Creative Time Summit | The Curriculum 2015

ArtOxygen in collaboration with StudioX-Mumbai partnered with Creative Time on the occasion of the 7th edition of its Summit that was held at the Venice Biennale on Aug 11-12, 2015. Titled The Curriculum, the event brought together practitioners from across the world to discuss and explore how systems of knowledge are formed, controlled, disseminated in our societies.

In Mumbai, we hosted an interactive session with local practitioners to investigate the notion of knowledge as collective experience, to question the validity and meaning of existing authoritarian and hierarchical structures, in pedagogy and the arts, and to put forward methodologies and approaches which are alternative to traditional academia, and are concerned with notions of equality, intelligence and emancipation.

In the ‘70s, Noam Chomsky asserted that children possess an instinctive ability to speak a language without being taught or with no understanding of linguistics, implying that human beings have ability to learn which is natural, an unconscious knowledge, an inbuilt Language Acquisition Device (LAD).
More recently, Jacques Rancière’s account of 18th century French pedagogue Joseph Jacotot’s teaching findings (The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 1987), and the experiments on Self Organized Learning-Environments (SOLE) undertaken by education technologist Sugata Mitra, both question the methods of explication subsumed in any pedagogy, as their findings highlight the capacity of children to learn autonomously, provided they are given access to information, without the intervention of any teacher.
Similarly, Marcel Duchamp’s assumption that anything can become art, Joseph Beuys’ statement that anyone can be an artist, and Umberto Eco’s “open work of art”, a work whose meaning is continuously enriched and further layered by each reader/spectator, all argue that art cannot be reduced to a product of a mediated, protected, elitist and exclusive context, but that, on the contrary, it must happen spontaneously, as a choice, an encounter, or as a subversive act of curiosity.
These positions question the validity and meaning of existing authoritarian and hierarchical structures, both in pedagogy and in the arts, and put forward methodologies and approaches which are alternative to the traditional academia, and are concerned with notions of equality, intelligence and emancipation.
It is precisely these two levels of emancipated learning and creativity that ArtOxygen, along with StudioX, a group of Mumbai-based artists, practitioners and NGOs, interrogated within the framework of The Curriculum.

We proposed a series of experiences that invited an opening up of pedagogical, artistic, communicative processes through the intervention of artists, educators and curators who presented ongoing projects and findings to illustrate the possibilities for alternative paradigms that could reconfigure and rethink societal structures.

Watch the video

The schedule for the talks was as follows:

August 11 | Time: 6-8pm

6-6.15pm Introduction by Leandre D’Souza, ArtOxygen & Rajeev Thakkar, StudioX

6.15-6.40pm Art Room Foundation (Aesthetically Yours) is run by artist collective Himanshu S (a visual artist) and Aqui Thami (a trained social worker) who have been actively working with various communities in Dharavi for several years. As part of their experiment, the duo will look into forms of story-telling between grannies, mothers and children through interviews and drawing exercises. The participants will be invited to think about something that they have lost. By sharing stories through interviews and drawings, the workshops begin to trace narratives of the participants own personal environments, histories, labour, evolution. The workshops were documented and the portraits transferred into a publication that presented during the discussion.

6.40-6.50pm Letizia De Martino, Executive Director & Johnny Clark, Director of Curriculum Development, Reality Gives (part of the Reality Group) that seeks to challenge perceptions and prejudice by offering more holistic understandings of the geographical, economic, social fabric of Dharavi. The group operates a school and community centres that provide children and young adults with access to educational opportunities and experiences to build, shape and support the character and culture of Dharavi.

6.50-7.10pm Sonali Gupta is a clinical psychologist whose experience spans working with educational institutes like Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a private practice at the Sushrut Hospital and various NGO’s. Sonali’s expertise lies in child psychology, parenting and relationship/marital counselling. She writes a bi-monthly advice column on The Swaddle.

August 12 | Time: 6-8pm

6.00-6.15pm Krupa Desai is currently enrolled in a research program at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at JNU whose interest lies in the social and aesthetic. She was recently involved in an artistic intervention as part of ArtOxygen’s [en]counters public art festival. She facilitated a project called Meter Down together with rickshaw drivers along the Vikhroli-Sion belt, which tried to understand how the visual, social and political landscape of the area had changed. Four rickshaw drivers were given a set of postcards and stickers and were encouraged to engage differently with their passengers by inviting them to map their journeys using the tools at hand. The intervention was an attempt to transform an otherwise monotonous journey into something unexpected.
Looking into new ways of communication and perception, Krupa presented her project and in the absence of the main protagonists, explored new areas for interaction and participation between the audience present and the rickshaw drivers.

6.15-6.30pm Madhu Das (Maker / Making / Made), a visual artist, presented his research based on a collaborative piece created with a local craftsman from his current neighbourhood in Borivali. Through engagements with the cobbler, Madhu looked at indigenous knowledge systems, how they function within the market, how it has evolved incorporating new ideas, materials and how this knowledge is transferred from one generation to the next through modelling and practice. Madhu and the cobbler created a piece that examines the possibility to open up new aesthetics and processes based on authorship, labour and new ways of sharing / making.

6.30-6.35pm Raktim Parashar is an artist who looked into the practice of witch-hunting in rural Assam that has since 2012 claimed over 80 lives, most of these victims are women. One woman Birubala Rabha who has been single-handedly fighting against this ancient and widely spread tradition since the ‘80’s. Raktim presented a piece inspired by his time spent in the Kokrajhar district of Assam, his discussions with Birubala and other victims of the area.  His work takes the form of a poster, known popularly as both a guerilla form of intervention as well as a political tool used by local leaders. Here the protagonists and characters are the women – resisting, confronting and fighting to usurp old traditions.

6.35-7.00pm Anjali Monteiro & K.P. Jayasankar, documentary filmmakers, teachers and researchers of The School of Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai will present their work with students, around documenting and archiving marginalized and erased histories of the city, focusing on their multimedia web archives Remembering 1992 and Giran Mumbai, as a part of the ongoing initiative DiverCity, a visual repository of the ‘other’ city.