In October 2010, a major conference and exhibition was organised in the port town of Mandvi in Kutch. The exhibition 'Gujarat and the Sea' was, as its curator puts it, "opportunistic". It made use of opportunities to access UK-based archives, to bring about 80 maps, photographs, and objects, mostly printed as high-quality digital reproductions, to Jainpuri in Mandvi. These materials were sourced mainly from the British Library collection, the UK National Maritime Museum, and private collections both in Gujarat and abroad. There is a specific poignancy to the material as it is exhibited: the reproductions are carefully printed on archival paper, but only have licensed permission to be shown over one three month period.
A three-day international conference on 'Gujarat and the Sea' also opened at the same time in the same Mandvi venue. Unlike the conference however, the exhibition has since travelled to other parts of Gujarat: to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad in November, and to the Science Centre in Surat in December. For us, this exhibition already constitutes a noteworthy contemporary response to the "historiography of the Museum and the Archive" of this history, in Gujarat.
One question it raises directly is, what does it take to be "opportunistic", in this way? Who can be opportunistic? This question has implications for exhibition practices, and the idea of what exhibitions can be. And the question for art perhaps is, how can such opportunity, access to faraway image archives in this case, be further translated or traded, and in which spirit, style, or medium?
GATS is organised by a well-known Gujarati cultural group, with a British curator, Kutch-based NGO partner, and financial support from local government and multinational interests. These assets were leveraged, not without internal frictions and differing interests, to bring some images "back" to within a stone's throw of contemporary boatbuilding and seafaring activity on Mandvi's Bandar road. Exhibitions are not typically about knowledge, and so it is not a "knowledge gap" that separates this exhibition from the ships and seafarers around the corner. It is perhaps a more primal question, of what can be seen, heard, felt, or alluded to and in which kind of marriage between form and context. In what practical manner can the violence, smuggling, buggery, foreignness, local pride, predominantly Muslim seafaring class, and many other known aspects of Gujarat's maritime history be "exhibited", and be received by audiences?
Some hints are there in the materials themselves. Many maps and images in the GATS exhibition are layered with past annotations, claims, borrowings, translations: notes in Gujarati on english pilot's maps, english scrawls on Gujarati lists, photos taken with or without "permission", and often an in-built indifference to or obscuring of sources. The exhibition freezes such running threads into one "appearance", lighting up some routes, paths by which this material may be felt or appreciated, while remaining shy of others.
CAMP is proposing here to continue this route-finding effort, by annotating, cropping, layering, and extending "Gujarat and the Sea". At a certain distance from Gujarat, with the help of historians and amateurs working in the field, and through our own work on contemporary Gujarati seafaring activity as far-flung as Somalia and Iraq, we believe that many more layers of this story can unfold. This is then the exhibition as "relay", which in the best case leads to more responses from other "parties", so that exhibitions like these mark a "shubh-aarambh", a providential beginning, and not an end, of debates around their subjects.
An online version of the exhibition will be posted here shortly.
The Delhi exhibition is open upto January 27, 2011.
Design and Production by Samir Parker
Thanks to Edward Simpson and Iyesha Geeth Abbas
At first, a project on the creek in Sharjah, from where a large number of ships leave for Somali ports.
General Rehearsal A show in three acts from the collections of V-A-C, MMOMA and KADIST
The Annotated 'Gujarat and the Sea' Exhibition (2011)
And I laid traps for the troubadours who get killed before the reached Bombay
at Clark House, Bombay
February 7 to May 30, 2014
(An exhibition building upon photos of another exhibition, and more)
CAMP at Transmediale 2018, Berlin with reprinted Wharfage, The Annotated "Gujarat and the Sea" Exhibition and The Country of the Sea cyanotype.
A journey with CAMP’s five-year Wharfage project and related maritime explorations.
CAMP presented at the Inhabited Sea roundtable at IIT Bombay. "An initiative that seeks to create a new imaginary for the terrain of Mumbai."
Save the date for this event with Aajeevika Bureau. The format is, watching 60 projected photographs over two hours, while talking about them. Several photographers will attend.
The Fourth in our series of Archival Journeys, "Part 4: From Bandra North to Khar East". KRVIA Auditorium, from 11 am.
Celebrates its 40th year with an inventory of 40 films and a publication. CAMPs From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf along with films of Wang Bing, Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-Liang, Lav Diaz, Akram Zaatari, Lucrecia Martel, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami...
From the rooftop of this artists' studio in Chuim Village, you are taken on a virtual tour of the neighbourhood. 90 minutes: Live video, audio and archival print material, with live commentary.
The third in our series of archival journeys through housing in Hamara Shehar. Part 3: From "Right" to "Information", KRVIA Auditorium, from 11 am.
A 2-day festival within the Mumbai Film Festival. Sixteen multi-screen films and video installations by pioneering filmmakers and artists, many of them Asian premieres, will be presented in the cinema hall. Curated by Shaina Anand.
CAMP’s From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf (2013) at the Len Lye Center Cinema, New Plymouth
via RTI, TDR, Cyprus, Speculative Housing, Capital Flight, GBGB Andolan, Multicam Stings, Drone Leaks, Abu, Adarsh, Alyque, Naezy, Nayak, Rajjo, Tiger, .pdf and .xlsx.
Part 3 of our video-lectures on housing histories of Bombay-Mumbai 6:30 pm
"Ghar Mein Shehar Hona: City Housing in a Cultural Matrix, 1951 to 2020". Three evenings of immersive histories on CAMP Rooftop.