Experimenter Gallery has started off with its seventh edition of the Experimenter Curators’ Hub. The Hub, conceptualized and started by Priyanka and Prateek Raja is a three-day annual program (one of the biggest of its kind) that focuses on developing and sustaining discourse on curatorial practice and exhibition making.
The Hub attempts to do this through critical discussion and learning. Speaking about it, co-organiser Priyanka Raja defines the Hub as a platform for dialogues and discussions.
How would you define Experimenter Curators' Hub?
Experimenter Curators’ Hub is a platform for dialogue in contemporary curatorial practice and brings together some of the foremost minds in curatorship from all over the world to Kolkata every year. Its actually a bit deeper than only the coming together of curators. ECH is a space for intense introspection and learning and encourages exchange of thoughts, ideas and possibilities.
Tell us a bit about how it came to be.
ECH was seeded from the singular focus to learn and know more about curatorial practice in contemporary visual arts. Every year we see a multitude of incredible exhibitions and never pause to revisit them. We started the ECH seven years ago, feeling the need to know more about how these exhibitions came to be and how these were structured. It offered an insight into sharp incisive practices and brought curators and the art viewing community in close proximity to each other. The core objectives of hub remain the same.
Does the hub have any special theme?
The Hub does not have a thematic representation. It is never meant to speak about a particular theme. It invites a very specific group of curators to talk about their own practices. There are possible threads of connection between them that can be drawn, but thematically they are very diverse.
This is in fact one of the objectives of the hub, to bring forth wide ranging and diverse practices to the discussion and think about them deeply. Also this is why this is called a hub and not a seminar or a conference. There is a certain intimateness and close dialogue between the curators and the other participants.
How has the identity of Experimenter Curators' Hub changed over the years?
The Experimenter Curators’ Hub holds at its core, the fundamentals that it was started with. A keen focus to learn, to engage in dialogue and discourse and to enable an environment of possibilities. While keeping these central the hub has expanded in its reach and viewership manifold.
We have actively invested in technology that makes it possible for us to use web-streaming facilities to webcast the ECH live all over the world. Moreover, through the years we have built a robust archive of past conversations that are freely available to access. These become resource for future generations.
What does art mean to the both of you?
Contemporary art is a reflection of society and what we are surrounded by at all times. Artists respond to their environment and this engagement with contemporaneity is what makes it most exciting for us. We are fortunate to be working with artists that hold a mirror to the world and bring forth challenging and often confrontational ideas which make viewers think and possibly open up news points of view.
Do you believe that art as a medium brings people closer? Is the Curators' hub an extension for that?
Art as a medium definitely brings people closer together in more ways than one. Contemporary art can provide common ground of discussion or encourage disparate points of view bringing people to engage in a certain kind of interaction that makes it possible to find a new common ground. So yes in our opinion it does bring people together.
The curators could be viewed as an extension of that, but not always. There are times when people differ and conversations are not fully resolved but it is definitely acts as a starting point for further inquiry which in our opinion is far better than merely accepting what is presented as a finality.
Where would you say, in terms of Art and the Curator, India is, at the present moment?
I think India has some absolutely fantastic curators who are breaking ground across the board. There are curators who have engaged with a particular artist over years even decades and have a deep understanding of their work.
Some curators have done fantastic work in revisiting artists whose practices have been overlooked and have historically re-contextualized their contribution to the world of contemporary art.
Art is at a crucial juncture in India at the moment and critical writing as well as exhibition making is going through a transformative phase. Curators and artists work in a symbiotic relationship and both Indian curators are curating and artists are being constantly shown in globally significant exhibitions.
Experimenter itself is known for its out-of-the-box thinking and exhibitions, what next for the gallery?
We have ambitious plans for the gallery and this year is a crucial one for us. We open our second space in Kolkata, later in the year, in a beautiful building that is almost 100 years old. We continue to focus on our programming at the gallery and are working closely with all our artists to enable their various projects to come to life.
Our artists are breaking through at various stages all over the world with exhibitions and museum shows and its great to know how enthusiastically their work is being received. Our gallery exhibitions promise an exciting and challenging range of exhibitions all through the remainder of the year and the next year. All in all, a lot of significant work is taking place at Experimenter.
Participants at ECH 2017
Barbara Piwowarska: Curator and art historian specialized in the legacy of the avant-garde and in contemporary art.
Hammad Nasar: Curator, writer, and researcher based in London
Olivier Kaeser: Art historian and curator and is currently co-director of Swiss cultural center in Paris with Jean-Paul Felley.
Reem Fadda: Former Associate Curator, Middle Eastern Art for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Project from 2010-2016.
Roobina Karode: Director and Chief Curator at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India.
Ruba Katrib: Curator at SculptureCenter in New York City.
Nada Raza: Research Curator for Tate Research Centre: Asia with a particular focus on South Asian art.
Pedro de Almeida: Program manager at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney.
Moderator, Natasha Ginwala: Curator, researcher, and writer. She was curator of Contour Biennale 8 and curatorial advisor for Documenta 14 (2017).