The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) presents an exhibition titled Critical Constellations, which brings together works and projects of its recent grantees, awarded since 2016 through the annual grants, scholarships and awards. It also includes three renditions of the ‘Reading Room’ – where they invited to artists to conceptualise reading spaces that explore the format of the book, and the relationship between image, speech, and text.
The title Critical Constellations is an ode to the German philosopher and thinker Walter Benjamin, who, throughout his writings, referred to this concept as a poetics of reading and as a working method. The ‘constellation’ is instantaneous, relational figure of epistemological, historico-political and literary objects, defined by the relation of the individual objects to each other and to the viewer; and it can be grasped only instantaneously and only from a specific viewer’s standpoint. The exhibition, while remaining rather open-ended and focusing on the projects and works that the grantees want to present, also returns to the question of the institution that we are making in the process. Using the phrase How Institutions Think from Paul O Neill and Mick Wilson, which they in turn borrow from the anthropologist Mary Douglas, we would like to reflect on this ‘thought collective’ that is produced by an institution like FICA – to ponder over the constellations that are illuminated via the juxtapositions. The works in the exhibition offer an insight into the ongoing enquiries of the artists: on fictionalising the archive for Moonis Ahmad Shah to question its constitution, boundaries and representation; on another kind of archive of the proliferating and disorienting image in a post-truth world, in the case of Sohrab Hura; with the role of art as document and testimony in the graphic storytelling of Malik Sajad; and a conceptually and materially rooted engagement with traditional practices and techniques in the cases of Varunika Saraf and Benitha Perciyal, which offer an imbricated understanding of the past and present.
The exhibition contains documentation from the community-based art projects undertaken to revive the St. Inez Creek in Panjim by Vishal Rawlley; and the setting up of a school museum in dialogue with children in the tribal villages of Kumharapara and Balengapara, Chattisgarh, in the case of Devashish Sharma; as well as a curatorial project by Meenakshi Thirukode which brings together three case studies of small-scale art institutions in Bangalore, Hong Kong, and Istanbul, as working models of alternate infrastructures.
The second part of the exhibition contains three special artists’ projects that engage with Reading Spaces. Given that FICA’s core space is a Reading Room with a collection dedicated to contemporary art publications, we invited three artists to imagine the Reading Room as an artistic proposition.
While Renuka Rajiv and Nilanjana Nandy will create installations to engage with their zines and artists’ books, playing with the physical and conceptual relationship between books and spaces, Vasudha Thozhur will revisit and extend an older project, an installation of eight sets of listening and reading stations from 2007, inviting other practitioners to use the posts to share their projects alongside hers.
Titled Listening Post, with this project Thozhur collaborates with FICA to create a discursive platform for dissemination, as opposed to a stage for the artist/author, through an artwork that gathers different kinds of histories and continually morphs by virtue of the fluidity of its function. The posts will contain contributions which include artists’ books, audio and video pieces, as well as art works that engage with intimate and vital acts of reading, listening, and communication. Raqs Media Collective’s two-channel video projection Strikes at Time will also be part of this project.
1 Feb – 9 February 2019 | Twin Art Gallery, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi