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A glossary is unlike a dictionary, which defines terms. The terms in the glossary are specific to a context and carry a thickness of histories, experiences and myths with them.

Rupali Gupte — 2021.5.13 05:19 AM

The Difficulties of Making Sense

Saleem Sinai, the protagonist of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children, uses the metaphor of watching a cinema to explain the difficulty of making sense of the present: “Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems - but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible. Suppose yourself in a large cinema, sitting at first in the back row, and gradually moving up, row by row, until your nose is almost pressed against the screen. Gradually the stars' faces dissolve into dancing grain; tiny details assume grotesque proportions; the illusion dissolves-or rather, it becomes clear that the illusion itself is reality… (When) we're too close to the cinema-screen, the picture … (breaks)... up into dots, only subjective judgments are possible”.

Figuring out the world and making sense of it during these times - the times of the covid-19 pandemic - seems exactly like Salman Rushdie’s description of watching the cinema with our nose touching the screen. There appears to be no critical distance to see things and make sense when one is living through the situation. This is the first difficulty of making sense of the present, where the present appears to us in pixels without a sense of the whole story. The second difficulty is related to tools and methods. Trying to put together the story of humanity’s engagement with the pandemic is different from putting together an account of chemical, biological or physical reactions. The telescopes, microscopes and various measuring instruments of natural and physical sciences are unable to handle the realm of experiences, anxieties and desires that get played out in a pandemic. The third difficulty is that the present remains dynamic. The actions that happen on one day may not be repeated on the next. Humans and contexts constantly shape and reshape each other. Any one instance in this process of shaping cannot act as a representative of the whole process. Moreover, it is impossible to look at the whole process as it has not even happened as yet.

Rupali Gupte — 2021.5.13 05:20 AM

The Glossary

In the work Gurgaon Glossaries the authors undertook a study of Gurgaon, a city that grew rapidly with diverse forces coming together. The city attracted people and businesses from all over the country with different kinds of lives and backgrounds to inhabit a complete alien landscape. The city settled not by resolving the differences between forces, but by figuring out ways in which these forces could exist with each other. It generated new practices and relationships that became terms by which the city happened. Gurgaon Glossaries compiled the terms by which the city came together. These were micro-narratives of emerging practices and relationships. The trope of the ‘glossary’ is useful to think about the contemporary where the nose is pressed against the screen. Every pixel becomes a term in the glossary - and more the number of terms in the glossary, more is the possibility of making sense. The glossary is unlike a dictionary, which defines terms. The terms in the glossary are specific to a context and carry a thickness of histories, experiences and myths with them. For example a term like ‘project’ would simply mean an undertaking or an idea or an ambition. In Gurgaon Glossaries, one of the terms called ‘the Project’ reads as follows:

“The Project: Contradictions arise when the condition of absent centralized infrastructure and governance collides with aspirations, desires and fears of the young professionals who come to work for the big companies located in Gurgaon. These contradictions are resolved through the idea of the ‘project’ taking care. Developers promise a ‘project’ instead of a house. Effort is made to provide all facilities that are available in any first world condition within these gated projects. Clubs, gardens, parking, security systems, 24X7 water and electricity are provided by the project along with one-button services – an exclusive service, where one has to simply push a button on the intercom system and demand. One has access to plumbers, cable TV guys, electricians, pest control services, etc. Some projects also provide services like day-care, drivers on hire, laundry, food from different restaurants”.

Here, the term ‘project’ embodies the specificities of governance, values, practices, systems and living in Gurgaon. The people of Gurgaon associate the term with a specific idea and space and not to the general idea of the term. The titles in the glossary may sound extremely generic. It is in their descriptions however that the terms acquire a contextual specificity, which speaks about the place / time / situation. Moreover, the form of the glossary is able to work with the pixelated nature of the story, where one is inside the story and also a part of it. Such a form is like a hydra - with multiple heads, where each head can speak in a different voice and different language and can respond differently to different situations. All the heads put together would be able to collectively tell a story of the context.

Rupali Gupte — 2021.5.13 05:20 AM
Rupali Gupte — 2021.6.25 04:45 PM
Rupali Gupte — 2021.6.25 04:54 PM
Rupali Gupte — 2021.6.25 04:55 PM

We consider the works of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Jorge Borges, Umberto Eco and Michael Taussig as intellectual companions to the current work. The specific works here are as follows:

Barthes, Roland. (1991): Mythologies; trans. Annette Lavers, Noonday Press, New York (First translation published in 1957 by Editions du Seuil, Paris and later in 1972 byJonathan Cape Ltd.)

Benjamin, Walter. (2016): The Storyteller, Tales Out of Loneliness; trans, and ed. Sam Dolbear, Esther Leslie and Sebastian Truskolaski, Verso, London & New York

Borges, Jorge Luis, and Margarita Guerrero (1969): The Book Of Imaginary Beings. Dutton, New York.

Eco, Umberto (2012): The Infinity Of Lists: From Homer To Joyce. MacLehose, London.

Rupali Gupte — 2021.5.13 05:27 AM
Rupali Gupte — 2021.6.25 04:51 PM
City Glossaries

City Glossaries

Online, Workshop

Building dynamic vocabularies of place and self


Our understandings of cities often veer between the apocalyptic and the celebratory. The space between these two binaries is occupied by a wide variety of emancipatory processes through which cities are lived and experienced by their varied citizens.

Starting from an exhibition of an extant city glossary of the city of Gurgaon in India, participants are invited to build glossaries of their own as a way of deepening their personal processes of thinking about their cities. Combining a dynamic course of study that develops over time with extensive fieldwork of both place and self, these new glossaries will serve as interactive pedagogical tools for autodidacts—a process of opening up the many dimensions of city-making.

Exhibition program participants

Happening now

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Maestranze dello Spettacolo Veneto during the protest at La Fenice Theatre. June 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — 21 hours ago

Demonstration in front of La Fenice Theatre in Venice. June 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — 21 hours ago

Venetian workers from art and cultural sector, protesting during lockdown. May 2020

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — 21 hours ago

AWI (Art Workers Italia) during the occupation of the Piccolo Teatro in Milan. April 2021

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — 22 hours ago

Screenshot from the Dialogues #002 - Lunch at Korean Pavilion

The Venetian Team — The Venetian Team: Lagoon Dialogues — 22 hours ago

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Future School Staff — Futurology of Schools — Yesterday

Exhibition programs

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