Kochi Biennale Foundation invites applications for Once Upon a Cultural Famine: A Curatorial Thought Experiment, a workshop led by Nancy Adajania. This curatorial workshop will run online from March 31 to April 25, 2021.

The workshop is part of the educational programmes of the Kochi Biennale Foundation. The workshops offer meeting grounds for young artists and scholars to work with artists and thinkers from around the world. Previous faculty at the workshop programme include Sarnath Banerjee, Arjun Appadurai, TV Santhosh, Orijit Sen, Sundar Sarukkai and others.




This workshop draws its inspiration from Adajania’s long-term fascination with the structure of the Golghar, a granary built by the British East India Company in 1786 in Patna with the express desire to ‘save’ British soldiers from the frequent famines in Bihar and Bengal — famines caused, in part, by oppressive extraction of revenues from the peasantry. This stupa-like domed 29-metre-high structure, at once imposing, meditative and mysterious, is a reminder of the colonial administration’s audacity: a monument of plunder and pillage built while thousands of subjected Indian natives died from the brutality of colonialism.

How might we redeem the Golghar, as productive metaphor in the cultural sphere, today? In times of crisis, it is not unusual to create a sanctuary, a vault or a vessel to save that which will be useful and carry it into the post-apocalyptic future. The Genesis account offers us the image of Noah’s Ark which saved the animal species from being swallowed up by the Biblical Flood. In a more secular, scientific context, we think of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which stores seed samples from all over the world as a guarantee of agricultural biodiversity against the threat of monocultural cultivation and species extinction

If there were a cultural famine, what would we secure for the future? This is the invitation to the participants of this workshop. What do they think is worthy of conservation in a post-apocalyptic Golghar? It could be an artefact that is classical or demotic, modern or contemporary. It could be an endangered language, a story or a song, a recipe, a quilt, an extinct seed variety, a technical manual or the Constitution

Each of the participants will present a virtual exhibition complete with exhibits, inventory, mise en scene and didactics. This workshop will encourage peer-to-peer education and take the form of a lively crit. Alongside this practical component, Adajania will offer a course that focuses on the history of exhibition-making: the exhibition as black box, encyclopedia, memory palace, platform for the counter-canon, or zone of disciplinary expansion.




The workshop will be conducted using online video conferencing tools. Meetings with faculty will be held on six days – Mar 31, Apr 3, Apr 10, Apr 17, Apr 24 and Apr 25. The workshop will also involve guest speakers to reflect on curatorial methodologies and institutions. Participants are expected to curate a small online exhibition hosted on the website of the Kochi Biennale Foundation as the output of the workshop.




Nancy Adajania is a Bombay-based cultural theorist and curator. She has curated a number of exhibitions including, ‘Zigzag Afterlives: Film Experiments from the 1960s and 1970s in India’, Camden Art Centre, London, 2020; the Mehlli Gobhai retrospective ‘Don’t ask me about colour’, National Gallery of Modern Art, Bombay, 2020; the Sudhir Patwardhan retrospective ‘Walking Through Soul City’, NGMA, Bombay, 2019; ‘Counter-Canon, Counter-Culture: Alternative Histories of Indian Art’, Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa, 2019 and Navjot Altaf’s retrospective ‘The Earth’s Heart Torn Out’, NGMA, Bombay, 2018. Adajania taught the curatorial practice course at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts (2013/2014). She was the juror for the Video/Film/New Media fellowship cycle of the Akademie Schloss Solitude (2015-2017). Adajania has proposed several new theoretical models through her extensive writings on media art, public art, transcultural art and the biennale culture from the Global South. She has edited two transdisciplinary anthologies ‘Some things that only art can do: A Lexicon of Affective Knowledge’ and ‘Totems and Taboos: What can and cannot be done’ for the Raza Foundation (2017/2018).




The workshop is primarily intended for young curators, artists and architectural students. Participants should be willing to attend all sessions, as well as to complete the curatorial project at the close of the workshops.

To apply, please send the following: 1) a note responding to the question ‘What in your view should the museum of the future be?’ (400 words), and 2) a brief bio (200 words) by Mar 15, 2021 to [email protected] with the subject-line ‘Once Upon a Cultural Famine Workshop’. Please note that no fee is charged for the workshop.


This workshop is organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation and supported by the HCL Foundation and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.


Dates of the workshop: Mar 31, Apr 3, Apr 10, Apr 17, Apr 24, & Apr 25 2021

Last date for application: Mar 15, 2021