Make museums (or at least die trying)

I can never pinpoint why or how I decided to become part of museum projects. There is something strangely addictive in these long drawn, harrowing projects with no precedents to follow. I attribute it in part to teachers who introduced me to design history, the reputed and ever elusive internship program at MoMA and my first job and boss.

In Bangalore, there is an underlying current of cultural activities, they mostly revolve around events and are dominated by the performing arts. There are some really great venues in Bangalore and performers have devoted audiences. What does bother me though is these spaces are not planned for anything more. There maybe a bookstore or cafe attached but the institutions themselves have no continuous spaces or programming that encourages artists or helps them develop their work. I did see this more often in Delhi.

Museums have great potential for this, a simple visit to NGMA/National Museum has great value for artists. Besides visiting the permanent exhibits there is almost always something new on display and sub-spaces within the building give opportunities for events of many kinds (from small workshops, screenings, performances to lectures and seminars).

Museums - even the simplest ones - always leave lingering questions for the visitors. Of course, these questions may not be well articulated, and some visitors do leave with an air of cynicism but it cannot be argued that these spaces are able to provide a shift in perspective just by walking through spaces, this can be as enriching as a great lecture, article or book.

In the ever increasing consumer driven world, museums are pressed to become the beacons of hope and the guiding light for the people. It is common now to view museums as centers of cultural influence. In international scenarios it has become a mandate for museums to take a stand on socioeconomic/political issues.

It is true that museums can be highly problematic themselves when it comes to the curation, funding, etc. but over the years one senses that it is tougher to dissolve the physical structure and the vision of the museum than its digital counterparts. By this I mean the blatant subsumption of many honest counter culture movements and entities that stood on the ideological ground of the world wide web.

My hope remains that I’m able to work with museums and they continue to be spaces that inspire ideas, criticality and action.

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