In focus: Photography meets architecture at India Arch Dialogue 2018

Jaideep Sen Published :  09th February 2018 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  09th February 2018 06:00 AM

The theme for the third edition of the India Arch Dialogue (IAD), to be held in New Delhi, is ‘Moments in Architec-ture’, with a focus on photography. “The disciplines of architecture and photography are separate, but deeply interconnected... If architecture is the art work of the architect, then photography demonstrates it,” offers a note from the hosts, FCML Design Initiative (FCDI), describing their efforts to encourage dialogue within the arts, architecture, design, interiors and visual art communities. 

The festival’s lineup of speakers includes architects Abha Narain Lambah and Martand Khosla,  photographers Paul Clemence and Dayanita Singh, artist Anita Dube, and fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani, while the curatorial board, led by Verendra Wakhloo, includes the architects Sudipto Ghosh, Madhav Raman and Rachit Srivastava. In email interactions, we got three of the curators to share their larger vision. 

How does photography serve to showcase architecture, and aspects that make it an art form?

Sudipto Ghosh: In its previous two editions, IAD centred around architectural models and sketches. Brought together from some of the world’s most influential design firms, the exhibits became the epicentre for talks that explored the shifting nature of design by architects, artists, photographers, fashion designers and others. This year, we turn to photography, a form that relies upon, and critiques architecture.In the words of (Hungarian artist) László Moholy-Nagy, photography allows us to “see the world with entirely different eyes.” The show will reinforce that sentiment.

How closely connected is architecture to art, design and visual art? 

SG: Architecture is referred to as the ‘mother of all arts’. The cavemen could not have produced cave paintings without first appropriating the cave for habitation. However, the point of India Arch Dialogues is to give thoughts to the words of the German poet, Hölderlin, who said: “…poetically man dwells.” This idea that each one of us lives creatively — without necessarily separating our actions into visual arts, performing arts or architecture — is fundamental to a dialogue between the arts. Literally speaking, architecture plays host to various forms of art, and we felt, a conversation that springs from architecture and spreads out to these forms, would be valuable towards ‘dwelling poetically’.

Verendra Wakhloo: Like many other creative forms of expression, architecture is the synthesis of “aesthetic and scientific or technical advancements, realised by civilisations across the globe. Considering the dynamic nature of architecture, architects have the responsibility to provide life-enhancing, inspirational spaces for human interaction, and their creative materialisation. Akin to selling anti-ageing creams, dreams selling aspirational lifestyles can be misleading and destructive in nature, and digress from the genuine knowledge-based evolution of art.

Madhav Raman: Creative practices represent our times, and cultural productions like architecture and art are testimony to human endeavour through time. Design as a practice is at service to society while art often serves society as its critic. Both need to have a very deep connect to society. IAD aspires to build an open platform that fosters robust and engaged relationships between art, design and society.

Sudipto Ghosh

Architecture is considered to be a more academic form, compared to the arts, in general. So, how are the discussions here different from those at the art fairs?

MR: Academia is of great significance to both, but for different reasons. Comparatively, the academics of art is much more cohesive and capable of dealing with elevated levels of abstraction.In today’s rapidly changing times, there is great interest in an evolving discourse around the practices of design and art, and how they each engage with society, and the ways we live. Discussions in art and architecture are not dissimilar in their canvases, but the nature of dots connected can be vastly different.

SG: Architectural and art events in India remain largely exclusive and specific to their individual audiences. This event does the opposite.

How would you explain ‘design practice as urban activism’? What are the expectations of design, therein?

SG: Every form of art has an element of activism in-built. In questioning the normative, art reveals to us all that we have forgotten or purposely brushed under the rug. In such events, we are forced to confront aspects of design that are uncomfortable.

What are the other highlights expected at the festival?

VW: Two book launches, Women in Architecture and An Adobe Revival, works of Didi Contractor, profess an emerging trend in this generally male-dominated profession, which could have tenable benefits from the feminine energy to reduce architectural “violence”. Also, Sundaram Tagore’s film Louis Kahn’s Tiger City will be screened, and Mumbai-based architect Shimul Javeri Kadri will present Women Architects And Modernism In India, a book by Madhavi Desai. 

India Arch Dialogue 2018 is on from February 9-25 in New Delhi.