TARGETFirst time visitors of Dhaka Art Summit, multigenerational engagement, interactive mediation
The Dhaka Art Summit 2018 launched the first edition of its art mediation programme with the generous support of Pro-Helvetia – Swiss Arts Council – New Delhi and the Hochschule Luzern, and the collaboration of the KochiMuziris Biennale and the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA). Cognizant that the space of contemporary art is, for many members of our extremely diverse audience, often quite daunting- we set out to create strategies that might be able to open up our programme to different worldviews. We hoped to strengthen our commitment to curatorial labour as a practice of hospitality, which could accommodate many forms of thinking and provide spaces for them to flourish. The idea of mediation marked a shift in our pedagogical strategy, moving away from top-down, uni-directional model of art education, and towards creating spaces where different audiences are encouraged to engage with artworks on their own terms. A key part of creating accessibility for us has been an emphasis on the vernacular. DAS 2018 became completely bilingual in English and Bangla, where all printed material was presented in both languages to foster ease of access to our Bangladeshi audience. The mediation programme produced and provided tools, found in the freely distributed Exhibition Guide, which viewers could use to navigate the many presentations that together formed DAS. We have included these tools as a downloadable PDF for your reference, and they continue to be used in future DAS editions. The art mediation tools were developed over the course of workshops at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (Cochin), the Hochschule Luzern (Lucerne) and in Dhaka, through dialogues between the curatorial staff of DAS, Dr. Rachel Mader and Lena Eriksson of the Hochschule Luzern, and our team of Art Mediators who were primarily young Bangladeshi art enthusiasts coming from diverse backgrounds, and most were not art professionals.The art mediators were trained through a series of workshops in the two month lead-up to the exhibition, and were present throughout the installation process engaging with the show as it was built up. The mediation team was taken to numerous exhibitions and museums in Dhaka to practice with the tool-kits they developed before introducing these tools to the DAS. They also had the opportunity to work directly with artists and curators via meetings and lectures to better understand the works and exhibitions they would be engaging with.
Some of these tools included:
- Fill Feel Walk – Using the map of the exhibition, the visitor could go around and try to feel and connect with the artworks without looking at the provided texts- freeing them from the didactics of the institution of DAS. It is important to note that many first time visitors are not literate in the art world language and can often find it intimidating.
- Talk to Me – Visitors who were willing to learn more about the artworks and exhibitions or wanted to discuss with others, could carry a ‘Talk to Me’ placard (provided in the freely distributed exhibition guide book), so others or art mediators could approach them.
- Chatterbox – A playful folded origami-like mediation tool which is used to ask a series of questions to the visitors. For example: What does the artwork make you feel? What does the artwork remind you of?What question would you ask the artist?
- Feedback- Those who were interested could come and give their feedback on particular artwork or the exhibition itself to the art mediators after they explored the area on a dedicated wall visible to all visitors to DAS.
- Keywords- The guidebook carried a series of keywords for each section of the exhibitions to help the visitors better understand the underlying concepts building up DAS.
- Colin Maillard (Blind-Man’s-Bluff) – One blindfolded participant is guided through the exhibition with verbal descriptions of the art in front of them.