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by Shraddha NairPublished on : Mar 12, 2023
Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts opened an exhibition titled Growing Like A Tree: Sent A Letter, the third iteration of its kind. Over time, the body of exhibitions has accumulated a historical value of its own and the curators have leveraged its narrative to create a cohesive third edition. Bunu Dhungana and Sadia Mariam Rupa approached the task of curating Growing Like A Tree, which has initially been curated by visual artist Sohrab Hura. The series of exhibitions has been conceptualised to, in its essence, foster ideas of growth and transformation, the ethos of which has been maintained by the curators. The title of the exhibition, which is inspired by Indian artist Dayanita Singh's work from 2007, titled Sent A Letter, was also the prompt provided by Hura when inviting the curators onto this project. Singh's work was also retained as a citation for the first iteration of Growing Like A Tree. This exhibition draws from the concept of a forest and the way it grows, while proposing to view images as modes of address. Rupa and Dhungana took some time out to speak to STIR about the process of building the exhibition.
"We had a starting point for building the exhibition because it had a history of the previous two iterations. We wanted to keep some core ideas from the theoretical structure of curation that Hura had developed, such as seeing works in clusters, works as residues, works as citations and notations, and artists fading in and out,” shared the co-curators. The art curators had also previously participated in a book-building residency with Singh and other artists at Singh’s Goa home. The curators explained further, “We had been working on the show for a year and were constantly sharing works that we were drawn to. We made the show ours by shifting the exhibition core towards ideas of decay, nurture, pollination, desire, season and memory-making. We were drawn to these words because they refer to processes and cycles. These words were our anchor to ground and build the show. As artists both of us work intuitively, so we followed the same process for our curation.”
From pollination to memory-making, the scope of this showcase is vast and one might easily lose sight of the message being conveyed. In this edition of Growing Like A Tree, Dhungana and Rupa embrace the idea of multiplicity. They shared saying, “We were more interested in the idea of milieu than one strand of thought… The intent for us was to create an exhibition that allows for unpacking of many themes rather than an exhibition being packed into one theme.” With over 25 artists on view, the myriad ideas on view build an experience where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The curators don’t avoid but encourage the influence of one work on another. Dhungana continues to explain, “We invite the viewers to look at works not just in terms of spatial clusters but across spaces in Sunaparanta. For instance, standing in front of Sathish Kumar's Town Boy (2011-2020), grasping the tender, little moments one might hear the beating sound of growing fungus of wires of Farah Mulla's Adventitious (2022). It’s not one or the other, it’s the coexistence of different and complex stories, thoughts and perceptions. Even for us, we find newer connections and clusters when we go to the gallery every day. We see new threads.”
Hura’s work in the initial editions of the exhibition created a scaffolding for the debuting curatorial duo to engage with. In the first two shows, Hura looked at the history of image making in South Asia, a region which houses a complex political landscape as well as ancient art and craft practices. Rupa said, “The exhibition consciously looked to break the definition of South Asia. We are from Kathmandu and Dhaka where Hura’s practice is strongly interconnected, and our practice is interconnected with his… We are interested in women’s perspective and are drawn strongly towards books making and films as mediums, we wanted to expand that further in the show.”
The line-up of artists on view at Growing Like A Tree: Sent A Letter represents the work of many female artists, a positive reflection of the change of curatorial leadership. The art exhibition also holds a strong presence of Goa-based artists, providing fertile soil for the local art scene. Nida Mehboob, one of the artists on view, shares her film How I Like It (2021), which talks about the sexual exploits of women in Pakistan, where sex-positivity is taboo. Photographer Jaisingh Nageswaran uses his camera to share his narrative as part of the Dalit community, an underserved and marginalised group of people in India. The exhibition sheds light on indigenous culture, family structures, menstruation, patriarchy, and more. Although diverse, the showcase reflects the complex nature of South Asian society and its simultaneous entanglement with traditions of the past and ideologies of the present.
Growing Like A Tree has incorporated a series of artist and curator talks into the exhibition itinerary and has also created an online repository of information in the form of essays and documents to supplement the showcase for viewers to access. The exhibition that opened in December 2022 is on view until May 15, 2023.
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