Specific to Site: An Artist among the Biennales

by PRANEET SOI

Praneet Soi shares a ‘biennale diary’, evoking the scale, texture and experience of various biennale projects in which he has participated, including the 4th Riwaq Biennale in the Palestinian Territories, the 14th Vilnius Painting Triennial in Lithuania, the 1st Ural Industrial Biennale in Ekaterinburg, the Indian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, and, this year, Manifesta 9.

THE 4th RIWAQ BIENNALE

The Riwaq Biennale is named after an organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of cultural heritage in Palestine. Riwaq (Centre for Architectural Conservation, Ramallah) has identified 50 villages in the Palestinian Territories and works for their rehabilitation. So the Riwaq Biennale constitutes a political gesture that is difficult to ignore, which sets it apart from other biennales.

The reconstruction of historic Palestinian houses as a means to salvage a culture that has suffered from war and the fragmentation of a country has become important to the local population. Not only were single houses restored but, at times, entire architectural sites were renovated and used by local municipal bodies as offices. The project also generated jobs in the region, allowing for a nascent economy to emerge, benefiting local craftsmen and builders.

Riwaq’s strong motivation serves a challenge to the concept note of every curator invited by it. Khalil Rabah, curator of the 2nd edition in 2007, dispensed with the notion of a central exhibition and concentrated instead on a series of curated conversations and actions that brought together local and international architects, artists, conservationists, planners, curators and theorists at Birzeit University. This was done in the hope of initiating interactions and partnerships between the local and the international as a tool for the development of culture within the region. While this may sound like an easily accomplished objective, it must be remembered that the restrictive policies imposed by the Israeli government upon the Palestinian Territories makes for logistical nightmares and very effectively stems most collaborations, especially international ones.

In September 2009, Charles Esche, independent curator and director of the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven invited Lara Al Marcegi, Jack Segbars, Tania Bruguera, and me on a research trip aimed at generating project proposals for the upcoming 4th Riwaq Biennale, of which he was appointed artistic director. We were embedded within a programme designed by Riwaq to guide a broad group of people, consisting of artists, curators, authors and representatives of cultural organizations both international and local, across the West Bank. We toured the region extensively in a chartered bus, with Leila Shahid, the Representative of the Palestinian Authority at the UN giving us a running commentary on information and facts related to the areas we were visiting. With Ramallah as our base, we travelled by day to the cities of Nablus, Hebron and Jerusalem.

Witnessing the clinical segregation of the city of Hebron by Israeli forces was a chilling experience. The netting that sagged above our heads in the ancient marketplace of the city of Hebron, and the yards of razor-edged wire that coiled itself along walls and past sentry points across the city, serves to keep Palestinians and Israelis apart. Such separation effectively snuffs out possibilities for the growth of culture. It disallows an organic growth of space by restricting its democratic usage. It accelerates neglect, both material and intellectual. The marketplace steps are laid out in stone, polished and rounded by centuries of footfalls. This historic space is now a wasteland—sewage leaks out of pipes and garbage collects in untended corners. A few shops remain open, their fluorescent illumination accentuating the fact that much of the market is shuttered. Any signs of vibrancy and life that one might expect to find in a bazaar are visibly and shockingly absent.

CAC, Vilnius (installation view, 14th Vilnius Painting Triennial: False Recognition, 2010). Image courtesy: Praneet Soi

These stops served as taps on a collective shoulder, pointing out to us the political realities of the region. In the light of the problematics that have destroyed the social fabric of the land, is there is the space for an imaginary that might include representations other than that of war? While the biennale was cancelled, it has remained for me an important moment of development due to my talks with Charles Esche, Khalid Hourani, Khaled Jarrar and Galit Eilat, amongst others, as we travelled and explored this ancient and fragmented land.

THE 14th VILNIUS PAINTING TRIENNIAL (2010)/ ‘Memory of the Present and False Recognition’

The 14th edition of the Vilnius Painting Triennial, initiated by the Painters Union of Lithuania, broke with tradition. The curator, Evaldas Stankevicius (also the director of CAC) had enlisted Anders Kreuger and Magda Kardaz (Director of the Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw) to include the participation of international artists and works that would allow for re-thinking the practice of painting and the different subjectivities that surround it

The triennial’s title was based on an essay published in 1908 by the philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941). ‘Memory of the Present and False Recognition’ analyses a phenomenon similar to the experience of déjà vu, when we have the sensation of reliving in the present moment not just an image or an isolated situation but a whole sequence of events, as if we remembered it from before without being able to attach the ‘memory’ to a concrete moment of the past.

I was invited to the triennial by Anders Kreuger, with whom I had worked before in Iaasi, Romania for Perferic 7 in 2003. Anders proposed that I create a series of murals for the show. The exhibition halls were being outfitted in a salon-style display of paintings. These halls were linked by a passageway that ran around the interior perimeter of the museum, framing an open courtyard with large glass windows that bathed the walls of the passage with light. The passageway, being a transitory space, intrigued me and we decided that the walls of the corridor could be used as support for the murals.

Being in ex-Soviet territory was daunting. Understanding the relationship of Lithuania to its Soviet past was complicated. Yet I had been invited there on the surmise that my immersion in this complex situation would be reflected in the work I created there. While my murals draw from an existing lexicon of imagery, and I travel with an archive of images in folders as well as on my laptop, the importance of working in new and unfamiliar locales lies in the expansion of this collection of images through research done in situ. However, this process takes time.

It was summer and the sun set extremely late. Working with the projectors was difficult with light pouring in from the courtyard. So I, along with my assistants Joana Gelazyte and Tim Kliukuit, were obliged to work between 11 pm and 4 am. This was an exhausting schedule and one day I decided to set work aside and take a long walk through the city. I walked down beyond the old center where CAC is situated and across the Green Bridge that spanned the Neris River.

The bridge is flanked by four sets of socialist-realist sculptures. They were cast in bronze and each set depicted two people: allegories of soldiers, workers, farmers and students, types that were lionised by the Soviet authorities. They appeared to be approximately 10-11 feet in height. While I was entranced by these images, by their workmanship and detailing, I learned that a debate raged on about whether the sculptures should be wrenched from their posts and removed. My assistant Tim recalled how, as a child in the Soviet years, he walked across the bridge to school. To him and countless others, these monumental sculptures were symbolic of Soviet repression and a generated the memory of a grimy and unpleasant past.

The bridge has a long history, having been burned down (it was then made of wood) in 1655 after the battle of Vilnius; it was bombed by the Wehrmacht in 1944. Its current avatar was completed in 1952 and named after the Soviet general Ivan Chernyakhovsky, a nomenclature that was promptly dropped for its historical name after Lithuania declared its independence in 1990. This transition was not smooth. In 1991 while I was entering my second year as an undergraduate at the M S University, Baroda, my contemporaries in Vilnius would have been witness to or participants in the January Events that left 13 Lithuanian civilians dead in a struggle against Russian forces under Gorbachev. The breakdown of the USSR led to the emergence of Lithuania as one of the non-ideological members of the ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’ and marked the beginnings of a capitalist economy in the post-Soviet Baltic states.

Exiting the bridge, a short walk found me in Šnipiškes, a newly constructed commercial area that boasted a series of skyscrapers, including the Europa Tower, the tallest building in the Baltic states. The Nokia tower was yet another. The buildings were steel and glass, typical examples of the architecture that one sees the world over, emblematic of the dynamics of progress and prosperity and therefore absolutely necessary for a city to flaunt. Yet they were mainly empty, as the city was in the midst of an economic recession.

The Vilnius I visited in 2010 was a very different Vilnius than that which existed before the economic slowdown of 2008. Then Lithuania boasted one of the highest rates of economic growth in Europe. New buildings sprang up; luxury boutiques lined the main square in the heart of the old town. The slowdown of 2008 had shattered this. While the signs of unfettered growth were still on display, a closer look revealed these boutiques as being largely devoid of customers and the new buildings vacant. Jobs had been lost and mortgages reneged on. You were lucky if you had a job, I was told.

This walk had somehow opened up a space for me, through which an understanding of the city and my relationship to it could be articulated. Different temporalities came together with the frame of history being montaged against a view of a current modernity. I realized that the use of figuration would bear the risk of creating associations with the country’s Soviet past. This ignited a generation of new images and a re-working of existing imagery towards the murals at CAC. Images from this walk were turned to drawings and a fragmented composition of the Nokia Tower emerged, amongst others. The human figures I painted were coded and extremely distorted, pushing the imagery towards abstraction. I also decided, for the first time, to reveal my references to the audience: a poster was designed by the German graphic designer Manuel Raeder, which the audience in Vilnius could take away with them.

Painting is not an insular medium. My experience within the city moulded the work that was produced there and, within the paradigm of the triennial, I pushed my work towards a representation that was intensely personal, yet readable, and kept in mind that the exhibition was anchored in the broader region to which Vilnius and Lithuania can be said to belong: the Baltic States, Poland, Russia, Finland, Scandinavia, Germany.

THE 1st URAL INDUSTRIAL BIENNALE, EKATERINBURG (2010)/ ‘Shockworkers of the Mobile Image’

Praneet Soi, Kumartuli Printer, Notes on Labour Part 1 (slide-projection work, Indian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2011). Image courtesy: Praneet Soi

My slide-installation ‘Kumartuli Printer, Notes on Labour Part 1’ was chosen for the 1st Ural Industrial Biennale’s main project, ‘Shockworkers of the Mobile Image’, curated by Cosmin Costinas, Ekaterina Degot, and David Riff. This part of the biennale was housed in the Ural Worker Printing Press, the Uralsky Rabochy Publishing House. ‘Kumartuli Printer’, in showing the hands of a printer in north Kolkata hard at work on an antiquated treadle press, fit very well within the outline of the biennale.

The region of Ekaterinburg has been adjusting its ex-Communist economy to fit onto the streamlined tracks of global capitalism. The setting up of infrastructure towards a services-oriented industry is an undertaking that promises a future quite different to what was envisaged by the setting up of heavy industries in the region under the Soviet government. The Ural Mash factory is situated in Ekaterinburg and we were given a tour while on our visit, not only of the factory but also of the rigidly laid out township that had housed its workers. Interestingly, Gorbachev had declared Ekaterinburg to be his shadow capital in the years of perestroika, as an alternative centre of power, should Moscow become too dangerous to rule from.

The first official summit for the BRIC countries was held in Ekaterinburg in 2009 and was attended by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Dmitry Medvedev, Manmohan Singh and Hu Jintao. This change in ideological direction also finds a parallel in the changing skyline. Towering above the royal palace is the newly built Antey 3, a skyscraper, the tallest building in Russia outside of Moscow. At night, a gleaming streak of red neon outlines it futuristic presence.

Walking through the Constructivist interior of the old factory in which the exhibition was housed, I appreciated the fact that the biennale team had not sanitised the interior. Peeling plaster hung from moist walls and old gauges and switchboards remained in place, albeit disconnected. Within the central part of the building were collages that the workers had made. Luckily they had not been erased or whitewashed. The building had been unoccupied for a while and I found out the collages date back to the mid-1980s. There were images from fashion magazines, erotica included, along with images of Russian movie-stars. I was surprised to see some Bollywood stars among the cut-out imagery; it appeared that Rekha had been extremely popular amongst the workers here.

These images, a trace of the work-force that inhabited these walls, linked the building and its history to the exhibition now on display inside, one that enters into a series of dialogues on the subject of labour. The Biennale’s title, ‘Shockworkers of the Mobile Image’, refers to the launching of the First Five Year Plan in 1929, a time of rapid industrialisation that gave rise to the ‘shockworker’. A shock worker was an employee who had fulfilled obligations over and above his or her planned quota within the factory they were employed at. As this system of hyper-intensive labour became more organised, workers formed brigades that competed with each other towards achieving these results. These workers were applauded by the bureaucracy, granted privileges related to food and housing and received honorary mentions in the local newspapers. Championed by Stalin, such an organisation was essentially a move to restructure the hierarchies of the work-force along Leninist principles. It was also a concerted move to accelerate economic growth to bring the USSR on par with the West. Thus, while in their toil the shockworker appears heroic, he or she was very much part of the government apparatus and hugely monitored by the military in its efforts to accelerate productivity in the region.

The biennale posits the current culture of artistic production within the outline of shock work. According to the catalogue text, “today’s global artists, filmmakers, and architects are shockworkers, too, and internationalists, no doubt, capable of an affective solidarity much like that of the pre-fascist 1930s. They come to distant cities, working nights to build temporary factories that reproduce images, affects, and social relations”.

How, as artists, do we feel about this sense of appropriation? At Ekaterinburg, at the press session that marked the opening of the biennale, I watched as stoic city bureaucrats made their speeches from the dais, each resembling a character from a George Grosz painting. The biennale marked a moment where a self-reflexive component inserted itself within the various conversations about labour and its meanings in a post-Fordist era. And this was an understanding of our complicity in the city’s economic agendas, which, while not a startling admission, achieved a certain poignancy in the setting of Ekaterinburg.

Within the curatorial team at Ekaterinburg, the interpersonal dynamics of the curators with the artists and their familiarity with the region’s geopolitical nuances made for an interesting weaving of narratives. We were given impromptu concerts of Communist songs by Ekaterina Degot and Cosmin Costinas and David Riff as well!

My favourite pieces there were, amongst others, ‘The Tower: A Songspiel’ by Chto Delat and a video by Israeli artist Guy Ben-Ner. The performance piece by Ilya Kabakov took on a shrieking intensity in the old factory building and I was fortunate to have witnessed it live. The films of the Dutch documentary film-maker Joris Ivens, always a pleasure to watch, were a very apt choice for the biennale. The video documentary titled ‘The Dubai in me’ by the artist Christian von Börries, whose company along with Andreas Siekman’s I greatly enjoyed over this trip, was provocative and I would be curious to see how it would be received in areas closer to home.

THE INDIAN PAVILION, 54th VENICE BIENNALE (2011)/ ‘Everyone Agrees: It’s About to Explode’

In February 2011 I visited Venice as a part of a research team that consisted of Ranjit Hoskote, the curator of the Pavilion, Jesal Thacker, who was to be the production person, and the secretary of the Lalit Kala Akademi, Sudhakar Sharma. Walking through the empty Arsenale corridors, up to the space which was had been allotted to the Indian Pavilion by the Biennale authorities, was a surreal moment. We came to a halt at the proposed spot. Sketches came out, plans were read aloud, and in our mind’s eye the empty pavilion took on form.

Ranjit, a staunch democrat, divided the space into four equal parts so that the participants—Zarina Hashmi, Gigi Scaria, the Desire Machine Collective, and myself—would have equal space for our installations. Looking around I saw that while one of the walls had been covered with the ubiquitous ‘dry-wall’ that is so much the staple of biennale architecture, the adjoining wall which framed the doorway had been left uncovered. Peeling plaster pointed to its ancient history and contrasted with the solid wooden beams that held up the slanted ceiling. The Arsenale building is treated as an archeological site and nothing is allowed to desecrate its structure. I decided not to have this part of the wall covered over with dry-wall so that this time-textured wall could remain visible to the audience over the course of the biennale. Later, after many conversations with Ranjit and his wife, the theorist and curator Nancy Adajania, we decided that the slide-installation, ‘Kumartuli Printer, notes on Labour Part 1’, would be projected on that particular wall. A projection would not cause any damage to the space and the peeling plaster gave the slide-show texture.

An interesting aside is the history of the Arsenale. From the 14th century onward, it was a factory for the mass production of warships. Using standardised parts and an assembly-line production system, the workers at the Arsenale could construct and outfit a ship in as little as one day. Rope, an important requirement in the naval industry at the time, was also manufactured in these factories. In short, the Arsenale developed factory-line production systems that could rival those of the Industrial Revolution some centuries later. The image of the Arsenale bursting with labourers manufacturing and outfitting galleys that were the harbingers of Venetian wealth is a sublime one.

Returning to Amsterdam I sat with my friend and assistant Asit Bhatt, an architect and artist who had studied at Ahmedabad and Central Saint Martin’s. Ranjit had asked me to create a mural and had requested that the slide-show, ‘Kumartuli Printer’ be a part of the installation. Asit and I decided that a floating wall was needed, which would become the surface for the mural. This floating wall would be placed at an angle facing the viewers as they walked past, thus breaking the right angled rigidity that would have arisen from painting on existing walls. An interesting decision we all made together was to allow my work-station, or a part of it, to remain on display for the audience. What we hadn’t realised was that the audience at the opening would walk away from the Pavilion with my printouts tucked snugly under their arms, happy to have a takeaway!

Praneet Soi, mural (acrylic paint on wall, Indian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2011).

The wall that was built was L-shaped and measured approximately 14 meters across and was 3.5 meters high. I had calculated that, after having set up all the equipment and my work-station, I would have less than two weeks to complete the mural. Keeping this in mind I requested that my assistants, who had worked with me before on projects in Delhi and Kolkata, be brought in to help me with the mural in Venice. Arriving at the Lido, an island just off Venice where we would be residing over the course of the installation, I had a sense of déjà vu on seeing Balagopalan, Sumantra Mukherjee and his wife Sreya materialise in a dimly lit street to greet me as the vaporetto I had alighted from receded into the darkness towards St Elena, its churning wake contrasting against the dark, brackish water of the lagoon.

My equipment followed me from Amsterdam a day or two later. Venice does not allow vehicular traffic within the city and the truck parked at a jetty close to Santa Lucia railway station. Once there we realised that we needed a barge but had no idea how to procure one. Luckily the producer of the Chilean pavilion was loading equipment as well and gave me a number to call. A bit of bargaining and half an hour later a barge appeared, with a weather-scarred Venetian at the tiller. Bala, Sumantra, and I loaded the equipment onto the boats and we chugged down at a leisurely rate towards the Giardini, enjoying the sun and the view of the palaces and bridges that make Venice so picturesque. Our captain was not very talkative—perhaps he didn’t speak much English. However at a certain moment we found ourselves flanked by two speedboats. A conversation ensued amongst the drivers but it appeared to have nothing to do with us and after sailing with us for a quarter of an hour they went their way, much to our relief.

Work began on the mural. I had come prepared with my drawings and archive, but I had no idea as to the shape it would take. Ranjit had titled the Indian Pavilion ‘Everyone Agrees: It’s About To Explode’ and, subconsciously, the composition of images on the mural built up as a response to it. A falling female figure, a recurring motif within my work, was painted across the corner of the wall and painted black. This had the effect of negating the corner and created an anamorphic distortion that disturbed the viewer, causing the image to change shape as the viewer moved around it. A chalk drawing of a residential building from near my home in Kolkata was inserted within the silhouette of this figure. This required a lot of detailing and I could sense my assistants beginning to worry about the time it would take to complete.

Gigi, Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya of the Desire Machine Collective, and Zarina arrived a week after me and got busy with their preparations. Nancy and Ranjit busied themselves with the catalogue that was to be released with the opening of the Indian Pavilion. In the meantime I saw the biennale taking shape around me. The Argentine pavilion was our neighbour and the artist Adrián Villar Rojas, along with his team of fabricators, worked tirelessly for two months to put up a wonderful site-specific sculptural installation. His clay sculptures, monumental in scale, did however hold minute details such as a sculpted iPod, or the core of an apple, that created an opposition to the grand narrative of the installation.

A wonderful evening was spent with Defne Ayas, now the director of the Witte de With in Rotterdam at her beautiful rented apartment deep inside Venice. There I met up with Darius Miksys, whom I had befriended during my time in Vilnius. Chosen to represent Lithuania at the Venice Biennale, he had decided to make an exhibition of artworks by artists who had received the state grant from the ministry of culture of the Republic of Lithuania over the past two decades (1992–2010). The show was titled ‘Behind the White Curtain’. Incidentally Darius also established the very first Lithuanian cricket club, named ‘Abdul Aziz’s Holiday IX’.

The Venice Biennale is partly (but importantly) invested in expanding the debate that surrounds notions of national representation within the field of contemporary art. This unfolding of national identity, while not always evident, did at times challenge the audience and lead to introspection. The recent Polish Pavilion, curated by Galit Eilat and Sebastian Cichocki, chose to display video works of Yael Bartana, an Israeli artist. Her trilogy of short films titled ‘And Europe will be stunned’ was shot on location in Warsaw and imagined the activities of a quasi-fictitious organization seeking the return of three million Jews to Poland.

The Danish Pavilion, titled ‘Speech Matters’, was curated by Katherina Gregos. It hosted an international group exhibition that explored issues around the freedom of speech—a subject that, while always important, was never more important than now, as populist and right-wing governments gain support across Europe and unrest spreads across the Arab world. The artist Dora Garcia named her artwork for the Spanish Pavilion, ‘The Inadequate’. The project consisted of a series of talks with a group of artists, art critic and writers, with Garcia being the host and initiator.

The Indian Pavilion, which benefited hugely from being located within the Arsenale, fit very much into the mode of critical engagement that such pavilions entered. It was impressively large, measuring 150 square metres, which made it bigger than some of the national pavilions in the Giardini. The official opening of the Indian pavilion was attended by a large group of supporters and well-wishers, some of whom had travelled specifically to see the installation. Jawhar Sircar, the then culture secretary, along with the then chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi, Ashok Vajpeyi, were excellent hosts at the opening. They had both been staunch supporters of India’s participation in the Venice Biennale.

A view of Jerusalem at twilight. Image Courtesy: Praneet Soi

At the dinner, held at the Hotel Europa e Regina on the Grand Canal, opposite the beautiful Santa Maria della Salute church, Kiran Nadar was present, as were Aveek Sarkar and his wife Rakhi, Shireen Gandhy, Ranbir Kaleka and his wife Rashmi. Peter Nagy showed up with Thukral and Tagra. Geetha Mehra of Sakshi Gallery was there as well. Okwui Enwezor was very present as were some of our friends such as the curators Cosmin Costinas, Inti Guerero and Anders Kreuger. Charles Esche came by as did Annie Fletcher, curator at the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven. My wife Irene and I had some good friends that were participating in the section curated by Bice Curiger and they took time aside and joined us.

MANIFESTA 9 (2012)/ ‘The Deep of the Modern’

Cuauhtemoc Medina had written a very incisive text on my installation at Museo Experimantal El Eco, Mexico City, which appeared in Reforma, a Mexico City newspaper, and I was intrigued to hear from him some months later, inviting me to participate in Manifesta 9 (to be held 2 June–30 September 2012, in the city of Genk, Limburg, Belgium).

I sensed that Medina was particularly interested in my slide-show and I could understand why. The slide-show takes as a subject the hands of a printer hard at work on an anachronistic treadle type press. His one-room workshop was located in one of the bylanes of Kumartuli, the oldest quarter of North Kolkata. In this tiny space, he printed out receipts, logos and small booklets for customers who could not afford the costs of desktop publishing. In a city like Kolkata, where a variety of economic realities coexist, this constitutes a sizeable market. Embedded within the slide-show is a narrative that links the work of the artisan (the printer) and my work as an artist observing him in an attempt on how labour might be represented: the step-by-step, sometimes repetitious movements of the human body, that constitute work.

As the title suggests, this 9th edition of Manifesta—the nomadic European Biennale for Contemporary Art—is about mining and its related metaphors. Taking as its location the monumental industrial complex of Waterschei, a former coal mine in Genk, the curators Cuauhtemoc Medina, Dawn Ades and Katerina Gregos use it as a “locus for different imaginary and ecological issues associated with industrial capitalism as a global phenomenon”.

The exposition is divided into three parts. ‘17 Tons’ refers to the famous song of coal miners around the world, ‘16 Tons’, recorded in 1946 by Merle Travis, and to Duchamp’s installation, ‘16 miles of string’. This is the archival aspect of the exposition, in which data and material related to the mines and the coal-mining in general, collected from a variety of sources, is displayed. ‘The Age of Coal’ attempts to articulate, with the help of art-works from the 19th century until the present, how coal affected and defined artistic processes. And finally, ‘The Poetics of Restructuring’ features the work of 39 artists who attempt to articulate a world grappling with the realities that come with the complex production systems that we see today. ‘Kumartuli Printer’ fits into this third aspect of the show.

The move to describe the movements that describe the transition from factory-line means of production towards a post-Fordist economy is not a linear one. A look at Kolkata’s industrial facilities reveals a certain heterogeneity of processes. Not only is it home to the small one-man workshops, such as that of Bishu-da, the printer, but also to the medium-scale steel industries that exist just across the river in Howrah. Upstream are the Poddar Jute Mills, active since the turn of the last century and gaining importance once again as the world reawakens to the uses of this natural fibre. Complicating this picture of industry further is the movement of an economy rapidly aligning itself to a service-orientation. BPOs and retail packing centers now abound. IT industries are being wooed by the government. The film industry is being developed under the newly installed Trinamul government of West Bengal.

The desire to somehow picture this sense of complexity is echoed in the curatorial note that has been released by the Manifesta Foundation for the upcoming edition. In the mines, the curators have found a subject that is universally valid. Yet how they will use it in the creation of a valid exhibition—one that does not submerge the work of the practitioners into its premise— remains to be seen. A fleeting look at the Manifesta website reveals the artists Ni Feng’s installation as it begins to take form in one of the immense halls of the building, a hanging curtain of clothes. I am extremely curious as to how the exhibition will look… I will be heading there at the end of May.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Praneet Soi divides his time between Amsterdam and India. He has participated in the 7th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2008), 14th Vilnius Painting Triennial (2010), the 1st Ural Industrial Biennale, Ekaterinburg (2010), the first curated India Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), and in Manifesta 9 (Genk, 2012). A monograph on Soi’s work (with essays by Charles Esche and Ranjit Hoskote, published by Distanz Verlag) was released to coincide with the opening of the India Pavilion. Soi’s recent participations include exhibitions at the Kiran Nadar Museum, Noida; Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea, Vitoria-Gasteiz; Artspace, Sydney; de Appel, Amsterdam; the Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; and Museo Experimental El Eco, Mexico City. His work was shown recently at CIMA, Kolkata, 2011; Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2010; CACSA, Adelaide, 2010; Galerie Martin Van Zomeren, Amsterdam, 2009; and Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, 2009. Soi’s work has also been featured at numerous art fairs during the past few years, including Liste, Basel; the Armory Show, New York; Art Rotterdam, Rotterdam; Arco, Madrid; Fiac, Paris; Art Summit, New Delhi; and Art Cologne. His work is a part of prominent collections in India and abroad.

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