This 4-day masterclass is an opportunity for anyone interested in art and history – including students of museology, curators and academics – to attend interactive multimedia sessions on what goes into curating major exhibitions of South Asian civilisational history.
Museums in South Asia urgently need to catch up with the advances being made in the social sciences, particularly in the areas of history, politics, as well as culture and gender studies. The masterclass will examine the complexities of dealing with diverse audiences, multiple religions, as well as how theoretical concerns can be implemented via scenography and exhibition design.
Using his groundbreaking 2013-14 exhibition Rupa-Pratirupa: The Body in Indian Art, staged at both the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels and the National Museum in Delhi, as a case study, Prof. Naman Ahuja will discuss the considerations and paradigm shifts that curators should be aware of today.
Attendees will come away with a sense of how museums and exhibitions represent a significant platform to reform not just the canon of art, but also reshape the way in which historians, politicians and communities think about themselves and their place in the world.
Tuesday, 6 September
While design and scenography are usually employed to make an exhibition aesthetically pleasing and aligned with a gallery’s subject matter, they can play a far more critical role in communicating and furthering particular narrative outcomes.
PLURALISM & MULTICULTURALISM
Wednesday, 7 September
For museums to be decolonised, an awareness of the pluralism inherent in multicultural societies must be placed front and centre. This applies both at a macro level, in terms of acknowledging the diversity of readings of any given historical event, as well as at the micro level, in the areas of multi-language accessibility and label writing.
CASTE, GENDER & SEXUALITY ‑
Thursday, 8 September
How can hot-button sociopolitical issues such as caste, gender and sexuality be factored into the writing of histories and displays in museums? Given that our positions on these issues are historically contingent and dynamic, curators can read objects and rituals from times past in ways that make them resonate with contemporary understandings, while still posing questions about the context in which they were conceived and produced.
Friday, 9 September
Museums are filled, both with artefacts of tremendous erotic power as well as objects that are defaced – censored in the name of defending moral sensibilities. Flowing from the previous topic, the final session looks at how museums can shape public morality and ethics, what sort of precedents they can turn to guide them in these matters, and what cautions they need to employ.
Naman Ahuja is a Professor of South Asian art history at Jawaharlal Nehru University where he is also the Dean of the School of Arts & Aesthetics. Prof Ahuja has curated some of the most important exhibitions of Indian art in the past ten years, including The Body in Indian Art & Thought which was shown at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels in 2013 and the National Museum in Delhi in 2014; and India & The World, in which 120 objects from the British Museum were staged in strategic dialogue with Indian objects at the CSMVS in Mumbai and the National Museum, Delhi. He is the General Editor of Marg Publications, India’s oldest publishing house dedicated to the arts and culture apart from being a widely published author himself. His scholarship covers a wide range of issues in visual culture, aesthetics, iconography and transculturalism.