Translation, treason, transfiguration: The biennale as an agent of political consciousness

RASHA SALTI in conversation with NANCY ADAJANIA

In this email conversation, Rasha Salti, artist, scholar of Arab cinema, and co-curator of the 10th Sharjah Biennale/ ‘Plot for a Biennial’, discusses her preoccupations and the direction of her recent work with Nancy Adajania, critic, cultural theorist and joint artistic director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale.

Nancy Adajania: Rasha, our practice as contemporary curators or theorists working across multiple regional contexts is often articulated as a series of acts of ‘translation’, since our understanding of different cultural contexts is based on intense acts of interpretation. And translation can sometimes carry the sense of ‘betrayal’, with the same word used for both in many European languages, traducion. But reading Edward W. Said’s Musical Elaborations led me to the thought that, in our struggle to produce specific regional (as against neutrally global) historical contexts for the visual arts and cinema, we deploy, to adapt a musical term, the method of ‘transcription’.

Said wrote that the transcription of an orchestral score is not merely a reduction of its complexity to an economy of instruments out of contingency or lack of resources. Rather, the transcription is an “autonomous work” that can “leave behind the original or blot it out entirely”. I seem to think that we too sometimes perform the role of ‘transcriptionists’ in the Saidian sense, trying to make sense of epic historical phenomena. It is often not possible to reconstruct a whole history, and what we then perform—whether our output is writerly or curatorial—is a transcription, not of a grand orchestral score, but of little narratives and side stories. Would you like to respond to this lateral reading of mine: does it find any affinity with your practice as a curator and writer?

It would be lovely to hear about your research and work methodology, your experience of fieldwork, and your encounters with different constituencies.

Rasha Salti: It is a pleasure to finally engage seriously in these questions. I am grateful for the opportunity. I also wonder (I am smiling wickedly as I write this) how many North American or Western European curators are asked to reflect on their role as ‘transcriptionists’ or even as ‘translators’… I don’t intend to pigeonhole “us” into the mindless scheme of identity politics, but the reality is that we have to do more mediation, translation and contextualising than curators who are working with the territories of the (so-called) canon.

In my very personal story, translation is a question I grapple with all the time, because I often do work as a translator—being solicited to write about art does not happen enough for me to be able to sustain a living, and is usually poorly remunerated—and have learned to enjoy the challenge of every text that comes my way thoroughly. Your question obviously refers to the curator’s role as a “cultural translator”, which is not very far from what the social sciences refer to as the “native informant”. I don’t mean to portray it as a demeaning role or position: better an exhibition enriched by the contribution of a native informant than not.

Even though my career is humble, I feel that I have had a privileged destiny so far because I am as passionately engaged with the visual arts as I am with film, but also I have had the opportunity to “curate” conferences, seminars that engage with theory and literature. The versatility or plurality of my interests has greatly affected my approach to research and the interpretive frameworks I use when trying to unlock the poetics of an artistic production of a particular place and time. Sure enough, we have been trained to think chiefly in terms of the Western canon, so for instance, in the films of the 1960s and 1970s in Francophone North Africa, we first look for the Godard in this film or the Dziga Vertov in that film. In the past few years, a new ‘trend’ has emerged: the ‘gaze’ is no longer as stubbornly harnessed to look at the North-South coordinates, but to explore the South-South, East-South East connections. In recent years, as I have engaged thoroughly with experimentation in Arab cinema, I have come to understand that the ‘poetics’ that animated the universe of some filmmakers were as much the result of poetry and painting as film itself. In other words, in order to understand the film’s rhythm, visual composition and codes, the keys might be more pertinent—or potent—if we consider the poems the filmmaker memorised rather than the films s/he watched. When reconstituting the biography of a filmmaker, and his social quotidian, I realised that quite a few were closer friends with poets and/or painters than they were with film editors or screenwriters. This is one aspect of the ‘lateral readings’—if I understand them correctly—that I could identify from my practice.

A second aspect or feature of the lateral readings I find myself engrossed with, is like a poetic speculation that inspires weaving an exhibition of works, or assembling films to make a programme. A curator does not need to abide by the rules of academic methodologies, and can be more like a poet or an artist, proposing wildly speculative readings that can sometimes unveil entirely unsuspected significances, readings and interpretations. There are not that many strains of methodology in art-historical research, they are all compliant with the general rules of the production of knowledge of social-science scholarship. The power of a scholarly work is as much a measure of the rigour, breadth and depth of field work, the scholar’s thorough understanding of the intellectual history of a particular place at that historical moment, as it is of the subjective reading of the artistic work itself and his/her singular deconstruction of significances. Curators straddle the kin, synaesthetic worlds of production of knowledge and production of poetics; the knowledge we produce as curators is not systematically taken seriously by academia, and yet we are able to venture in terrains ‘forbidden’ to their disciplines. In that regard, even if a curatorial perspective is indeed a transcription, it could nonetheless be a score yet unheard, unexplored, unsuspected.

For the past three years I have been co-curating a film programme with Jytte Jensen at the MoMA, which explores experimentation in Arab cinema from the 1960s until now. The articulation of the programme does not take into consideration geography (country of provenance) or chronology. We have decided to organise our screenings according to themes and formal ‘sensibilities’. While I know that some of the filmmakers working today, say in Lebanon, have never seen Algerian films from the 1960s or 1970s, there are correspondences in approach and poetics that are impossible to ignore, too seductive to dismiss. There is not a single book or article on Arab cinema that comes even remotely close to suggesting the existence of these captivating correlations. On the one hand, the notion of an over-arching paradigm of Arabness is complicated—and vexing—enough to defend, let alone outline; and on the other hand, the proposal that a poetics is shared from across North Africa to the Levant, across historical, material and cultural situations, structures and circumstances, is preposterous. And yet, discovering these resonances, speculating on these unlikely conversations that have never taken place, has been a joy as much to us, as curators, as to the MoMA’s audience. That programme is an example of a lateral reading, perhaps foolhardy or misguided, but nonetheless it seems to me to be a transcription of a score that interrogates the rules of transcription or scoring.

NA: In this age of hyper-capitalism, the tendency is to define the mechanics of a ‘global contemporary’. But the pragmatics of our practice has taught us that there is no single contemporary; rather, there are many simultaneous and contending contemporaries. In the Arab world itself, where you work, the notion of the contemporary (understood as that which gains urgency in a particular society, ‘where the action is’), let’s say in Syria would be different from that in Egypt. How does this understanding of variable ‘contemporaries’ play out in your practice?

RS: For a while now, hyper-capitalism (or is it late capitalism?) has been keen on an anti-historical linear perception of time, or a profoundly hierarchised notion of temporality. In the Arab world, ‘contemporary’ is a less frustrating signifier than ‘postmodern’, but essentially both terms refer to artistic production in the very present moment or the very recent past. Perhaps ‘postmodern’ suggests implicitly—and discreetly—the foregrounding of a political and cultural position, whereas ‘contemporary’ suggests a foregrounding of media. In more straightforward terms, ‘contemporary’ is less antagonising, more malleable; it does not denigrate painting by contrast with video, or sculpture by contrast with conceptual art. In Arabic, the word translates literally as it does in English, to “of or with the time”. Obviously, “of/with the time” means different things in different places. In the Arab world, I would argue that the temporalities and poetics are as much embedded in the locality of each country, as in a larger regional framework and on a worldly scale. When mapping the temporalities of the contemporary, it is important to think historically and socially. For instance, it is impossible to think about the Arab Gulf without thinking about India, impossible to reconstruct Iraq’s modernity as abstracted away from Iran, Turkey and India, to illustrate with a few examples.

In my own practice, ‘contemporary’ is not as significant a category or consideration. I am equally drawn to works that belong to the preceding historical bracket known as ‘modern’. Something in any work of art, be it a painting, film or poem, endures the passage of time, eludes or goes beyond its discursive proposal: call it the power to enchant, beguile or captivate. I know this sounds lame and may be terribly conservative, but the joy of colour, composition, the play in form, the uplift of a piece of music in the arrangement of words or images, are elements that draw me to artworks as much as their discursive, subversive and political exhortations.

In this present moment, with the insurgencies in the Arab world, the notion of contemporary in that region is being radically redefined. At the risk of extending further my long answers, I would like to share an anecdote with you. ‘Stars in Broad Daylight’ is Oussama Mohammad’s first feature; he is one of Syria’s most accomplished filmmakers. It was released in 1988. The film ends with a compelling sequence where one of the protagonists, the son with a hearing impediment whom everyone assumes is mentally disabled, flees his village and the misery of living and working on his father’s farm, to make a life for himself in Damascus. He knows no one except for a cousin who is doing his military service. He lives in a shack on the roof of a building in a working-class neighborhood. As the sun sets and they prepare to fall asleep, the young man asks his cousin what he plans to do after his service is over. The cousin guffaws and says he wants to go back to the village and open a tank repair shop. In 1988, that sentence was hopelessly, absurdly, comedic. Today that sentence resonates in entirely different ways: eerily premonitory, it seems a very intelligent allegorical reference to the destiny of the Assad regime, the success of the insurgency and a clement transition post-Assad. Of or with the time? And when times are changing so drastically, what happens to categories such as ‘contemporary’?

NA: Were you in Beirut during the civil war? What were your growing up years like? What did you read and see? What inspired you to take to researching the cultural history/ histories of the Arab region, the different Arab modernities?

RS: I was six years old when the civil war broke out. I lived my teenage years, coming into adulthood, under its shadow. The war lasted for seventeen years but was not uninterrupted:  there were periods of lull when the fighting subsided. The cycles of violence, or the chapters of the civil war, were kindled in a different guise each time, and did not set the same protagonists at centre-stage every time. It was complicated. Until 1982, Beirut was very much an open city, cosmopolitan to a degree, where cultural and artistic production thrived. I was extremely privileged to have been a witness to it, young and not as engaged, but witness nonetheless. My parents were extremely keen on inculcating in us a love for the arts. They dragged us constantly to poetry readings, concerts, art exhibitions and the cinema. When I turned thirteen, I was allowed to go out on my own until dark, Thursdays were half-days at school and very quickly they became movie-going days. There was a cinema not far from where I lived, which functioned like a repertory in the afternoons. There, I discovered Kurosawa, Fassbinder, Woody Allen. I also read ravenously and lived vicariously through novels. After 1982, the security situation deteriorated considerably in “west Beirut”, where I lived. Eventually, my parents bought a video player and, instead of discovering films in the cinema, I watched them at home.

My interest in researching the different Arab modernities is recent. It comes from a frustration with existing scholarship on the intellectual history of modernity in the Arab world in general (whether in Arabic, English or French). At the same time, for the past two decades, a generation of “revisionist” social historians working on the late Ottoman, early twentieth-century period has emerged, and they are doing amazing work. And last but not least, the fact that a great many artists working today have no idea of the history of modern art in their country, let alone the region; in other words, their practice has effectively no contact with ‘transmission’, or engagement with a legacy of practices. No memory. Of course, it’s fascinating and intriguing, but that’s another story.

Mustapha Benfodil’s mannequins in the Sharjah Museum’s storage. © Hans Haacke/VG Bild-Kunst.

NA: When you co-curated the 10th Sharjah Biennale with Suzanne Cotter and Haig Aivazian, what were some of the most urgent questions crowding the horizon of your curatorium? What were the various methodologies that you and your colleagues deployed to find exhibitionary and discursive manifestations for these urgencies?

RS: We were three curators, living in the four corners of the world, expected to curate the biennial while keeping up with our other professional commitments. We knew offhand that we could neither do our research together, nor labour to produce a single, finished text/position and discuss every single work. Instead, we came up with a much more realistic and reasonable scheme that accommodated for our singularities, respective experiences, penchants, and concerns. Rather than producing a taut, neat and organising principle, we instead identified a constellation of keywords, or motifs, that sketched a framework. Moreover, the physical space of exhibition included several buildings around the area in Sharjah known as the arts and heritage area. In other words, the visitor/spectator was invited to meander along a path, a journey, a narrative. The constellation of keywords/motifs seemed even more appropriate as a guiding—rather than organising—principle.

On my end, the principal urgent question that animated my “curatorium” (fantastic word!) was the notion of traitor/treason. One of the most dramatic features of our hyper-capitalist era is the near bankruptcy of the political imaginary. The void it has left behind has been ‘occupied’ by morality, hence the growing currency of politicised religiosity. Even the Left, in all its variegations, indulges in the language of morality. Treason is one of the most potent and salient tenets of a morally charged principle of organisation; while dissent, in contrast, is secular. When I looked up the semantic range of ‘traitor’, its synonyms range from ‘turncoat’ to ‘insurgent’. In other words, traitor does not contain a moral judgement in itself, rather it is a mirror of the political stakes and a measure of the so-called traitor’s position vis-a-vis authority (or power). In today’s political landscape, and in the closure or bankruptcy of the political, treason seemed like a fertile terrain for subversion.

NA: What are the risks of interpretation and communication involved, when developing a biennale-level project in the Arab world? How do you retain a multiple awareness of the ‘right to take offence’ that may be exercised by political interests or bodies of religious opinion, while also attempting to address some of the urgencies of the region, which are by and large not articulated in the Arab public sphere?

Mustapha Benfodil, Maportaliche / It Has No Importance, 2011. Photo: Gregory Sholette.

RS: I have now come to say “the much regretted tenth edition of the Sharjah Biennial” because I am so sorry at the outcome. Obviously, no one ever intended to offend, neither the artist, nor the curators, nor the director of the foundation under whose patronage the biennial functioned. The work by Algerian artist and writer Mustapha Benfodil, which instigated an incendiary campaign, was grossly misinterpreted. Perhaps it was a mistake to display it in an open space in the vicinity of a mosque. At least, I have committed to admit that was my mistake. However, the supposedly “blasphemous” statement was an excerpt from a testimony recorded, by the artist, of a woman who had been raped by radical Islamists and was throwing their own words back at them. In other words, the work addressed critically the moral high ground of radical Islamist discourse and the complacency of Arab regimes with it. Lost in the fray of the “scandal” and accusations of blasphemy was that the indignation of the so-called Sharjah “public sphere” was actually against the words of the Salafist rapist. The artist merely made them “visible”, and the curator made them visible “next to a mosque”. Issuing clarifications was utterly ineffectual. It was almost pointless to publish clarifications. Rare were the journalists who were interested in engaging with the artist. The summary dismissal of Jack Persekian, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation then, was excessively cruel, intentionally humiliating and intransigent. It was so “spectacular” that it overshadowed all possible discussion of misunderstandings, the maligning of intention and meaning.

In all honesty, I was shocked, dumbfounded and at a loss as to what I ought to do. There was a week, six or seven days, separating the news of Jack’s dismissal from the public issuance of a petition expressing outrage at his dismissal and making all sorts of appeals to protect his rights, absolve his reputation and propose a boycott against the Sharjah Art Foundation. Two days later, Jack published a disavowal of the petition. Case closed. Case closed? When I say that I was shocked, I mean that I was emotionally distraught. When I say I was dumbfounded, I mean that I realised, every hour and day that went by, that people around me knew a lot more about the situation than I did, or that was communicated to me. When I say that I was at a loss, I mean that I could not tell rumour from fact, speculation from information. When Jack published his disavowal, it was clear that the Sharjah Art Foundation lawyers had deployed their power to close the case.

Imran Qureshi, Blessings Upon the Land of my Love. Photo: Gregory Sholette.

In fact, most people, artists, intellectuals and critics wanted the case closed. Move on. Some close friends (artists and fellow curators) advised me to travel to Sharjah, ask Sheikha Hoor al-Qasemi, the ruler’s daughter and effective head of the Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) for a meeting, apologise, and bring the scandal to a more “decent” closure. Others suggested I propose to face the angry mob in an open discussion. Of all the institutions in the UAE and the Gulf, the SAF had earned a great deal of sympathy from protagonists in the region. On the one hand, they were not as bombastic, arrogant and loud as other institutions endowed with means; and on the other hand their institution- and capacity-building intentions seemed more genuine. They carried the frugal promise of resourceful partnerships, with “comfortable” means of production, a rare occurrence in the Arab world. And they operated at a safe distance from the market. Many practitioners were upset with me for spoiling the potentiality of collaborating with the SAF.

The “incident” was not uncommon, neither in the history of exhibitions and biennales worldwide, nor to the UAE. Some deemed it was bound to happen. We (the curators and the SAF team) were pushing boundaries, and in the year of the Arab insurgencies, something had to give. The authorities in the UAE were extremely wary after the eruption of the insurgency in Bahrain and the participation of their army in crushing that insurgency. I was very skeptical of what a public discussion, facing the “angry” mob, would have produced, but more importantly, I was not sure the SAF wanted to set up something like that in the first place.

So when you ask about a public sphere… There isn’t one per se in the Arab world. Arguably, the Arab-speaking 24-hour news broadcast media carry that pretence, but their political agendas are so obtuse and obvious, there is nothing public, let alone spheric, about them. There are however, public spheres in the Arab world—plural, diverse, multiple, on university campuses, in alternative art spaces, in the blogosphere… None were genuinely interested in parsing the scandal, proposing a platform for discussion. This said, and to be very fair, in the shadow of the Arab insurgencies, it was neither an interesting nor urgent matter. I myself was reluctant, even embarrassed, to broach the subject when my beloved in Syria were in danger, fighting for their lives… when insurgents in Yemen were proving every day, against all expectations and odds that they were smarter, more creative than anyone imagined in their wildest dreams.

I want to conclude my answer with this observation. The UAE is a country organised along absolute power. It is a federation of “emirates”, where each is ruled by a man, by convention amongst ruling tribes. There are no bodies to circumvent the authority of each rule, no systems of accountability, and certainly no transparency. There is court intrigue, rumours, hearsay, projection, speculation, the whim, favor and disfavor of a ruler. There is no possibility of a public sphere. There is a portent, or semblance, of open space, platforms, but all is contingent on the whim of absolute authority. Somehow, we had been ‘distracted’ from that reality: the biennial and the art scene (art fair and art market included) created and entertained the illusion that there was a public sphere. In that respect, the biennale “crashed” against that illusion.

NA: Elsewhere, you have spoken about the effigies of nationalism, of how some Arab states have manipulated history and distorted the possibilities of the present by generating partial, even mythological narratives of the early postcolonial past (the cult of Nasser in Egypt, for example). Do you find that a new sense of citizenship, in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, would involve a self-critical look at these effigies or unquestionable foundational myths? Will this proceed, in your view, from a more liberal perspective? Or will it instead be a case of new dogmas (the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafists) replacing the old ones?

RS: The most remarkable thing about the so-called “Arab Spring”—which has stretched to other seasons at this point, for some—is how it has demonstrated that we are utterly unequipped to make head or tail of it. I have watched—with self-confessed sadistic pleasure—journalists, analysts and even scholars fumble, stumble and be proven wrong, terribly wrong, time after time, incident after incident. The elections in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but once you visit these countries, in other words, once you are there, read newspapers, walk in the streets (public spaces), listen to people, you realise that the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold over power is being tested, not by imperialists or the G-8, but rather by the people, their electorate and those who voted for other political representatives. Surely, the Muslim Brotherhood embodies the political aspirations of a significant portion of the population, but obviously not of the majority of the population. They are entrusted with governing these countries now, and will be held accountable. The elections and the manner in which governance is experienced, or regarded, is the real outcome of the first chapter of the insurgencies in Tunisia and Egypt, more so than the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections.

I say the first chapter of the insurgency, because people have protested as vehemently since the ouster of their despots as they did prior to it. These insurgencies are also pivotal moments. They have forced governments-elect to reckon with the limits of their power and authority. Essentially, the political has been brought back to the public sphere, to its foundational grounds, and is being shaped by citizens. The Arab insurgencies have befuddled journalists and analysts because of their unshackling from dogma. The Muslim Brotherhood have been trying to reconfigure and coerce their ideology to prevail and make it hegemonic. Their opponents are fighting back, and they fight back using various and very different strategies as well as battlegrounds. This is one of the outcomes of the insurgency that’s radically new.

Slavs and Tatars, Friendship of Nations, 2011. Photo: Gregory Sholette.

The idiom of patriotism in the insurgencies has sometimes been misrepresented as nationalistic. The “revisionism” of the nationalist “effigies” has not yet surfaced, but I am confident it will come. For instance, the question of “Arab Jews” or the Jewish populations in the Arab world has been taboo in public discourse for at least three decades. Typically, the political movements that have not been dismissive of our Jewish populations were the ultra-Left, but over the years, the question of pluralism—ethnic, cultural and religious—has been, at best eschewed and, at worst, maligned. During one of the many rallies in Tahrir, I happened to listen to a young man giving a speech on a stage. He invoked “the people” but then went on to insist that Egyptians were “Muslims, Christians and Jews”… He did not have to mention “Jews”, the discourse over religious tolerance has been almost exclusively about Muslims and Christians, the very fact that he felt compelled to implies that he wanted to go further back in time in “revising” the question of tolerance and the plurality of Egyptians. In Syria, the insurgents have mixed the use of Kurdish and Arabic in posters and slogans to underscore the unity and plurality of the Syria they want to create. These are anecdotes, and they could be “moments”, not necessarily solid enough to be considered as evidence of how things have changed. I prefer to be optimistic, acknowledge and hold on to these moments so they are not lost…

NA: Your work in film curation (whether curating film programmes, festivals or biennales) is very substantial and impressive. What kind of reception has your work received over the years? Could your work have been included in school or college curricula, or could it have provoked a lively debate in the public sphere?

RS: You are generous and charitable. I am not sure “substantial” and “impressive” are totally deserved. I don’t think any of the programmes have had the sorts of impact you point out, on college curricula, or provoking a lively debate in the public sphere. I was told by many in Syria that the book I edited on Syrian cinema was much appreciated because it gave so much space to ‘primary sources’, that is, texts by filmmakers and interviews with them. The Syrian cinema retrospective, co-curated with Richard Peña at the Lincoln Center (titled ‘The Road to Damascus’), received impressive attention from the media. It toured to interesting places across the world. Touring film programmes is very complicated, specifically because of the negotiations around rights. The MoMA film programme I referred to earlier, titled ‘Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s until Now’, is unfortunately very difficult to tour, but I am hoping institutions will want to shoulder the trouble.

NA: Since your affiliations are transregional, would you find yourself limited by some such definition as a ‘contemporary Arab subjectivity’, or do you find it enabling and open-ended as a cultural position?

RS: It can go both ways. There is definitely an element of “contemporary Arab subjectivity” that I experience everyday and makes for a cornerstone of my sense of being in the world. It is not all that I experience, nor all of my being in the world. An open-ended cultural position is something we, curators, create as much as it “comes to us”, or have to contend with. Like most relationships it is the work of both entities. I know I might sound naïve or overly optimistic, but I would like to defend the idea that these ‘ascriptions’ are not entirely set in stone by the one entity—with more power and resources—addressing me.

Again, the Arab insurgencies are radically re-defining what Arab contemporary subjectivity means. This is an intense moment of radical reconfigurations and re-articulations. Most thrilling.

NA: Rasha, thank you so much for sharing your insights and experience with such generosity.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rasha Salti is a writer and independent film and visual arts curator, working and living in Beirut. From 2004 to 2010, she was creative director of the New York – based non-profit ArteEast, where she directed two editions of the biennial CinemaEast Film Festival (2005 and 2007); she also co-curated, with Richard Peña, The Road to Damascus, a retrospective of Syrian cinema that toured worldwide (2006). With Jytte Jensen, she co-curated Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s until Now (showcased at MoMA, New York, 2010-2012). Salti is one of the programmers of the Toronto International Film Festival. She administered a tribute to Edward Said titled For a Critical Culture (Beirut, 1997), and 50, Nakba and Resistance (Beirut, 1998), a 50th-anniversary commemoration of the Palestinian tragedy. Salti writes about artistic practice in the Arab world, film, and general social and political commentary, in Arabic and English. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Jerusalem Quarterly Report (Palestine), Naqd (Algeria), MERIP (USA), The London Review of Books (UK), Afterall (US) and Third Text (UK). In 2006, she edited Insights into Syrian Cinema: Essays and Conversations with Filmmakers (ArteEast and Rattapallax Press). In 2009, she collaborated with photographer Ziad Antar on an exhibition and book, Beirut Bereft: The Architecture of the Forsaken and Map of the Derelict. In 2011, Salti co-curated the 10th edition of the Sharjah Biennial.

Nancy Adajania (born 1971) is a cultural theorist and independent curator. She is Joint Artistic Director of the 9th Gwangju Biennale (Gwangju, 2012). Adajania has lectured extensively on contemporary art and its contexts at venues including Documenta 11, Kassel; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Transmediale, Berlin; Kuenstlerhaus, Vienna; the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; the 3rd Former West Congress, Vienna. From 2000 to 2002, she was Editor-in-Chief of Art India. Her essays have appeared in numerous books and anthologies, including: ‘The Nth Field: The Horizon Reloaded’ in On Horizons: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art (BAK/ post editions, 2011); ‘New Media Overtures before New Media Practice in India’ in Art and Visual Culture in India: 1857–2007 (Marg, 2009); and ‘The Sand of the Coliseum, the Glare of the Television and the Hope of Emancipation’ in Documenta Magazine No. 2/ Life! (Documenta 12/ Hatje Cantz, 2007). Adajania is the Editor of the monograph Shilpa Gupta (Prestel, 2010). Her curated exhibitions include ‘Avatars of the Object: Sculptural Projections’ (NCPA, Bombay, 2006), ‘The Landscapes of Where’ (Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke, Bombay, 2009), and ‘Your name is different there’ (Volte, Bombay, 2012). She co-curated ‘Zoom! Art in Contemporary India’ (Culturgest Museum, Lisbon, 2004) and was contributing curator for ‘Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves’ (ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2007) and consulting curator for ‘Chalo! India: A New Era of Indian Art’ (Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2008). In 2010, Adajania was researcher-in-residence at BAK/ basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht. She lives and works in Bombay.

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