The KHOJ Contemporary Art Intensive was a focused, rigorous, hands-on learning programme designed in collaboration with the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden. The nine-day course was held in New Delhi, India. The modules covered key developments in contemporary art theory and criticism that are currently under-represented or overlooked in the curriculum of Fine Arts and Art History departments across India. The course was aimed at young curators, writers/critics, practising artists and other art professionals with varying educational backgrounds and work experience to engage with developments in international contemporary art (broadly post-1968, specifically post-1989) and associated theory. Participants were required to make formal and informal presentations and actively contribute to discussions by drawing on their previous knowledge, experiences and practices, as well as through their understanding of pre-assigned readings.
The Intensive consisted of four taught modules (read below for details), led by a group of international experts (academics and practitioners) from the fields of performance, institutional critique, media studies and conceptual art. Teaching was supplemented with a series of guest lectures and studio/gallery visits around New Delhi, in an attempt to generate discussion around developments in art production, curation, and critique in contemporary India.
The total cost of the Intensive, including course fees, boarding, and lodging in New Delhi (on a twin-sharing basis) and the cost of study materials amounted to Rs. 10,000 per head. Generous scholarships were available to subsidize or completely fund this cost for a number of participants. In addition, a limited number of travel stipends were also offered to those from outside New Delhi.
The following modules were taught during this year’s Intensive:
1) The Three Phases of Institutional Critique and Beyond
This module introduces students to First, Second and Third Wave Institutional Critique (IC) as a significant art historical trajectory emerging after the two World Wars of the last century. Artistic practices and theoretical discourses from each of the three phases of IC will be taught, with a focus on students being able to identify, write and speak knowledgeably about IC and its relation to contemporary artistic practices and criticisms.
The module also provides a historical mapping of new wave IC, the ‘educational turn’ and new museum theory, as well as what we might consider Post-IC terrain; so-called ‘post-object’ artistic practices, activist art, tactical media and independent curating as different modes of conceptualising what it means to critique institutions through artistic practice, not only inside the domain of the art institution itself, but more importantly, in the social milieux within which contemporary political and economic problems are being tackled by local communities.
Module Tutor: Artist, researcher and pedagog Amanda Newall is currently working as senior lecturer at Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden. Her practice includes socially engaged art, performativity, curating, pedagogy, humour and transnationalism, often incorporating interdisciplinary forms including new media, costume, sculpture, performance and installation. She has been involved in projects funded by the Arts Council England, New Zealand Arts Council, STINT SE, Swedish Arts Council and more. Newall has taken up residencies, exhibited and lectured at many institutions including: SymbioticA in Western Australia, University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne in France, Fremantle Art Centre in Western Australia, Govett Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand, Weld Stockholm in Swedem, Shunt Lounge in the UK.
2) Media Art Histories
This module introduces participants to multiple histories and theories of audio-visual media as art, bringing the field previously known as ‘new media’ into contact with ‘mainstream’ art histories and theories, as well as with associated disciplines such as computer science, media studies and philosophy.
Participants will gain a basic understanding of the histories of audio-visual media as they developed from photography, film and video to interactive computer programs, wearable computers, ‘app’ art for smartphones and augmented reality games blending ‘virtual’ and actual spaces through user participation.
Participants are exposed to and recognise significant techno-social developments particularly from the latter half of the last century to today, as well as important works of art based on those developments. Participants are equipped with a toolbox of concepts with which to analyse and think about new media, social media, the ‘globalization’ of art and provided references to (and readings of) critical texts relevant to the field.
Module Tutor: Leon Tan (PhD) is a Professor of Art History at Savannah College of Art & Design (Hong Kong), a cultural theorist and occasional curator of interdisciplinary projects. He researches and writes on contemporary art, media-arts, globalization, digital cultures, copyright and assemblage theory. He is also a clinically trained analyst working in the orientation of schizoanalysis.
3) From Performance to Participation via Performativity
This module presents three strands of performance studies, which have overlapped each other for the past hundred years or so:
– Performance: An exploration of the genealogies of performance theatre and performance art. These two artistic escape lines have criss-crossed each other since roughly 1900 but never quite merged; they continue to offer effective means for progressive art practices reacting or responding to modernism and postmodernism.
– Performativity: If performance offers means for progressive art, performativity offers realities for it. Performativity implies an inevitable although radical democratization of philosophy, politics and the arts; it’s about producing identity and otherness, centre stage and heterotopia, marriage and riot and art – always along liminal lines of social life and the art world.
– Participation: This offers ways of bringing together performance and performativity by confronting its own artistic, institutional and public conditions in light of the ultimate consequences of the performative turn and performance art. Following this there can only be informed praxis, to paraphrase Paolo Freire. After acquiring knowledge of the three concepts in question, the students will also get to test some practical exercises which put the three strands of performance studies in critical relations to one another.
Module Tutor: Ola Johansson is Reader in Contemporary Performance Practices at ResCen, Middlesex University (UK) where he manages and carries out artistic research. He has taught applied performance in the UK, Tanzania, India and South Africa. Along with works in performance art and video art, Johansson has published two books: Performance and Philosophy: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Performing Arts (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag, 2008), and Community Theatre and AIDS (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Johansson’s next monograph has the working title From Performance to Participation via Performativity.
4) From Conceptual Art to Experience Design
This module is based on Ronald Jones’ own distinguished career, from his involvement in conceptualism in the 1980s to his current work as a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Konstfack Stockholm. The course content provides a historical survey of conceptual art in the US from its beginnings with Marcel Duchamp and through the succeeding decades. Professor Jones will also discuss the development of interdisciplinary studies and experience design, and its importance across a variety of disciplines.
Module Tutor: Ronald Jones is Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Konstfack and leads The Experience Design Group (www.designingtime.se). He is a Guest Professor in Experience Design at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India. He served as the first Provost at Art Center College of Design and came to Art Center from Columbia University, where he was Professor of Visual Arts in the School of the Arts, Chair of the Visual Arts Department and Co-Director of the Interactive Design Lab. Before joining the faculty at Columbia, Jones was Senior Critic at the School of Art, Yale University for nine years. He has also served on the faculty of the Staatliche HochschulefürBildendeKünste, Städelschule Frankfurt, the Royal Danish Academy of Art, Copenhagen, The Rhode Island School of Design, The School of Visual Arts, New York, among others. Jones contributes regularly to Art Forum and Frieze and writes frequently on contemporary art and design for various international publications.