A project by Avani Tanya
At a moment when neo nationalists are pledging to rewrite and reconstruct historical narratives in school textbooks and museums, the artist proposes to take on the role of an amateur museologist, and create her own personal reading of the oldest museum in the Country — the Indian Museum in Kolkata. Though she has never been to the museum, she has heard countless stories about it; the discovery of the 250 million year old tree fossil, infinite ammonites gathered by Geologists now strewn around the galleries, naphthalene balls used to preserve the four thousand year old Egyptian Mummy, the hanging blue whale carcass, secret rooms still filled with 19th century air and the sunmica clad furniture that has replaced the original Burmese teak wood cabinets in recent years. Avani imagines a museum, such as the Indian Museum, as a site of excavation of temporal unraveling; where collapsed centuries come together in displayed objects. Who chose these objects? How did they physically reach the Museum? What does displaying do to the telling of those that have not been displayed? For the artist the museum acts as a repository of selective material memories — a fertile ground for erecting fantasies, where factual accuracy of the museological narrative often becomes irrelevant.
The project starts with Avani spending two days, from morning to evening, wandering through the museum — while systematically documenting her interactions with the objects on display, the display systems, visitors, museum staff — and the incidents that play out during these encounters. She will also take the opportunity to invite participants from the city; to have a chat and explore the museum together with her leading to her setting up a two day editorial desk at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata where she will put together a maquette for a publication of the gathered material of a fabricated ‘museum in my mind’, which could include but not be limited to photographs, texts and other forms of recordings — opening up the ‘desk’ as a place for collaborative construction of ideas. She will be spending two days at the Goethe-Institut where she will sit at the editorial desk and create a zine with all the interactions that she has collected.
The project will be opened to the public on Monday, 17 February 2020 at 6:30 pm with the artist being present to introduce the project and conduct ‘A Show and Tell workshop’, where guests are expected to bring along with them one everyday object that represents Kolkata and share a story about it. There will be an exercise in writing a caption and photographing the objects and then using a photocopier to make a collective zine of objects from Kolkata.