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Mumbai and other themes at The 9th Shanghai Biennale 2012
The Shanghai Biennale, considered among the prestigious events on the global art calendar, not only showcases significant contemporary art productions, but also provides forums for artists to meet and challenge their own artworks. Besides, it facilitates an exchange of ideas among curators, writers and theorists from across the globe, to serve as a space of meaningful dialogue within a growingly global market. It highlights the important role that the Asia-Pacific region’s artistic productions now play in the wider international realm. Contemporary art from Mumbai is also being showcaseed at the Mumbai City Pavilion that features several promising artists from the city.

Purpose of the biennale
The biennale serves as a comprehensive platform for creative conceptual experiments and looks to expand Shanghai's scope as the facilitator and gateway to the thriving market. Apart from continuing its local experience to grasp the global scenario and changing cultural attitudes, it emphasizes on constructing cultural imaginations.

After the first few editions reserved solely for traditional techniques and artists of the home country, it was finally opened to international practitioners and curators. According to Chief Curator Qiu Zhijie, its significant characteristic is the main theme’s continuity –retained through deliberations and development under the Academic Committee. A professor at the School of Inter-media Art of China Art Academy, the Director of Total Art Studio, and a well-known artist, his works take a wide variety of forms like calligraphy, painting, video, installation, photography, and theater.

Broader theme of the 2012 edition
Elaborating on the broader theme of the 2012 edition, an accompanying note states, “Energy is born out of a collective; that’s why we are interested in artists and their creative approaches, who are able to “do work”. There are many such artists around the world who, instead of consuming energy by using a large number of things in their works, manage to turn their works into generators and export energy to their networks.

“They have built their own collectives to study the sharing, transformation, adaptation, resonance and magnifying of energy and bring out the inherent energy in any social context. They work in the fields, on the streets and in the neighborhoods, integrating their creative work in the reconstruction of social energy. They are ready to break away from existing boundaries of artistic concepts and mechanisms. Such artworks with a touch of “total art” connect individuals with the collective, others with self, labor with creation, everyday routines with miracles.”

Mumbai at ‘The inter-city pavilions’
For the first time this year special initiatives beyond confines of a museum space have been set up. The Biennale has introduced city pavilions as a new idea. Each one directed by its own independent curators, involve artists from the home city. Their adoption is the first usage of this particular format in an art fair. Creative people from 30 cities are featuring in this project. The selection of cities is done on basis of their relatedness to the core theme (Reactivation), their relatedness to the host city (Shanghai), and their respective art ecosystems.

The Inter-city Pavilion Program offers an excellent avenue for the talented artists from different cities of the world. As the international co-curator Boris Groys put it, cities tend to stand between the nation and the individual within. For many, the city invariably has a more concrete and clearer influence on their unique identity construction hence the model of inter-city pavilion is apt to express them.

For the first time the exhibition will move beyond exploring national art practices and will begin exploring city art practices with its Inter-City Pavilions. These focus on the interesting connections and energy exchanges between people and cultures which, in today’s globalized world, are more likely to be identified within local communities rather than in national contexts. India will be represented by Mumbai, one of the nearly 30 cities featured in the inaugural show at the Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum, housed in a building that used to be a thermal power-plant. Some of the cities invited are Istanbul, Tehran, Hong Kong, Taipei, London, Barcelona, Ulaanbaatar and Berlin.

The pavilion focuses on several allied themes addressed by each artist in his or her dynamic and diverse oeuvre, which portray their city as a unique place: its peculiar collective networks, its intricate improvisational nature and its incessant re-usage/ recycling methods as well as practices. Those featuring in the Mumbai pavilion are Kausik Mukhopadhay, Gyan Panchal, Manish Nai, Hemali Bhuta, Neha Choksi, Mansi Bhatt, Sharmila Samant, Shilpa Gupta, and Pablo Bartholomew. Their works not denote specific stylistic or aesthetic methodologies. Rather, the images, artistic processes and meanings will evolve gradually to deliberate upon and explain the exhibit themes in themselves.

Curated by Susan Hapgood and Diana Campbell, the showcase provides a comprehensive evocation of Mumbai’s artistic environment. The chief curator and founding director of Hyderabad-based Creative India Foundation, Diana Campbell, through the private foundation works toward advancing contemporary Indian art globally, also engaged in development of a major sculpture park of international scale of the country.