INSERT2014: Re-imagining Delhi as a cultural space

The inaugural edition of INSERT2014 explores new ideas in exhibition-making and rethinks Delhi’s cultural landscape.

“INSERT2014: The Sharp Edge of the Global Contemporary” is a series of events and exhibitions taking place in New Delhi from 17 January to 28 February 2014. Curated by Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective, the event rethinks the use of galleries and the infrastructure of the city.

Mai-Thu Perret, 'Balthazar', 2012, rattan and wood, 164 x 177 x 56 cm. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

Mai-Thu Perret, ‘Balthazar’, 2012, rattan and wood, 164 x 177 x 56 cm. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

INSERT2014, a collateral event of the India Art Fair 2014, sets out to change New Delhi’s art scene. Co-organised by Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation and Artinsights, the event consists of exhibitions, talks, site-specific installations, screenings, and proposals to re-purpose sites and buildings already present in Delhi for creative and cultural endeavours. The events take place at two venues: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).

The main focus of INSERT2014 is a month-long exhibition at Mati Ghar, IGNCA, featuring works by over 30 national and international artists, including:

Azad Shivdasani, Chairman of the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, explained the motivation behind the inaugural event in the INSERT2014 publication, released on 31 January 2014.

The obvious goal of the exhibition was to catalyse a dynamic interplay between different protagonists: emerging, mid-career and established artists, the international art crowd, the city of Delhi, the Indian cultural community. […] Could INSERT explore the role of the artist as interpreter and not only as creator of aesthetic pleasures?

As stated on the website, the event is a “constellation of conversations with leading thinkers around the world and across disciplines.” INSERT2014 seeks to employ contemporary art to explore political and social issues in India and beyond, and make people think and question things that are often taken for granted. INSERT2014 also hopes to put India on the global contemporary art map.

Mati Ghar, IGNCA. Photo by Kriti Bajaj.

Mati Ghar, IGNCA. Photo by Kriti Bajaj.

Site and space: using the gallery

Ashley Sands, Director of the HUB Foundation for Contemporary Art and Culture in London and Associate Director of INSERT2014 was quoted in The Art Newspaper as saying:

We want the inaugural INSERT programme to launch a new model for exhibition-making, with the potential for a roving, large-scale blueprint that can then be used in different international destinations.

The exhibition at the art space Mati Ghar is an example of diversifying art practice, comprising multimedia artworks and site-specific installations within the spatial context of the uniquely designed gallery. Mati Ghar was built in 1990 and its design was intended to represent contested perceptions of time: on the outside, it is earthen and looks stupa-like, and the inside consists of two levels, three concentric circles and 24 apertures. Through this exhibition, Raqs Media Collective is trying to re-imagine Mati Ghar as a venue for contemporary art.

Ivana Franke, 'In the Faraway Past and Future'

Ivana Franke, ‘In the Faraway Past and Future’. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

The participating artists have engaged with the gallery space in a variety of ways. Berlin-based Ivana Franke (b. 1973, Zagreb) creates installations that often play with spatial and visual phenomena. In her project In the Faraway Past and Future, the artist infuses the dome of the gallery with a matrix of illuminated wires, mimicking a celestial experience such as stargazing.

Tomás Saraceno’s (b. 1973, Argentina) Cosmic Filaments has spiders spinning a web within a dark enclosure in the gallery. In an interview with ARTINFO, Saraceno says that he plays on the metaphor that scientists have used to compare the universe to three-dimensional spider webs, as well as:

… how we are affected by things we might not perceive or are unable to be conscious of […] like the spider web that, on the one hand, is an everyday thing present in the corners of our homes, but on the other hand, is completely unknown.

Tomás Saraceno, 'Cosmic Filaments'. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

Tomás Saraceno, ‘Cosmic Filaments’. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

Prabhakar Pachpute of Clark House Initiative (India), in his work Wanted/Unwanted Move, uses wet clay to create cracks and layers in the wall of the gallery space, and draws over these. According to the INSERT2014 publication, the work represents the “untold history of coalminers who tunnel beneath the surface of his village Sasti, in Chandrapur.”

Also the Real Thing, a room installation by Swiss theatre director Boris Nikitin and Indian theatre director Zuleikha Chaudhari, moves beyond Mati Ghar to the auditorium and library at IGNCA. In the auditorium, the work takes the form of a site-specific performance, with six actors auditioning in front of an audience and narrating their stories. The audition is simultaneously ‘real’ and ‘staged’, blurring reality and identity. The part of the project in the library, according to the brochure, is a book-and-sound installation that “considers the performativity of the place itself and of the act of reading as similar to the performative experience.”

Artists as generators of ideas

Shuddhabrata Sengupta of Raqs Media Collective told TimeOut Delhi that INSERT2014 was an attempt to see the artist,

as a generator of ideas, not as an illustrator, who through his/her curiosity is able to pull together questions that otherwise would not have been asked.

The participating artists all take up the challenge, addressing international and globally relevant political and social issues.

Gauri Gill’s 1984 is a set of booklets that visitors are free to take away with them. Through photographs and text, the booklet addresses the violent events of November 1984 in India – when mobs attacked the Sikh community in retaliation to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards – which still remain shrouded in silence. Gill believes in the importance of breaking this silence, even through personal interpretations or partial understanding, because,

a world without individual stories, personal interpretations, opinions, secrets and photographs is, indeed, 1984 in the Orwellian sense.

Harun Farocki, 'Serious Games I-IV' (exhibition view), 2009-2010, video installations. Photo by Kriti Bajaj.

Harun Farocki, ‘Serious Games I-IV’ (exhibition view), 2009-2010, video installations. Photo by Kriti Bajaj.

German filmmaker Harun Farocki’s Serious Games I-IV is a series of four video installations looking at video games within the context of the military, where they originated, to examine links between technology, politics and violence. The project Last Minute Exercise by Hannah Hurtzig and Mobile Academy Berlin, to be held on 15 February 2014, is a “discursive installation” that will conduct conversations and debate around the topic of death.

The Incidental Insurgents: The Part about the Bandits by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme is presented in the form of an incomplete narrative, the “not yet material”, and is laid out as such: papers strewn across tables and on the floor; photographs and text tacked on the wall; a work-table with research materials and a computer. The artists seek to explore connections between the ‘bandit’ figure in three separate incidents and narratives, in a convoluted but constantly evolving story and the “search of a language for the moment.”

Yao Jui-Chung and Lost Society Document, Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

Yao Jui-Chung and Lost Society Document, “Mirage: Disused Public Property in Taiwan”. Image courtesy INSERT2014.

Re-purposing infrastructure in cities

The changes in cityscapes and buildings are another focus of INSERT2014. Icarus 13 by Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda comprises a set of photographs of iconic buildings around Luanda, recast as components of an imaginary space mission to the sun. Kia Henda told The Hindu that his “idea for Icarus 13 has a lot to do with the idea of celebration, but at the same time, the failure of many post-independent African nations.”

Yao Jui-Chung and LSD (Lost Society Document)’s exhibition “Mirage – Disused Public Property in Taiwan” at Jawaharlal Nehru University, as well as a workshop on the same theme, investigate the museums that were constructed but never used in Taiwan during its modernisation.

According to TimeOut Delhi, Raqs Media Collective hopes that exhibitions such as Yao Jui-Chung’s may inspire new ways to look at similar abandoned, dormant or misused spaces in Delhi. Through an open call, the Collective invited proposals from artists, scholars and cultural researchers to re-imagine chosen spaces across New Delhi as sites for creative and cultural practice. 25 of these proposals are included in the exhibition and publication, such as using the road from ITO to Mati Ghar as a site for performance art, a university-managed museum for Ambedkar University, and ideas to transform Shankar’s International Doll Museum, the Delhi Public Library and the Skipper Tower on Barakhamba Road.

Kriti Bajaj


Related Topics: installations, site-specific art, performance art, art and the urban environment, events in New Delhi

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