Symposium:16 – 17 December 2018
Old Goa Institute of Management (GIM), Panjim

In collaboration with Zain Masud and Godrej Culture Lab India.


The staggering growth of periodic/permanent, independent, and area-based art interventions, in the form of festivals, biennales, sites and community experiments raises various points of enquiry. We take the site to extend beyond the physical and architectonic environment, to networks of power, the performance of boundaries and belonging, the incursion of capital, and trajectories of difference and diaspora. The site is expanded from a singular physical space to include liminal, suspended places, nomadic lives, and “elsewheres,” evoking the function of memory and narrative in shaping the experience of a place. 

Through a two-day series of panel discussions, we engaged in an exciting conversation around the following questions: What is the relationship between the intervention and its geographic and cultural location––what relations are shared with the selected sites, its ecology, and the histories and anxieties of its contemporary moment? Do these interventions produce meaningful interlocutions in the prevailing urban fabric––what is the mandate, and from where does it emanate? How does the growth of such interventions beyond the metropolises, into spaces of conflict–– active and residual––challenge the dominant “exhibition” complex? Does this proliferation challenge the hegemony of the West in shaping the public discourse on art, or do these reassert institutionalised modes of engagement? Are there affinities and variances in these multi-city iterations––do they share transnational kinship or are autonomous?

Images from the panels at Of Other Places at SAF 2019


Panel Details

DAY ONE | 16 December, 2020

In collaboration with Zain Masud

Session 1 | Notes from the Ground: Art and Emplacement 
Devin Hentz, RAW Material Academy; Amar Kanwar, Filmmaker; Smriti Rajgarhia, Serendipity Arts Foundation.

The first session was devoted to understanding what is implied by “placemaking” and “site” in the art historical discourse of the global South. If “place” is constituted by lived experience, and is constitutive of selfhood, how do people narrate their history and identity through art? Can art projects, situated in sites of conflict, historical struggles, and oppression, grapple with contested histories, migratory pasts, and the contemporaneous regulatory frameworks that shape these sites? What do “grassroots” art projects establish, for the site and the wider region of its location? How do they relate to and transform existing social and economic structures? How do they contend with the phenomenology of residing in simultaneous spatial fields of past(s), present(s), and future(s)?

Session 2 | Rule by Aesthetics: Whose History is it Anyway? 
Katerina Chuchalina, V—A—C Foundation; Ryan Inouye, Sharjah Art Foundation; Jing-Liu, SO-IL, Nathalie Johnston, Myanm/art.

Engaging with global art interventions of varying temporal limits—sporadic, intermittent, permanent—this panel will explore how city-based art and heritage projects, in the form of events in urban commons, art districts, and public art projects, relate to structures of governmentality, socioeconomic stratification, and spatial segmentation. By enquiring into the emergence of “art zones” and “districts”––the panel seeks to address a series of concerns: What is the social location of these “sites”? Are they constituted within or are in relation to the city? Whose history are these sites addressing, and who can access them? How do such projects situate their practice and build legitimacy? Who are the stakeholders involved in these projects? Arts-led interventions open possibilities of diversity in representation and the opportunity of building a discursive public, yet these can be exclusive, marginalising, and non-participatory. The session hopes to engender consideration on the purpose and audience of such sites. 

DAY TWO | 17 December, 2020

Curated by Parmesh Shahani, Godrej India Culture Lab 

Session 3 | Re-imagining Other Indias 
Parmesh Shahani, Godrej India Culture Lab; Nisha Nair Gupta, The People Place Project; Subasri Krishnan, Indian Institute of Human Settlements; Veer Munshi, Artist.

This session is devoted to exploring the evolution and shifts in how the “urban” is defined, perceived, and experienced in India. Amidst the changing social fabric of Indian cities, creative place-making presents new ways of constructing identities and fostering a sense of community and new avenues of “being” are unfolded. Engaging with distinct projects, ranging from a travelling biennale to a film festival that seeks to craft the idea of the city, the session will interrogate the “other” Indias which fall beyond the mainstream. 

Film Screening and Discussion
Himanshu S, Dharavi Art Room 

Closing Remarks 


Amar Kanwar is an artist and filmmaker who lives and works in New Delhi. Recent solo exhibitions have been at the Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai and New York University Art Gallery Abu Dhabi (2020); Museo Nacional Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid, Kiran Nadar Museum, New Delhi, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris (2019); Tate Modern, London, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Photo Katmandu (2018); Marian Goodman Gallery, London, Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden (2017); Goethe Institut Mumbai and NTU CCA Singapore (2016); Assam State Museum, India (2015).  In 2013-14 at the Art Institute of Chicago; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, TBA 21, Vienna and at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2012).  Other solo exhibitions have been at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2008); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2007); National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo (2006) and the Renaissance Society, Chicago (2004). Kanwar has also participated in documenta 11, 12, 13, and 14 in Kassel, Germany (2002, 2007, 2012, 2017). Kanwar has been the recipient of several awards such as the India Today Art Award ( 2018), Prince Claus Award (2017), Annenberg / Creative Time Prize for Art and Social Change (2014), Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, USA (2006), Edvard Munch Award for ContemporaryArt, Norway (2005), Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival, USA (1999), Golden Conch, Mumbai International Film Festival, India (1998). 

Devin Hentz is a researcher, writer, and curator from Memphis, TN. She holds a Bachelors in Art History and Philosophy from Simmons College in Boston, MA. Since completing her degree programmes, she has freelanced as an art worker in New York and London. She has recently completed the Workspace Residency at Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center as a research resident working “on the linguistic implications of second-hand clothing as it stands in African countries”. She’s also been published in the recent issues of Something We Africans Got. Her passions range from contemporary art, fashion theory, dress practices, and political histories to science and technological futures. 

Smriti Rajgarhia is Director of the Serendipity Arts Foundation and the Serendipity Arts Festival. Trained as an architect with a Masters in Design, Smriti began her career in the arts fourteen years ago working with a private archive in New Delhi, where she eventually created a museum space and archive for the collection. During this stint, her interest expanded into bringing art to the public, and contextualising art within the region through arts education and awareness. Smriti has also curated exhibitions on subjects that reflect the history and relevance of archives. From running a bespoke furniture manufacturing unit where she designed furniture, to working with exhibition space design, Art and Design are two spaces that Smriti is keen to continue working with, and often explores design through print media as well. Currently, she is leading the Foundation and working on the Serendipity Arts Festival to bring her passion for Art and Design to the forefront by creating unique opportunities for creative individuals. With these two platforms, she endeavours to explore newer forms of representation and re-contextualise the kind of programming institutions need to engage with to widen the demographic of the audience for the Arts in India. Her personal interest also lies in adapting urban spaces to presentation of the arts, reclaiming the urban and questioning the impact of art and cultural interventions for a city/state/country.

Katerina Chuchalina has been chief curator of V–A–C Foundation since 2011. She conceived and curated a longterm cycle of nomadic solo artistic interventions by at non-art institutions in Moscow: the Museum of the Armed Forces, the Museum of Modern History, the Institute for African Studies, GULAG Museum, etc. She is the co-founder and member of the Centre for Experimental Museology (CEM), which draws on the innovations of Soviet avant-garde museology and the history of experimental exhibition design. Katerina Chuchalina is part of the Artistic Team for Manifesta 13 in Marseille (2020).

Jing Liu has been practicing for more than 15 years working on a wide range of projects both in the US and abroad. Her projects range from artistic collaborations with contemporary choreographers and visual artists to master plan and major public realm design in cities like Melbourne and Indianapolis. 

Ryan Inouye is associate curator of Sharjah Biennial 12. From 2010 – 2013, he worked as assistant curator and curatorial assistant at the New Museum, New York, where he focused on the 2012 New Museum Triennial, The Ungovernables, and the Museum as Hub initiative.

Active in Myanmar since 2009, Nathalie Johnston is a curator and researcher currently living in Yangon where she has been involved in numerous independent projects and initiatives. In 2016, she founded Myanm/art, an exhibition space, gallery, and reading room dedicated to promoting contemporary art in Myanmar by developing collaborations and showcasing artists’ works to local and international audiences. In 2013, she co-founded Myanmar Art Resource Center and Archive (MARCA), an archive and resource centre that aims to become the largest bilingual digital resource on the history and current state of the arts in Myanmar. Johnston is also the director of the art initiative TS1 Yangon and co-founder of Pyinsa Rasa art collective.

Parmesh Shahani heads the Godrej India Culture Lab, an experimental space that cross pollinates ideas and people to explore what it means to be modern and Indian. He is a Yale World Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and regularly speaks about Indian cultural shifts at conferences all over the world. His book, Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)Longing in Contemporary India (New Delhi, London, Los Angeles, Singapore: Sage Publications) was released in April 2008. 

Veer Munshi has addressed a range of subjects in the course of an artistic career that spans 17 years and has been conducted in several cities, including Baroda, Srinagar, Bombay and New Delhi. But exile remains his most fundamental condition and preoccupation. Munshi has essayed variations on the self-portrait; he has explored the possibility of revitalising the genre of portraiture by means of playful, irreverent allusiveness. He has curated the Srinagar Biennale.

Subasri Krishnan has been a filmmaker for more than a decade. She also heads the Media Lab of the Indian Institute for Human Settlement (IIHS). Her documentary films deal with contemporary politics. Her first documentary film ‘Brave New Medium’ on internet censorship in South-­‐East Asia, has been screened at film festivals, both nationally and internationally. The award-winning ‘This or That Particular Person’ looks at the idea of official identity documents and in that context, the Unique Identity number.

Nisha Nair-Gupta is the Principal Architect at Design [Variable]. With varied work experience as an architect, journalist and an active participant in the public art initiatives, she oscillates between her two interests of design and writing having spearheaded the first publication and curatorial project People Called Mumbai.

Himanshu S: with me partner Aqui and consistent support from friends, runs ‘Bombay Underground’ and ‘Dharavi Art Room’. Although trained as a painter, me has mostly worked in public spaces and participatory community projects. Me is at ease with kids, and vice-versa. Me also indulges in self-publishing, and interventions in public and private spaces. ‘Gulabjamuns’ are my weakness. As Bombay Underground, we run reading spaces, libraries, indulge in self-publishing, and interventions in public and private spaces as well as participatory community projects. As Dharavi Art Room: we utilize the medium of art to empower children and women of marginalized communities. We believe that exploring, expressing and exchanging ideas through art creates confidence and stimulates personal growth. Art Room promotes a unique and fun community participatory approach which enables the community to take control over their lives. Through workshops, exhibitions and story-telling, ART ROOM creates self-sustained community centres in marginalized neighbourhoods to explore life through art. Over the past twenty years we have reached more than 6,000 kids and partnered with more than 30 organizations and institutions.

Common Ground II: Parallel Migrations


12th September, 2019
British Council, New Delhi


An assessment of contemporary media and lens-based culture will highlight some remarkable features: a strong emergent affinity among all disciplines of study and an evolving cross-pollination and fertilisation of concepts, aesthetics and outcomes through overlapping critical frameworks. How do we absorb and impart these relationships within and outside the academy, and does practice often precede pedagogy?

“Parallel Migrations” bought together art makers, performers, curators, activists and independent publishers, who analyse how arts and media practices offer themselves in multiple formats and along multiple axes that enable aesthetic juxtapositions, interpretations and transfers, exploring possibilities for convergences in the future. This day-long seminar seeked to unearth means of ‘collaboration’ through which new modes of inquiry can be discovered; and socio-political challenges collectively confronted. At a time when mobility and expression within the region is being heavily monitored and controlled, these interactions present how innovative representational strategies are being deployed, which in time, could further consolidate our alliances.

Some of the questions that may be addressed through the three panels and artists’ presentations are: which new sites of exchange do our individual practices open up and how do we continue to bridge our visual fields? Are there quantifiable ways in which the humanities can declare the social impact it has made as all disciplines carry their own codes, categories and genealogies? As panel organisers we also thought about whether practices, when aesthetically deployed, alter parameters of engagement over time. In doing so, do some fundamental aspects remain constant while others become more provisional? Does that process lead to their revision or replacement

Presenting reputed specialists in their field from South Asia, this seminar was also envisioned to question whether arts and documentary practices are generalised, essentialised and ideological spaces (alone) that organise and contain the subject? Rather, the subject – the works we choose to reflect on, embody and circulate – is released into view through stylistic means, based upon acknowledging the contingent, the dispersed and the indeterminate.Provoking us to think about a new visual culture that requires new kinds of associations, the talks are meant to offer an open-ended inquiry into the challenges of image-based knowledge production, and how it can be (or is being) radically redefined.


Session I – Interrogating ‘Place’ in Practice
Bringing together an art historian, filmmaker and independent publisher, the panel deliberates on how ‘location’ as a variable in practice continues to undergo interrogation – highlighting how their individual means of expression engages with activism, often deployed through creative strategies and community imperatives, that takes into consideration, a specific regional politics in South Asia. Through their presentations, we may think about how to further foster vibrant dialogues, absorb and interact in new locations by re-considering notions of otherness, exile and migration. Perhaps then, our primary sense of belonging or affiliation can be rooted to subject matter rather than the place of origin.
Moderator – Gayatri Sinha
Panelists – Nancy Adajania, Dechen Roder, Kanak Mani Dixit

Artist Presentation
Ayisha Abraham

The Firefly Filled Night Goes by Like That (2016), Ayisha’s most recent self- published book is both a document of a site-specific project undertaken in the spring of 1999. Taking place in the vacant house of her maternal grandmother situated in the cantonment of Bangalore, the project consisted of a range of activities – art-making, exhibiting, performing, conversing, teaching and socialising – that transformed the house for one month prior to its demolition. For Ayisha – history, memory and the archive, come together through a process that began in 1991 with four photographs and a letter from her grandmother.

Session II – Configurations of the Self
What does it mean to question and re-make oneself in the face of continual oppression and discrimination? How does the creative exploration, construction and assertion of the ‘self’ act as a form of agency in these scenarios? What is the potential shift in power when one locates oneself, makes an image of oneself, performs, embodies and re-invents oneself? Could a deeper engagement with the psyche, within the frame of the psychosocial and psychotherapeutic, offer us a useful lexicon with which to open up and examine the notion of the self? The panel attempts to understand a broader, more holistic understanding of contemporary art by engaging with other disciplines to expand and unpack what it can be and do.
Moderator – Jyoti Dhar
Panelists – Sharareh Bajracharya, Priya Sen, Venuri Perera

Session III – Political Dimensions of (Arts) Practices
How do documentary and performance images of lived experiences explore the intellectual, cultural and technical transformation of each era, especially in the digital age when it can be swiftly used to counter state propaganda and censorship? Beyond the crucial questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ certain content is being imparted, this panel is an assimilation of positions around how to deploy a political statement through one’s creative practice, and thereby extendedly question, what is the unique character of ‘South Asian’ in our diverging and converging practices taking into account the subcontinent’s particular histories? How do these ‘positions’ help us interrogate national, cultural or even personal histories
Moderator – Shohini Ghosh
Panelists – Ashmina Ranjit, Sudhanva Deshpande, Shahidul Alam

Curator Presentation
Tanzim Wahab

While South Asian art often defines ‘place-responsiveness’ between the binary of rootedness and hybridity, is there a new reality we need to consider in order to think beyond the binary? Artists and cultural practitioners are often imagining a cross-regional solidarity during a time of growing nationalism in vernacular landscapes and political rhetoric. How do we redefine a place beyond national identity when a regional problem becomes the shared concern of South Asian vernaculars? Furthermore, with the advent of new cultural institutions, biennales, international exchanges and art tourism, how do we (re)explore regional.