An exhibition that builds upon photos of another exhibition that was made of photos of....
...things in British Museums.
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.
Design and Production by Samir Parker with thanks to Edward Simpson, Aparna Kapadia and Iyesha Geeth Abbas.
General Rehearsal, V-A-C, Moscow, 2018
Country of the Sea, HKW, Berlin, 2018
As If – III Country of the Sea, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad, Mumbai City Museum, 2015
Mapping Asia, Asia Art Archive Hong Kong, 2013-14
Traps for Troubadours, Clark House, Mumbai, 2012
Against All Odds, Lalit Kala Akademi; New Delhi 2011-12
CAMP at Transmediale 2018, Berlin with reprinted Wharfage, The Annotated "Gujarat and the Sea" Exhibition and The Country of the Sea cyanotype.
General Rehearsal A show in three acts from the collections of V-A-C, MMOMA and KADIST
A journey with CAMP’s five-year Wharfage project and related maritime explorations.
Outlook Magazine: A group of artists, filmmakers and technologists from Mumbai works together with a group of sailors to produce a feature-length experimental film.
Video project that takes us on new and recently rebuilt roads in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and India. Endoscopic views from the interior of the road system, and of the interfaces through which pride, money, data, climate, and vulnerability are connected to it, heighten our sense of developmental possibility, failure, and the deep ambiguity of road achievements.
‘A Passage Through Passages’ is a collaboration with anthropologists, and draws upon ethnographic and archival work in five field sites. This film is part of Roads and the Politics of Thought, a European Research Council (No. 616393) funded, 5-year ethnographic study of road-building in South Asia in which CAMP is a partner organisation.
On three screens, a city-symphony filmed by automated CCTV cameras in Amsterdam. The optical and motor capacities of these cameras are pushed to an extreme. Certain human subjects reappear near or far in the images, suggesting a form of reciprocal knowledge or intent, a secret pact between cameras and people.
A 100-foot long sequence of photo-cutouts, first shown at the Chennai Photo Biennale, March 2019
20 mins, HD. 2 - channel installation
Filmed in Guangzhou at the Zhuhai International Container Terminal
Single exposure solar cyanotype print on cotton fabric
CAMP with Shunya collective and Clark House Initiative 22 x 5 feet
An image of the sea as its own “country”, with frontier towns at its edges disorients an easy reading of this territory
A three-channel installation from 8mm film From the Clark House family archives, sequenced in a timeline as above. Each screen is a different part of the same 8mm frame, usually a face.
Feature-length travelogue by sea between western India, eastern Africa and the Persian gulf. First shown at a purpose built outdoor cinema on the creekside in Sharjah in 2013, where many of the sailors gather. Shown in Documenta 13 in an abridged form, as part of the installation The Boat Modes.
83 mins. Original format(s): HDV, SDV, VHS, Cellphone videos (variable). Stereo audio and in-cameraphone music.
4 channel HDV, 8 minutes
A screenplay in Courier 12pt melodramatic format, spanning the first three days of lobbying for cabinet spots, in the wake of the Indian general elections of 2009. The dialogue is entirely from phone taps made by the government. The screenplay slows them down and asks: what kinds of environments and scenes may lie behind them, and how are they connected?
Printed screenplay and IVR-based phone line, audience can type in scene numbers to hear dialogue in the original voices. Also performed as a reading.