from across the world over a two day retreat. The idea is to explore the theoretical aspects of curating as well as the challenges and concerns involved. The participants are Adam Szymczyk, Alexander Koch, Eungie Joo, Grant Watson, Pooja Sood, Ranjit Hoskote, Riyas Komu, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Yuko Hasegawa and Magdalena Ziolkowska. “That need to know more about how curators think when they make this complex, sometimes intuitive, highly conceptual and at other times, rather banal decisions, is what fuelled the creation of the curators’ hub,” explains Prateek Raja, co-founder and director of  Experimenter. The broad focus this year is on collaborative curatorial practice, and three curators tell us what to expect.
The Experimenter Curators’ Hub (ECH) will take place at the Experimenter Gallery, Kolkata today and tomorrow. Details: experimenter.in/web

Rules of curation
 Never underestimate the intelligence, knowledge and intuition of the people.
 Try to push your exhibition to a point were you lose rational control over it. There is a chance your intuition will navigate you to do things that expand your imagination and that of your spectators.

alexander-kochAlexander Koch
The founder director of KOW in Berlin, Koch’s first ever tryst with art began at 14 when he discovered Classic Modernism and decided to study visual art. His work focussed on organising talks and debates on how society impacts cultural production and art. Currently, Koch works with citizens and institutions in Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa to help nurture their country’s relevance in contemporary art. For Koch, the discourse on curation is still hazy. “I think we are in the midst of developing and understanding curatorial powers and responsibilities, potentials and instruments, and in a few years, we should get more pragmatic about it,” he says.
Finding contemporary art: Be aware that there is not one art world – there are many. Watch out for differences instead of common sense. Consider both: the big dots on the map, like Tate Modern in London, and the small dots wherever you can find them.
An emerging Biennale one should not miss: I am curious about what the Athens Biennial might become now.

Riyas_komuRiyas Komu
With a deep dedication to bringing social responsibility to his canvas, Kerala-based artist Riyas Komu caught the media eye when he was entrusted with the tough task of curating India’s first ever Biennale in Kochi.“I think what India needs most is an active state patronage, art education and infrastructure,” he says, adding dishearteningly, “there is nothing earmarked for the arts in the budget this year.” At the Hub, Komu plans on presenting a lighter topic – football. A visit to South Africa for the last World Cup led him to meet football writer Simon Cooper and curate a series of films on the sport for the IFFI film festival. “So football and my experience curating the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is on the agenda,” he shares.

An unusually curated show: The Istanbul Biennale 2013, which had to change its curatorial stance amid widespread protests. Entitled Mom, Am I Barbarian? and curated by Fulya Erdemci, the biennale addresses much of the dissatisfaction with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian regime.

Finding contemporary art: Moma, New York; Tate Modern, Serpentine, Whitechapel, Barbicon in London; The Samsung Museum in Seoul; The Qatar Museum of Islamic Art; Schaulager Museum and Foundation Beyeler Museum in Basel; Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg; and Salar Jung Museum Hyderabad.

An emerging Biennale one should not miss: Without sounding immodest, Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, which is being curated by Jitish Kallat.

Rules of curation
The first rule is that there is no rule. What made the first biennale in India, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, is the fact that it was prone to chance. We were thinking ‘360 degrees’, giving room to those young artists who don’t care about art history.

RH-Portrait-by-Nancy-AdajanRanjit Hoskote
From artist to critic to curator and even poet, Mumbai’s Ranjit Hoskote holds a formidable reputation among art circles. To “show rather than tell,” his focus early on turned from text to exhibits to trace the evolution of contemporary Indian art. Hoskote offers a fair warning to those oversimplifying the role of a curator, “The practice cannot be reduced to a simple matter of snatching at trends or rearranging the objects already sanctified within an official or dominant discourse about art-making.” The Hub will see him talking about his engagement with the biennial as a form, and his work as co-curator of the seventh Gwangju Biennale and the first stand-alone India pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He shares that the Indian identity is still rooted in the 19th century conception of the national self. “What we need is not identity, but receptive and responsive institutions, which can reach out to engage with and present developments within contemporary art,” he concludes.

Finding contemporary art
Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsruhe; Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin; Haus der Kunst, Munich; the Wuerttembergische Kunstverein, Stuttgart.

Divya Karthikeyan
Pics courtesy Experimenter
Rules of curation
 Never underestimate the intelligence, knowledge and intuition of the people.
 Try to push your exhibition to a point were you lose rational control over it. There is a chance your intuition will navigate you to do things that expand your imagination and that of your spectators.

Alexander Koch
The founder director of KOW in Berlin, Koch’s first ever tryst with art began at 14 when he discovered Classic Modernism and decided to study visual art. His work focussed on organising talks and debates on how society impacts cultural production and art. Currently, Koch works with citizens and institutions in Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa to help nurture their country’s relevance in contemporary art. For Koch, the discourse on curation is still hazy. “I think we are in the midst of developing and understanding curatorial powers and responsibilities, potentials and instruments, and in a few years, we should get more pragmatic about it,” he says.
Finding contemporary art: Be aware that there is not one art world – there are many. Watch out for differences instead of common sense. Consider both: the big dots on the map, like Tate Modern in London, and the small dots wherever you can find them.
An emerging Biennale one should not miss: I am curious about what the Athens Biennial might become now.

Riyas Komu
With a deep dedication to bringing social responsibility to his canvas, Kerala-based artist Riyas Komu caught the media eye when he was entrusted with the tough task of curating India’s first ever Biennale in Kochi.“I think what India needs most is an active state patronage, art education and infrastructure,” he says, adding dishearteningly, “there is nothing earmarked for the arts in the budget this year.” At the Hub, Komu plans on presenting a lighter topic – football. A visit to South Africa for the last World Cup led him to meet football writer Simon Cooper and curate a series of films on the sport for the IFFI film festival. “So football and my experience curating the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is on the agenda,” he shares.
An unusually curated show: The Istanbul Biennale 2013, which had to change its curatorial stance amid widespread protests. Entitled Mom, Am I Barbarian? and curated by Fulya Erdemci, the biennale addresses much of the dissatisfaction with prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian regime.
Finding contemporary art: Moma, New York; Tate Modern, Serpentine, Whitechapel, Barbicon in London; The Samsung Museum in Seoul; The Qatar Museum of Islamic Art; Schaulager Museum and Foundation Beyeler Museum in Basel; Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg; and Salar Jung Museum Hyderabad.
An emerging Biennale one should not miss: Without sounding immodest, Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, which is being curated by Jitish Kallat.

Ranjit Hoskote
From artist to critic to curator and even poet, Mumbai’s Ranjit Hoskote holds a formidable reputation among art circles.  To “show rather than tell,” his focus early on turned from text to exhibits to trace the evolution of contemporary Indian art. Hoskote offers a fair warning to those oversimplifying the role of a curator, “The practice cannot be reduced to a simple matter of snatching at trends or rearranging the objects already sanctified within an official or dominant discourse about art-making.” The Hub will see him talking about his engagement with the biennial as a form, and his work as co-curator of the seventh Gwangju Biennale and the first stand-alone India pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He shares that the Indian identity is still rooted in the 19th century conception of the national self. “What we need is not identity, but receptive and responsive institutions, which can reach out to engage with and present developments within contemporary art,” he concludes.

Divya Karthikeyan

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