Critical Writing Ensembles

Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh
03 Feb 2016 - 08 Feb 2016

Critical Writing Ensembles

From a performance within Vivan Sundaram’s project '409 Ramkinkars' at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. Dir. by A. Kapur, script by B. Dhanoa. Prod. Vivadi. Photo: G. GV

Organised by OCA – Office for Contemporary Art Norway, the ‘Critical Writing Ensembles’ (CWE) is a four-day platform of panel discussions, lecture performances, group debates and readings, within the context of the Dhaka Art Summit 2016.

“To reshape some histories, to bring back the forgotten others, to reassess and alter the already hazily known, to redefine some standards of writing and our understanding, thoughts and feelings of an era lost. More importantly, to allow this man to breathe his words […] Memory, collectively lost, can now be somewhat regained. ” Pablo Bartholomew, in Richard Bartholomew. The Art Critic (2012), p.633

CWE will bring together peers from the South Asia region and beyond including artist, writer, researcher and lecturer at The Cass School of Architecture at London Metropolitan, Nabil Ahmed; writer, novelist and Visiting Professor at the Literary Arts programme of Ambedkar University Delhi, Belinder Dhanoa; curator, art historian and Faculty Member of the Art History department in Kalabhavan, Śāntiniketan, Anshuman Das Gupta; art critic Rosalyn D’Mello; curator, writer and Director of YAMA screen in Istanbul, Ovul O. Durmusoglu; artist and writer Mariam Ghani; writer, curator and Director of Mumbai Art Room, Nida Ghouse; artist, curator, contemporary art historian and founding Dean of the School of Visual Art and Design at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore, Salima Hashmi; India’s foremost art critic and curator Geeta Kapur; curator, writer, translator and lecturer at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Yin Ker; writer, poet and Editor in Chief of Publications, documenta 14, Quinn Latimer; Director of the Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm, Curator of the 2016 Gwangju Biennale, and independent writer and critic, Maria Lind; Professor and Head of the Institute of Art at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Basel, Chus Martínez; curator, writer and 51st La Biennale di Venezia co-curator Rosa Martínez; writer and editor at Himal Southasian Aunohita Mojumdar; curator, critic and CEO-Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Chantal Pontbriand; writer, author and Curator of Public Programmes for documenta 14, Paul B. Preciado; independent curator and publisher and Director and Founder of the publishing house Raking Leaves, Jaffna and New York City, Sharmini Pereira; Editor in Chief of art-agenda Filipa Ramos; Director of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating at the School of Art and Design Zurich (HGKZ), Dorothee Richter; artist and Associate Professor of Visual Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Shukla Sawant; critic, art historian and University of Cambridge Research Fellow Devika Singh; Professor of Writing and Theory at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Mike Sperlinger; and Editor of Depart magazine Mustafa Zaman.

Research into the processes and structures that could help to empower writers today has been a part of Katya García-Antón’s curatorial practice in recent years. She was commissioned by Pro Helvetia in 2012–13 to devise a programme for the discussion and activation of critical art writing in Switzerland involving cross-generation peers across the linguistic regions and traditions of the country. CWE has drawn from this valuable experience, repositioning previous thoughts and positing new questions within the context of the Dhaka Art Summit, connecting the histories and currencies of the South Asia region within an international dialogue.

Katya García-Antón comments: ‘Such an endeavor is positioned within a local therefore as much as a global framework in more ways than one, for not only is this a project of some urgency regionally, it reminds us of the fact the crisis is a global one. Art writing has for some time endured challenges which vary in nature across the world. In some parts there are less places in which to write critically and experimentally about art and art history, there is less and less financing for this, there is less and less time; in others whilst platforms for writing may actually be on the rise, their value and impact has declined. Writing is by nature a lonely endeavor, but under these conditions art writing is being pushed to the margins and alienated from the central and critical position it should have in our societies, as will the immediate contact it should have with our audiences. If this decline continues, art histories around the world will homogenise and the immense richness and diversity of our cultures, essential to rewrite and reimagine present and past histories, will loose their critical edge as the very voices which should build it, which should experiment it and reinvent it, disappear over time.’

A preamble to the Critical Writing Ensembles in Dhaka was held at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India, on 17–19 December 2015. Entitled ‘Critical Writing Ensembles. The Baroda Chapter’, the three-day series of panel discussions, readings and workshops amongst regional peers was organised by TAKE on art Magazine, in partnership with the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and in collaboration with OCA, with support by the Raza Foundation, New Delhi. The segment ‘Critical Writing Ensembles. The Baroda Chapter’ constituted part of the ‘TAKE on Writing’ series and supports the magazine’s investment in sustaining critical writing practices in India. Highlights of the CWE will be brought to Oslo at the beginning of 2017, and include Norway-based writing peers.

In the lead up to the Dhaka Art Summit 2016, Safina Radio Project, the Summit official broadcasting platform, is releasing a series of readings from writers who have been invited to take part in the Critical Writing Ensembles. Safina Radio Project will also provide during the days of the Summit excerpts of CWE presentations and discussions, and a number of on-site interviews addressing both speakers’ practice and their engagement with the Critical Writing Ensembles. Click here to listen to Safina Radio Project.

The sessions are open to everyone, no pre-registration is required. For a detailed four-day programme, please click here.

The Critical Writing Ensembles will be launched by OCA Director Katya García-Antón (curator of the project) together with Diana Campbell Betancourt(Dhaka Art Summit Artistic Director), and are the result of a collaboration led by the Swiss Arts Council Pro HelvetiaChandrika Grover (Head of Liaison Office India) with Diana Campbell Betancourt, Katya García-Antón and Bhavna Kakar(Director, Take on Art Magazine).

The Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asian art. The third edition will be held from February 5–8 2016 in the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academyin partnership with the country’s National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. Inviting multiple artists, curators and thinkers who have built exhibitions based on commissioned research and experience within the region, DAS provokes reflections on transnationalism, selfhood and time without being prescriptive or directive. DAS is accepted as the main meeting point for art professionals from the region: coming mostly from Bangladesh over 300 artists, curators, writers and many other art professionals have been invited to participate in the different aspects of the DAS programme, which includes new commissions, curated group exhibitions, talks, performance and film programme, book launches and the Summit’s first historical exhibition, ‘Rewind’. Through the unique format of the Summit, which is not a biennial, not a symposium, not a festival – but rather somewhere in-between and removed from the pressures of the art market – the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy transforms into a generative space to reconsider the past and future of art and exchange within South Asia and the rest of the world.

OCA is a foundation created by the Norwegian Ministries of Culture and of Foreign Affairs in 2001 with the aim of developing cultural collaborations between Norway and the international arts scene. OCA aims to become one of the main organs in the international contemporary arts debate through initiatives such as exhibitions, seminars and publications, as well as by providing support to Norwegian artists for their activities in the international art arena, and by inviting international curators and artists to Norway. OCA has been responsible for Norway’s contribution to the visual arts section of La Biennale di Venezia since 2001.


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