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Dhaka Tribune

'If you’re not connected to culture and art, you lose a lot'

DAS curator Ruxmini Choudhury believes art can open minds

Update : 10 Feb 2023, 05:24 PM

Her earliest childhood experiences of art have shaped Ruxmini Choudhury, Samdani Art Foundation curator and one of the minds behind Dhaka Art Summit 2023, at her core. When Ruxmini closes her eyes, the image of Shishir Bhattacharjee painting that first frightened her when she was five years old still appears to her vividly. The first performance she saw — by Mahbubur Rahman when she was in class 7 – is still fresh in her memory, and her later visits to the Asian Art Biennale and national art exhibitions are also imprinted on her soul.

“I didn't understand the context at that age, but the artwork still remained in me,” she says. “I didn't want to be an artist, but I always wanted to be surrounded by art. I feel that if the next generation experiences exhibitions and gets involved in art, it helps them have open minds. If you're not connected to culture and art, you lose a lot.”

To touch this space of openness, innocence, and learning, Ruxmini worked with DAS chief curator Diana Campbell and senior curator of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art Akansha Rastogi, to create the show Very Small Feelings (first floor of the National Art Gallery building, Shilpakala Academy). This exhibit assembles a dizzying ‘Spread' of storytelling installations that combine performances, folklore, children's cartoons, illustrations, videos, games and more, inviting visitors of all ages to submit to the wonder, silliness, curiosity, and hope inherent to the inner child.  

Ruxmini points out sections of Very Small Feelings where children are given markers, colors, or chalk to draw, sketch, and paint on various surfaces, such as Sanjoy Chakraborty's Shades of Flowers. She says, “It was so important to have a section of Very Small Feelings which involves children becoming the artist. I want them to know they have done something important which remains with them, as it remained with me.”

DAS also invites school children for field trips, where they learn about the art from trained art mediators and can ask questions — something that Ruxmini never had the opportunity to do as a child “because there was nobody to ask questions to.”

She says, “Children actually ask the most amazing questions, that no one had thought of. Not even the artist. And it makes the artist think. So the child's voice is really important.”

Ruxmini's focus on creating experiences that make art accessible — for everyone, not just children — include the development of the DAS art mediator program and book of art mediation tools. This year, 106 art mediators were trained to enrich visitors' experiences by explaining the stories and concepts of each artwork. 

Ruxmini says this immersive engagement is what curation is all about: “It's the curator's job to create a dialogue. To tell a narrative of the whole exhibition so that visitors understand the context of the artworks and the artist, and the relation between the artworks, rather than putting the artists' works randomly.”

When you visit Very Small Feelings, Ruxmini hopes that you tap into wonder: “I remember how I saw something, and it amazed me. I want everyone to experience that.”

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