The interdisciplinary project engages local residents and asks them what they want from and in their city. 

The third leg of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a project aimed at exploring issues related to contemporary urban environments, will open in Mumbai from 9 December 2012 to 20 January 2013. The Indian Lab has enlisted renowned public artist Héctor Zamora for their team.

Mexican artist Héctor Zamora.

For the Mumbai lab, the team faces the challenge of how to negotiate Mumbai’s notoriously crowded and chaotic cityscape. They have settled on creating a structure inspired by traditional Indian mandapas, an outdoor pavilion used for public events. The lab was designed by Japanese architectural firm Atelier Bow-Wow and will be constructed out of bamboo.

Local communities, local materials

However, to adapt to Mumbai’s unique urban environment, the lab also wanted to expand the scope of the project, enlisting the help of lab team member Héctor Zamora, a Mexican artist known for work that investigates social interaction with public spaces.

Zamora’s work often incorporates local design elements and materials into their construction. For his piece Muegano for New Zealand’s Scape Public Art, the artist made a large-scale public sculpture out of pre-fabricated glass house frames commonly found in Christchurch, a comment on Western urbanity and mass-produced architecture.

The artist is also known for utilising public feedback and interaction into the creative process itself. For his project Every Belgian is born with a brick in the stomach, Zamora invited residents of Genk, Belgium to a waste dump on the outskirts of the city to create designs, graffiti-style, with the piles of bricks that were left on the site.

More complete view of Mumbai

Zamora hopes to bring a sense of fun and popular engagement to the Mumbai lab. In an interview on the BMW Guggenheim Lab’s blog, the artist commented on the importance of bringing the project to a broader audience.

To Zamora, Mumbai’s massive size and complexity necessitates a more varied artistic program, one that can engage a diverse spectrum of people. As the artist said in the interview,

I want to see a very pop, or popular, Lab. I would love to have something that will … touch as many people as possible. I think it’s very important for these kinds of projects to not get stuck in a very small discussion for only a small group of people…. Of course, we’d like to create some awareness about some of the problems that you can find in Mumbai, but if you can only create that awareness in a really small group of people, this will not work. It has to be very plural and popular, so we’re using very simple strategies to bring the concepts of the Lab out in a very flexible, massive way.

Towards this goal, the Mumbai lab will include several pop-up satellite sites around the city. The venues will play host to a number of free cultural programmes that invite local residents to contemplate their city and express how they would like to see it develop and grow.

“Confronting Comfort”

The BMW Guggenheim Lab will visit nine cities in three two-year cycles. The Mumbai project wraps up the first programme, which previously opened in New York and Berlin. Collectively, these three labs fall under the theme “Confronting Comfort”, which probes the question of whether comfort and individual space can be derived from the urban environment, as opposed to merely being an unsustainable detachment from it.


Related Topics: art in Mumbai, open air art spaces, public art, art and the city, art and the community

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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