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Illustration by Keziah Pereira

I am often asked why and how I became a curator.
People perceive working in the arts as being something idyllic, romantic, and exciting – it is all that, but much more too. Studying for a fine-arts degree in the mid-90s, I was drawn to understanding my fellow artists’ minds, their processes, and what they wanted to communicate through their art. It set me out on an experimental journey of interpretation and mediation for others, which formed the basis of my growing interest in curation. A post-graduation in art history compounded my orientation towards writing and research, and propelled me into the art world as a professional.
Art writing was a niche area (and continues to be so) and curation was a growing field; there were very few people writing on artistic practice, critically or otherwise, and I quickly got into a rhythm of ‘reviewing’ shows for the local newspapers that had weekly columns, as well as fashioning text for catalogues.
Over the past two decades, I have learnt with each new project and opportunity − I expanded my repertoire, learnt how to write scholarly papers, edit, do interviews, curate exhibitions, and work on large budget projects in different parts of India and abroad, with vastly different clients. Budgeting, selling, designing posters, hitting nails into walls, packing, couriering, pacifying irate artists, and juggling the press – everything was part of a ‘curator’s’ job then. Artists (young, old, urban, rural, outsider, and any other) are fascinating and complex creatures – and my own training in art has always stood me in good stead in finding entry points into their journeys.
In addition to writing about, and understanding art of different mediums and genres – I also learnt how to connect with people, a crucial ability that I am eternally grateful for since it is central to doing any kind of meaningful work that brings people together.
Fast forward to the last ten days at IFFI, in which I have been engaged in producing a daily column for the Peacock. While writing the final piece today, I’m aware of how exponentially my horizons have expanded.
In the beginning, I was slightly sceptical about my ability to respond with the true spirit (and correctly) to cinema – an area in which my knowledge is meagre. There is a difference between watching films for entertainment, and responding to them critically as bodies of art. Though I have often curated video art and photography, feature length cinema has been beyond my area of investigation until now. The challenge of producing 700 words of meaningful commentary every day, on different aspects of art and moving-image has given me fresh perspectives on both. The experience has allowed me a deeper comprehension of commonalities and differences in the respective visual languages, as well as technicalities employed in the two streams.
These are tightly interlinked worlds; one can find painterly and graphic approaches in cinematographic views, and dynamic or stark worldviews in drawings or installations. They are all storytellers and creative makers – narrating histories, making social commentaries, sharing experiences, showing a mirror to the contemporary world, and bringing people together through artistic, aesthetic, emotional and contemplative journeys.
Art, whether static or moving, can transport one into an alternative world that transcends mundane limitations of time and space. It is these relationships between reality and fiction, past and present, personal and collective experience that have resonated with me in these past few days.
I managed to watch four films through the duration of the festival – The Untouchables (1987), Land of Dreams (2019), Memoria (2021), and Kalkokkho (2020) – in the magic luxury of a darkened theatre. Over some wonderful conversations with cinephiles, reading the texts of experts in The Peacock team, and following up with research, I have also marked off a great list of films that I look forward to viewing at the earliest opportunity. The experience has opened out dazzling new areas of information, like a prism, that are inspiring me to think more divergently as a curator. I look forward to the next episode of cinema, and learning!

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