March 18-19, 2017 at Ayana, Fort Kochi

Hosted by

Kochi Biennale Foundation

With the support of

Tata Trusts

Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art

Foundation for Indian Art and Education

Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation

Ayana, Fort Kochi


There is limited seating available at the venue. Registration is mandatory, follow this link to register.
Lunch and refreshments will be served on the days of the conference.

As the Students’ Biennale (SB) 2016 draws to a close at Kochi, this conference allows for a reflection on the current status of art education in India as well as assessing the potentiality of an exhibitory platform like Students’ Biennale in addressing and intervening in the current institutional landscape of art schools in India.

The Students’ Biennale, as you are all aware, has reached out to 55 art schools across the country. The process was initiated in November 2015 when the newly appointed team of 15 curators participated in an education conference held in Kochi. The conference titled State of Art Education: Reality and Prospects became an occasion to share the initial findings of the survey conducted in art schools in South India by our partner organisation Foundation for Indian Art and Education (FIAE) as well listen to distinguished pedagogues and scholars speak about the field. Various topics were discussed – from looking at regional case studies of art schools in Kerala and Karnataka, to rethinking the teaching of art history to students and also raising specific issues related to appointments, curriculums etc.

The education conference laid the ground. It provided an orientation for the 15 curators who then dispersed to their particular cities and planned the year visiting their designated art schools. So it seems only befitting that we gather once more in Kochi to see the exhibition that has emerged out of this process and deliberate on what has been made possible in this positioning of the question of art education within the fabric of the biennale.  What kind of reading has it allowed on the art institutions, what has been its impact on young practitioners and emerging curators?

Paul O Neill and Mick Wilson, in their edited volume Curating and the Educational Turn, speak about the growing recognition of curation as ‘expanded educational praxis’. Educational formats and methods of engaging diverse audiences seem pervasive both within the practice of curating as well as within art production.

The Students’ Biennale has explored these possibilities on an ambitious scale – an exhibitory platform which allows for a survey of pedagogic systems on a national scale. It aspires to visibilise and energise aspiring practitioners in different parts of the country and bring forth their aspirations and urgencies, and in the process diverse articulations of the ‘contemporary’. The exercise is mediated via 15 young curators and also works as a training ground for them. It provides them the opportunity to begin their forays in curation at these primary sites of production and initiate a peer process with the students. 

It has been evident to all of us involved in this platform that there is something greater than bringing a few ‘promising’ individuals to exhibit together but other parts of this process have not been as self-evident. Each curator has translated the inputs given via workshops and discussions differently given their own areas of interest and their engagement with extremely varied sites. These year-long collective, and at times contentious, deliberations have shaped this platform.

SB has been a process of undoing assumptions and going back to the table to ask some fundamental questions in the face of what one is encountering on the ground – on what constitutes ‘student’ work, what is an art school, what does it make possible and where would actually locate the institution. How can this exhibition platform speak to these different art centres and what kind of research questions and curatorial frameworks be proposed. We also deliberated on the long term repercussions of this intervention and the kind of fraternities we were forging through this process. These are all still unfolding conversations that we would like to take forward in the conference.

The two-day conference brings together the SB curators, as well as teachers, researchers and artists, many of whom have been involved in this platform in advisory roles, to reflect on the current status of art education in India and also examine closely what SB has materialised via this bringing together of two systems – of the exhibition and education.

There will be four panels in total with participants making short 15 minute presentations each and then opening up into hour long discussions. This collective brainstorming will work as a very useful review of the process undertaken as well as project into the future on the road ahead for Indian art schools and for the particular initiative of Students’ Biennale.


Day I, Saturday 18 March 2017

10.00 am – 10.45 am: Inauguration and Opening Remarks
Vidya Shivadas
Meena Vari
Deepika Sorabjee
Alekha Ranjitsinh
Inauguration by Adeela Abdulla IAS, Sub Collector, Fort Kochi

10.45 am – 11.00 am: Tea

11.00 am – 1:30 pm: Panel 1 – Tracing Institutional Histories
R Siva Kumar (moderator)
Belinder Dhanoa
Bose Krishnamachari
Paribartana Mohanty
C. P. Krishnapriya
Shatavisha Mustafi

The conference begins with this panel that looks back to contend with the histories of art schools which are complex and diverse – we are dealing with 200 year old institutions set up in the colonial period, the national schools that came up in the early 20th century, the post independence institutions, the polytechnic centres that foreground vocational training and the newly set up art schools of the last two decades etc. How do these histories shape our present institutional landscape? How does the Students’ Biennale locate itself in relation to these histories? Do they matter in the first place – how does one unearth them and make them speak meaningfully in the present? How can an exhibition inflect on this question through its own form?

1.30 pm – 2.30 pm: Lunch

2.30 pm – 5.15 pm: Panel 2 – The ground on which we stand: That pressing question of Infrastructure
Sabih Ahmed (moderator)
Vasudha Thozhur
B V Suresh
Sanchyan Ghosh
Harshita Bathwal
Noman Ammouri

Screening of To Draw A Line (2012) by Vivan Sundaram
Documentary on  ‘To Draw a Line: A Marathon’. Dedicated to Nasreen Mohamedi and Bhupen Khakhar, A forty hour non-stop workshop from 11 am, 13th August to midnight of 14th/15th August 2007 at the Painting Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda

The panel begins with a screening of a film by Vivan Sundaram of a workshop he undertook at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University in 2013 to protest the policing of the institution by right wing fundamentalists. This growing censorship and vigilantism provides us with one frame of reference when dealing with art schools in the present. There are others of crumbling infrastructure, dysfunctional libraries and outdated syllabi. While acknowledging the crises, how can one equally go beyond the rhetoric of impoverishment to think of the generative possibilities in the present. The speakers will reflect on working within these current conditions, the challenges they throw up and the needs that are being articulated.

5.15 pm: Tea


Day II, Sunday 19 March 2017

10.30 am – 12.45 pm: Panel 3 – Curation that extends towards Pedagogy
Jeebesh Bagchi (moderator)
Rakhi Peswani
Naveen Mahantesh
Shruti Ramalingaiah
Sumitra Sunder

One common strategy that most SB curators adopted was to hold workshops in different art colleges. These were interesting platforms to galvanise interactions and collaborative modes of art making, in some cases bringing together students from different art colleges and making them work with resource people, and a network of local artists, teachers and alumni. They workshops focussed on exploring extended art practices, working with local resources, mediumistic shifts in contemporary art and the engagement with the public. These initiatives also addressed the schism between art pedagogy and contemporary art practices which are not easy to surmount. It leads us to ask whether the curatorial could offer some ways of engaging and exploring with the impulses and urgencies of present day practices. The panel will reflect on this possibility.

12.45 pm – 1.45 pm: Lunch

1.45 pm – 4.15 pm: Panel 4 – Towards a Pedagogy of Curation
Vidya Shivadas (moderator)
Santhosh S.
Rashmi Sawhney
Ajit Kumar
Faiza Hasan
Vivek Chockalingam

The panel will examine the attempts at thinking about the pedagogy of curation within educational institutions as well as exhibitory platforms like the Students’ Biennale. These early attempts at devising curation courses or modules within Masters programmes in the Indian universities will be discussed in relation to curatorial training programmes offered by biennales and art institutions. What is expected of this enterprise, how is the curator’s role being defined and what is her location in relation to these institutions?

4.15 pm – 4.30 pm: Tea Break

4.30 pm: Closing Remarks by Riyas Komu