In our attempt to constantly review as well as generate a critical understanding of architecture practice in India, we focus on Exhibition son and around arc hias much tecture in this issue. The exhibitionary mode is, by nature, very engaging as it involves a certain kind of physical encounter with objects and data on display, and hence exhibitions generate a different appeal than books or other publications. Exhibitions — especially those on architecture — can involve models and mock-ups which architects anyway work with, and they becomes an easy point of engagement for visiting audiences of all kinds. But exhibitions are also time-capsules — they exist and inhabit space for a time period and are accessible only for defined durations. This allows the exhibition to be a discursive space of a very different kind, allowing conversation, reflection, and review in the course of its short but intense life. In this way, an exhibition can be provisional and provocative, creating an occasion for intense engagement and ruminations. It can then physically disappear or transform itself into other forms such as books and catalogues, but most importantly the memory of people; the memory of people and the thoughts the exhibition encouraged while it was presented live with people like the memories of time shared with friends and family. In this way, the life and afterlife of an exhibition are both
independent conditions to be understood and appreciated. The exhibition is a form of research as it is a mode of public presentation of an argument, a survey, or a manifesto. Especially in the context of architecture, the successful exhibitions with long-lasting afterlives are those that have been produced as a necessary form to respond to an urgency at hand, and have been true to the process of research and representation. There are obviously exhibitions that may not have an influential afterlife, but their occasion of existence is important for the contribution they make as a mode of thinking about architecture or its history, its changing values, even if briefly so, but with a critically strong argument or statement. But exhibitions could also, at times, be circuses, where the intent is perhaps to conduct a roadshow of sorts than genuinely contributing to research or discourse. Or they lack a curatorial argument that is well made, strongly articulated, and critically evaluated, and these would then mostly lack curatorial design in the presentation of the exhibition and its components. The exhibition would then simply be a gathering of many things (however individually strong each may be) that do not have the capacity to build a space and account within the larger field of architecture studies.
Architects with their skills as designers of space and graphics often take for granted their capacities as curators or book-makers (as editors, authors, and even designers), and this has indeed created exhibitions and books that have not been of research or argumentative quality that one otherwise expects in the field. These are then like firecrackers — they delight in the short-lived exotic moment. It is important to discuss this as spaces for discussing issues around architecture in this country are few and far between, and resources are limited, so to exercise responsibility and an ethical practice for research is important. The protocols for research demand their own forms of process and practice and these cannot be compromised, as research in the field of architecture needs much work, and hence a certain perspective of history, protocol, methodology, and practice has to be carefully crafted and worked out. This issue on Exhibitions is one that focusses on the modes of research and argumentation we are adopting in the contemporary scenario, but it is also a call for caution to refrain from getting carried away by the form of the mode but to work closely with the content and research we aim to present, and argue for, through these exhibitions, and hopefully influence the larger zones of action, and of architecture, in India.