Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2021 - a platform for developing and sustaining discourse

The 11th edition of the programme sees inclusivity and multiplicity as its grounding principles.

Experimenter Curators’ Hub is a platform for developing and sustaining discourse on curatorial practice and exhibition-making through critical discussion and debate. Structured as a deeply intensive program, every year the hub invites some of the foremost curators of the world to present their practice with reference to recent exhibitions curated by them. The audience at Experimenter Curators’ Hub plays an active role in this exchange and contributes significantly to the conversations. The 11th edition, taking place online from 9 – 14 November, sees an exciting collation of voices across cultural practices take part in critical conversations related to exhibition-making, collaboration and the exchanging and development of ideas. SOUTH SOUTH interviewed Experimenter directors Prateek & Priyanka Raja to found out more about the latest edition.

Screenshot of presentation by Rattanamol Johal, Emily Jacir and Aline Khoury on 12 November

SOUTH SOUTH (SS): For readers that may be encountering the Experimenter Curators’ Hub for the first time, please share the inspiration behind it and how it connects to the spirit of your gallery?

Prateek and Priyanka Raja (PP): The kernel of the Hub was seeded in the desire to learn, to embrace and to open our horizons to incredible minds and practices of curators from around the world, who fascinate us with the work they do. It was always intended for our city and our region where there is practically no public infrastructure for discourse on contemporary art, no public institution of contemporary art and definitely no space for unstructured, free flowing discussion and learning with regards to contemporary practices, let alone programming. 11 years into the hub there is still no such consistent initiative. At Experimenter from the very beginning, we have pursued inequalities that exist, since we firmly believe that these inequalities bring forth new possibilities and enable true change. The Hub is an intimate, coming together of some of the most forward-thinking minds in contemporary visual arts practice and every year we discuss not just conceptual ideas behind exhibition-making, but the fragilities, challenges and issues that confront us in our everyday. Our ethos in the gallery is also similarly deeply rooted in showing a mirror to our world, open out all the complex contradictions that we live with and ask questions that are more often than not uncomfortable. The hub completely breaks down structures as we know it, and creates an environment for constructive argumentation and dialogue.

The Hub is an intimate, coming together of some of the most forward-thinking minds contemporary visual arts practice and every year we discuss not just conceptual ideas behind exhibition-making,
but the fragilities, challenges and issues that confront us in our everyday.

SS: How would you describe the conceptual and theoretical growth of the Experimenter Curators’ Hub since its inception to its current edition?

PP: The essence of the hub is rooted to fearless, deeply intimate and intensely invigorating discussions usually over 3 days every year in our gallery in Kolkata. Conceptually, the Hub is called a ‘hub’ because it is different from all other usual forms of exchange and like many things we question at Experimenter, it is usually a format that is unique to the way it is structured. It is not a symposium, nor a lecture, nor a round table, nor a
conversation, but it is a combination of all these and much more, holding at its kernel a broader need for constructive argumentation, present contrarian points of view, build robust yet free-wheeling dialogue between presenting curators and participants of the audience with no adherence to hierarchy or power structures that are usually at play in the dissemination and sharing of knowledge, information and critical first-hand experience. It’s uniqueness and physical limitations of capacity (deliberately kept that way) has enabled a new way of intimate, personal and dense sharing which leaves participants with a sense of positive exhaustion at the end of the sessions as a result, many participants return to it and all who have seen it and are part of it, view it with a sense of critical appreciation. Over the years it has grown into a crucial node for knowledge sharing and critical dialogue in the region.

The purpose and intent remain the same since we started the first Experimenter Curators’ Hub in 2010. Until the pandemic it was very much a physical experience. Since 2013 we were also streaming it live online and although it was not easy at the time, we were embraced technology and hybridity a long time ago. The two editions 2020 and 2021 were held entirely online and though we are separated physically we aim enable a similar immersion.

SS: In its 11th edition, taking place from 9 – 14 November 2021, inclusivity and multiplicity are important grounding points for the conversations taking place and the cultural practitioners taking part. What led you to consider this as essential for this edition?

PP: Inclusivity and multiplicity are some of our core guiding values and we believe that if there has to be a true representation of our world, it has to include multiple points of view and voices from varied contexts together. The past two years made us also realize that although we were under similar conditions worldwide, the atrocious inequalities in our world were never more pronounced. It’s not necessarily that this has been our area of interest only this year. We live and work in India, which is possibly the most plural of all places in the world, but a place which is constantly under threat of singular narrative driven by a one-sided right-wing point of view. It’s been something we strive towards in any case.

SS: This year’s edition is online. What is most exciting for you with this as the format for connection and dialogue?

PP: The online aspect allows a wider reach and ease of access which we are only happy to enable. As I mentioned above, we were already streaming the hub online for several years now, but now the ease of streaming live, with all the developments in technology, makes the presentations at the hub much more easily accessible and shareable. We are in a way bound digitally unbound by geography and we like that idea very much. The Hub will always remain rooted to its physical manifestation, and will continue to be an intimate and highly charged space, and therefore will be personal. And the conversations are extensively documented and available freely online on our website for research and archive. But the hybrid model allows it to be shared widely and seen by newer audiences.

SS: You have an incredible array of speakers included in this edition. Please share your thoughts regarding the selection of speakers and the topics to be discussed throughout the week?

PP: Every year at the hub, certain key aspects stand out, a pattern emerges and
concerns recur over time. Our co-conspirator at the Hub is Natasha Ginwala and for several years we have been working together to invite a wide range of curators to the hub. Most of these decisions are informed by the conversations and directions that the previous hub takes and through the year we are in dialogue actively thinking and following curators and thinkers we would like to hear from. The hub was born out of urgent desire to learn, to be accepting of different points of view and we are
constantly deliberating and co-thinking on wo we would like to invite.

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rem volorporro molorpo reperovitat et la volo volupta vernam aut aliqui ut doloressit quiduci aerfers perchicit ma ius magnimpero
vel magnime nonectore voles quae sume nobiti debis int, omnihitin nosam, con eum voluptate officimped que nima quo

Top: Mus re officillupta non preri ut oditibere, quaecab orerum remod ut essequis antia quaeperumqui officiet earum
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Bottom: Mus re officillupta non preri ut oditibere, quaecab orerum remod ut essequis antia quaeperumqui officiet
earum res

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quaeperumqui officiet earum res

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RESOURCES

Click here to access recordings of the 11th edition.

Click here to learn more about Experimenter Curators’ Hub, including access to their extensive video archive of past editions.

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