Kai­wan Me­hta

Domus - - CONTENTS -

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.

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