Common Ground : Location and Memory in Arts Practices


28th SEPTEMBER 2018
Goethe – Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai


As a run up event of the Serendipity Arts Festival (December 15 – December 22, 2018), the symposium “Common Ground: Location and Memory in Arts Practices”, aimed at generating ideas and debate around the place and alternating significance of interplaying and interrelated visual cultures in our present which have led to differing sensibilities about high and low, imitative, innovative and reproductive forms of representation.

The last decade has witnessed an excavation of myriad subcultures and contrasting languages of visual engagement in liberal arts practices. Given this diversity, we explored how one might envision an alternative future for – or a rethinking around arts practices and their institutional mandates with the inclusion of these ‘little’ histories and revisited ‘traditional’ practices, that often are elided with technological change and cultural shifts. The focus was to be with an eye to all interrelated arts practices, seeking a fruitful, if not critical exchange around local and global contexts that has also been the focus of pedagogical engagements in the present.

Sessions was co-chaired by Dr. Annapurna Garimella and Rahaab Allana


Session I – Counting the Contemporary
Practices within the field of visual art, which include the moving image, have restructured the field ever since the overwhelming expansion of media practices through the digital revolution. The session is a way of asking specific media practitioners and pedagogues to discuss the ways in which they create terms of reference for the vernacular, for marginalised practices and histories and how they have changed research and teaching practices and study. Does our field of enquiry need to be further broadened? Can expanding social histories be part of this transition in media and if so, how?
Moderator – Rahaab Allana
Panelists – Dr. Annapurna Garimella, Anusha Yadav, Abhishek Hazra

Artist Presentation
Karan Shrestha

Session II – Crosscurrents
Visual arts practices have always been concurrent with the written word as well as other inter-media forms. In the visual arts, the move towards archives and collections, the development of social media platforms, the need to use experimental formats and found material all create ways in which the ‘local’ has been articulated and framed. At the same time, writing and exhibitionary forms too have expanded through works in translation, through a focus on new practices and how they enter various fields of curation. The session then speaks to practitioners across arts fields to think about ways in which they have created shifts in practice by reference to elided, fading forms of representation. Can interdisciplinary mandates change how these practices are viewed?
Moderator – Dr. Sabeena Gadihoke
Panelists – Diwas Raja, Dr. Kaiwan Mehta, Abhay Sardesai

Session III – Art and the Everyday
Personal narratives and the documentation of daily life remains a focus in many teaching courses, as ‘little’ histories have become characteristic of photo work in the past five decades. Most recently, the steady growth of popular viewing cultures and the infinite expansion of digital simulacra in all areas of life continue to saturate our eyes and minds via mass replication, manipulation and distribution. All these practices and outputs find place in pedagogical syllabi, as well as in exhibitionary modes through events at cultural institutes, through workshops and seminars, and via international biennales. Are these directions satisfactory enough for arts fields to become more inclusive; and how have the concepts of personal history and domesticity been transformed by them?
Moderator – Ram Rahman
Panelists – Sukanya Ghosh, Hanif Kureshi, Girish Shahane

Session IV – Reframed Futures
The linked issues of location, geography, and cultural specificity that so powerfully influence the grammar of image-making today are at the core of a fraught debate about image hierarchies and the historical privileging of certain visual typologies. ‘Location’ as a key variable in practice is heavily problematised as we negotiate spaces in which art can be harboured. Regional and community imperatives in current image discourses, therefore need attention. How have these played out in terms of museums, archaeological sites, galleries, and other festivals in the postcolonial South – examples of which can be contemporary or historical?
Moderator – Dr. Savia Viegas
Panelists – Naman P. Ahuja, Riyas Komu, Massoud Hossaini

Artist Presentation
Mohan S. Rao