Clark House Initiative is a curatorial collaborative and a union of artists based in Bombay, established in 2010 by Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma concerned with ideas of freedom. Strategies of equality have informed their work, while experiments in re-reading of histories, and concerns of representation and visibility, are ways to imagine alternative economies and freedom. Clark House Initiative intends to actively recall political and artistic ﬁgures into contemporaneity and to question the recent rise of fascism in India based on exaggerated rumours of economic prosperity and nationalist pride.
Membership arises from basic tenets of humanism - Friendship, Anti-Racism, Sexual Freedom, Anti-Homophobia, Anti-Islamophobia, Feminism, Secularism and understanding the project of Modernism as an economic and political reality outside the occident. 17 artists run the union that gathers many more and are based across many seas. Nikhil Raunak + Sachin Bonde, Rupali Patil + Prabhakar Pachpute, Amol Patil + Poonam Jain & Yogesh Barve, who together became the artist collective Shunya in 2011, were the founding artists and are the permanent members of the Clark House.
We founded it in 2010 out of a deep anxiety about the cultural space that then seemed available in the city for contemporaryexpression. Clark House was created out of a conviction that there was a need to explore exhibition language – something we felt starved of in the city. Something we are still often starved of. The language of curation was our response to the language of the market. Was our response to our love of architecture. Was our refuge from the language of private property, copyright, spectacle and the immobility of the museum, where the rules of presentation of twentieth-century Indian art appeared to us to dangerously coincide with the categories deﬁned by auction houses. Within the language of curating we felt truly, radically free. Curatorially, all objects were equally precious or imprecious – it depended on how we strung them together, and why, and not seniorities, geographies,market values, canons, genders. So unlikely works found space beside each other and beside other objects: ﬁles, ship models, bronze horses, free press certiﬁcates. Suddenly we could build sentences, could stratify meaning. Of course, we were individually struggling to do these things in spaces before Clark House, but they were rarely understood, or tolerated. But within Clark House, it was a means of writing out a missing art history.
Curating was a language that could be political – in those days we were so disturbed by the failure of obvious political positions: 2010 was not 2014 [when this interview took place]. We were different, and the Bombay around us was different. We wanted a more thoughtful, layered politics that could hold a complicated argument. Curating was a way of ﬁnding how to feel present within a city that was losing its cultural relevance, and where the best artists were too often forced to exhibit elsewhere. Clark House came about because we decided we could not wait for institutions or means. We were down and out but we did not seem to notice all that much. Our ﬁrst exhibitions were essays of thoughts. And so as one went from one room to another – hopefully, one entered a bafﬂement, a propositional space, a philosophical register, alongside the political. Our exhibitions were not about spectacle, they could be ﬁercely dull in that respect, with much accompanying writing: printed captions, or handwriting on Post-it notes, annotations on walls, annotations of a work with another work. We tried to always place a component of the exhibitions on the street outside Clark House. We were perhaps searching for something – a sense of a radical community, I suppose.
Co-founder of Clark House Initiative,The NEW Curator, 2014
Clark House is a building from 1908. It shares a roundabout with two museums, an Art Deco cinema, and a former socialist cooperative ration shop and lunch house. It is located in the heart of the cultural district, on Mahatma Gandhi Road. Further down this road, the Lumière Brothers screened the ﬁrst moving mages in India in 1896, a year after they invented them, at Watson’s Hotel.
Since its beginning, Clark House has been artist-funded, sustained through a community of like-minded art practitioners: Abdul Aziz Raiba, Atul Dodiya, Aung Myint, Justin Ponmany, Krishna Reddy, Manish Nai, Manisha Parikh, Najib Raiba, Nalini Malani, Pisurwo Jitendra Suralkar, Prabhakar Pachpute, Prajakta Potnis, Sharmila Samant, Tushar Joag, and all the members of Clark House. We have also collaborated with institutions like Sir JJ School of Art and Mohile Parikh Center for the Visual Arts.
Clark House Residencies and Projects are funded by Foundation For Art Initiatives and Aruna & Chaturbhuj Sharma.