The Students’ Biennale as a part of the Kochi Muziris Biennale will open to public on 12/12/16 in Kochi, Kerala, India. Prior to the main display/ exhibit at the venues, is a series of activities, which have been taking place .A total of twelve curators have been working closely with students of different art institutions in India assigned to them; developing streams of dialogues. My interest in these activities as an academician , lies in the role they can play for the students of art ; situating them between the ‘outside of the pedagogic spaces’ and ‘the final display of the Students’ Biennale’. Focusing on Delhi, Adwait Singh has been working with the students of College of Art , University of Delhi and Aryakrishnan Ramakrishnan has been engaged with the students of Faculty of Fine Arts, Jamia Milia Islamia University & School of Culture and Creative Expressions , Ambedkar University. Their interactions have been shaping into a series of pre-biennale activities of diverse nature. These include workshops, a session of critique and mentoring and an art exhibition.
Aryakrishnan , along with the students of Jamia Milia Islamia University and Ambedkar University conducted two workshops; first of which was held at Ambedkar University campus. It was based on the concept of ‘Translation’ . It involved the curator’s initiation for the students , to take literary examples; of what translation could mean or be , within the different disciplines of mathematics, biology, languages (Arabic) and computational linguistics and texts (The Holy Quran) . The students were also provided with textual and visual materials on translations in the fields of visual art and literature. A case in point are the ‘visual translations’ of fourteen poems of C.P. Cavafy by British artist David Hockney; and, Shakespeare 61 (who’s watching) by Uljana Wolf, a German poet and translator, who made a mashup of fourteen German translations of Shakespeare Sonnet 61 . Reading the texts was followed by discussions on students’ own understanding of ‘translation’ and responses to what other participants understood of it.
This was followed by an exercise, where the participants responded to the concept of ‘translation’ by making a visual piece (drawing/ sketch / layout ) in an hour . The drawings produced were then laid open to responses from one another. However, the use of any verbal narration of the work was not permitted. Consequently, performative responses using the body and found objects were chosen by the students .The essence of the translation – interpretation -responses as a process was explored but the students , to evolve conceptual exercises for art making, in both content as well as the different modes of responses.It also opened up the realm of interdisciplinary knowledge generation , where by the creative learning could stem out to source itself from other domains of interest.
The discussions between the students of College of Art and Adwait Singh shared into a critique and mentoring session held at FICA Reading Room and an art exhibition at Gallery Latitude 28 in New Delhi. The critique and mentoring session brought together the FICA director Vidya Shivdas and artists Rohini Devasher and Ruchika Wason Singh to interact with the students. It brought forth a space for the students to bring around their proposals on the forthcoming exhibition , responses to which they seeked from Rohini Devasher . Rohini’s critique and suggestions allowed the session to weave itself into, not just exhibition specific discussions, but also an eye into the inherent nature of the work of individual students and its possibilities . The students also had the opportunity to see her video work, Shivering Sands (2016). This was followed by a brief talk , where she drew upon her experiences as an artist and making her art by drawing from her interest in astronomy.
The session also had Ruchika Wason Singh making a presentation on her book-art work The Cancer Diary -I ((2016), within the context of the book as an art form. This presentation was in relation to the the students’ interest in the ‘structure of the book’ ; for an additional ‘zine-making’ exercise (which was to follow) ,in the larger framework of The Students’ Biennale zine Pandemonium. Ruchika talked about her book within the realm of medical humanities and embodied experience, and recreating it as an archival experience through a book.The discussion and inputs from the mentors, the curator and the co-ordinator at the session at FICA, channelled routes for thought process for the students.
In the following days, The Falling Leaf : On Entropic Currents was held at Gallery Latitude 28 in New Delhi. The art exhibition served more than a display of the works for the students, as the curator Adwait Singh chose to ‘shift the curatorial authority to the students’. This brought the students to have an interface with the white cube space and negotiate display techniques for their work amongst themselves. The exhibition had a variety of works in different genre including works on paper, video art, sculpture, painting, sound art and performance art. Another interesting aspect of the event was, that it transformed the gallery space as a site for day-residency ; opening the space beyond viewership .The duration of the exhibition also gave the time and space to the students, for exercises on drawings, readings of texts such as Boris Groys’ Poetics of Entropy: The Post-Supermatist Art of Mladen Stilinovic and a musical performance . The exhibition took a step above the display , and became an interactive work of art within itself.
These events and activities, might not necessarily be apparent or visible in the final presentation of Students’ Biennale 2016. But their significance and essence lies in the thought processes they have initiated. Between the academic and the professional, they serve as niche spaces of creativity, digressing the boundaries of both a curriculum and an exhibit. They need to be seen as notes, which might get merged with the final sound , but nevertheless contribute to the making of the aesthetics which shall be heard, seen and experienced.