Sarai Reader 09: A Satellite
15 February – 9 March 2013
Featuring Gurgaon Glossaries by Prasad Shetty, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Khanolkar
Selected by Raqs Media Collective
For this project, Raqs Media Collective has invited Mumbai-based architects and urbanists Prasad Shetty, Rupali Gupte, and Prasad Khanolkar, to conceive a satellite project that spins off from the larger nine-month exhibition titled Sarai Reader 09 at the Devi Art Foundation in New Delhi.
In Mumbai, Gurgaon Glossaries will be presented as an installation and a series of workshops. The project is based on the architects' assembly of terms and processes pertaining to Gurgaon, the relatively new Indian city southwest of New Delhi that has mushroomed from a farming village into a major metropolis in less than 25 years. As Gupte, Khanolkar and Shetty explain:
When a city settles, new terms emerge. Terms; not only as new words and phrases, but also new ways of doing things, new things, new relations and new practices. Gurgaon Glossaries is a compilation of such terms—terms by which the city of Gurgaon has been settling. These are micro-narratives of new practices and relationships that have emerged in the settling process. Settling here is not necessarily a resolution of city forces, nor is it a peaceful coexistence of different people and practices. It is rather a set of processes by which things get worked out—the elaborate mechanics which keep the city in a perpetual state of becoming.
Discussions about poor infrastructure, degrading environment, absent government, developer-driven planning, growing consumerism, neo-liberal civil society, and inadequate cultural life have dominated characterizations of Gurgaon, the 'millenium city' on the outskirts of Delhi. At the same time, its speedy financial growth, driven by a large number of corporate enterprises, has created a promise of prosperity. People come from all over India to take part in the opportunities available. Perspectives on Gurgaon oscillate between a critique of its awkward urbanity and a celebration of its tremendous promise.
Discussions about many Indian cities seem to be trapped in the meta-narratives of deficient infrastructure, shoddy governance, environmental issues, capitalistic dominance, loss of rights and socio-cultural decay. These meta-narratives identify clear problems and create a context for immediate interventions, which create further problems. For example, the narrative about poor infrastructure has made way for large-scale infrastructure creation, which in turn causes displacement of people, which in turn causes creation of rehabilitation policy, which in turn causes environmental and cultural damage, and so on.
The form of the glossary allows simultaneous construction, dismantling and reconstructions of Gurgaon. It emerges as a city with a unique urbanity where modern city planning and development ideas overlap with pastoral sensibilities, where new kinds of entrepreneur-ships flourish, new civil society is configured, new negotiations take place, new legislations are experimented with and new cultures are formed. These micro-narratives have the capacity to complicate the easy meta-narratives, to get out of the problem-intervention-problem rat-race, to generate and sustain an interest in living-in and loving the city, to offer nuanced readings of the city and to find creative ways of engaging with it.
This project is a satellite of the Sarai Reader 09 exhibition at the Devi Art Gallery, Gurgaon, curated by Raqs Media Collective. The work comprises of a glossary of 100 terms taking the form of image/text combinations, displayed throughout the exhibition space. Here, it becomes a discussion space punctuated by a series of planned and unplanned conversations about studying cities. Gurgaon Glossaries is the starting point for these dialogues, with a large central table forming the setting. A series of cubes above and below the table surfaces are reminiscent of a mini city erupting, housing the glossary. The light boxes embedded in the surface remind one of photographs tucked under glass tabletops in cheesy brokers’ offices in Gurgaon. The chairs form a collage of accrued desires. The glossary complicates the meta-narrative. It affirms our belief that cities get worked out beyond plans and conspiracies, beyond concepts and categories, beyond activism and policy, and beyond discourses and interventions.
About the Creators
Rupali Gupte, Prasad Khanolkar and Prasad Shetty are all architects and urbanists based in Mumbai. They are members of the Collective Research Initiatives Trust (CRIT), which is an urban research network.
Rupali Gupte specialises in urban design and teaches at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute For Architecture.
Prasad Shetty specialises in urban management and works with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Environment and Heritage Societies.
Prasad Khanolkar specialises in urban planning and is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Toronto.