A cinematic experience

(By Nalini S Malaviya)

Shaheen Merali was in town last week for the preview of the art exhibition Cinema Verite Redux which he has curated for Gallery Sumukha. The show features works by seven national and international artists, including the Bangalore based Ravi Kumar Kashi. Merali is a curator and writer, currently based in London and Berlin, where, from 2003-8, he was the Head of Exhibitions, Film and New Media at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, curating several exhibitions. This year he has curated The 11th Hour, an exhibition of contemporary art from India/diaspora in Beijing and The Stalking of absence (vis-à-vis Iran) in Tokyo.

For Cinema Verite Redux, Merali modified the exhibition space to present an innovative display which is not often seen in the city; here he explains the concept behind the exhibition and talks about how the perception of Indian art has evolved over the years.

Artist: Charly Nijensohn

NM: This is the first time that you

have curated a show for a Bangalore gallery, how has the experience been?

SM: The experience of working with professionals in Gallery Sumukha has been precise, wonderful and an asset for working within an international setting. Bangalore itself has a wonderful sense of itself, and its ambition that seems to be gaining greater velocity within the visual arts in terms of the provision of high quality exhibition making.

NM: What were your selection criteria in choosing the artists/artworks?

SM: My selection always remains the same in making exhibitions- if a work moves my spirit and creates a sensual affinity to the work, its presence, its processes and its place in the history of art- I tend to hold onto it - as an image, as an experience and a place of communication- when the right moment arrives, a platform that can work for the (art)work, then I select it oft that moment.

NM: What is ‘Cinema Verite’ and how has it been presented through the artworks?

SM: Cinema Verite is a way of locating and recording the world, a use which has specific qualities that differ from other methods of recoding or documenting the subject. It chooses to be in proximity to the subject and a sense of uncluttered and more direct relationship therefore mediated by a lack of technology, which itself can create a distance. It is some of these and its other qualities that I use metaphorically to create a curatorial intention for this exhibition.

NM: From your observation and experience, what are the main differences in the art scene in Bangalore/ India and Berlin or London?

SM: A vast amount of difference- Bangalore has less then twenty odd spaces for the visual arts- London in contrast well over five hundred. The sheer infrastructure difference produces a vast difference in the way culture is disseminated, beyond that there are too many obvious differences, in the differences in the production of under graduate and post graduate students, art fairs, museums and the provision of studio facilities that harbour and enhance artistic praxis.

NM: In your opinion how has the perception of Indian art changed in the last decade, amongst people abroad especially non-Indians?

SM: On the whole the perception of art practice on the Indian community as a whole has very limited impact lets say in comparison to the growing relationship to film and sports culture. Within this limitation there are a few individuals who have been vocal in attempting to champion its place within the contemporary way India should and could be seen. The flurry of activity on Indian contemporary arts has started to be less present now as there is a vast fragmentation of the artists’ works within the system and therefore less evident as Indian and more as individual artists.

(The exhibition continues till July 30 at Gallery Sumukha)

- published in Bangalore Mirror