Featured works – Sameer Kulavoor, Ritesh Uttamchandani, Rachel Lopez, Sudhir Patwardhan, Pallon Daruwala, and Peter Bialobrzeski, extracts from Extreme Urbanism IV: Looking at Hyper Density – Dongri, Mumbai (Harvard University) and the State of Housing: Aspirations, Imaginaries, and Realities in India (UDRI and AF).
Display at – Goethe-Institute/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai
Curator – Kaiwan Mehta
Project advisor – Rahul Mehrotra
The theme of the exhibition is based on the project called the ‘arrival city’ which is an existing thesis which talks about what are creative cities? What is the nature of cities today?
And this was taken up as a project for the Making Heimat: A German pavilion project at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 and that time Germany had gone through this whole phase of migration from Syria and parts of east Jordan into the German cities, they were dealing with the sudden new wave of migration along with dealing with the older migrations that happened before, and this whole question of how a city is a mix of foreigners, how does a city adapt to new people that come in? What should you do in a city so that new people fit in, the old people don’t get antagonistic, all these important questions around migration?
But this was a specific migration that happened around this period, and that’s what the thesis ‘Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World.’ by Doug Saunders is about. After the success of the German pavilion, it was further taken to different cities in the world that have a history of migration of which Bombay was one of the cities. The exhibition Shifting City, a project by Goethe-Institute/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai, in collaboration with the Architecture Foundation is curated by Kaiwan Mehta.
The curator was interested in understanding more about what is happening currently in the city? What is happening in some of the northern suburbs of Bombay: Goregaon, Malad, Andheri, Thane, Chembur based on the observations of change of life in these particular areas like how malls are more developed in these areas as compared to central Bombay as these areas have suddenly become 24-hour workplaces with a large number of workforce in the city.
These places have become bustling food places after midnight because of call centers, international corporations that need a workforce 24/7 in shifts. The different migrant laborers that we observe in Mumbai city are the taxi drivers that come from the northeast and suddenly we have a new set of migrant labor like the Swiggy and the Zomato delivery boys. Living in a city that has changed drastically than normally how a city changes that can be seen through these different signs of lifestyle is what the curator has mapped in this exhibit.
There was always an argument that migration doesn’t always happen at a workforce level but it happens at all different economic levels. The curator explains how instead of the arrival city Bombay becomes the arrived-in city, for people who come to live in Bombay it becomes a sort of achievement in the social ladder and now they have to survive on it, for them even if it is migrating to cities close to Bombay like Surat, Nagpur.
This is also sort of reflective of how people tend to use the city for example going to a mall becomes a certain moment of achievement. The curator has done parallel studies that are based on the history of the city, how spaces such as the mall function for example the food court in the mall in places like Juhu that has a range of upcoming artists, performers where the curator observes how these people who come from different states in India to settle as artists in Mumbai try to fit-in in the city, how being in a certain food court or café or a shop for a lot of people becomes a representation of their status in the city.
The whole corporate architecture, real-estate architecture, gated communities’ architecture represents the same thought of people wanting more to constantly improve their status and be on top of their game and how this idea translates into architecture the way the city advertises the gated communities to represent a certain kind of social life rather than a question of housing.
To understand the shift between the arrival city to the arrived in the city the curator looked at broader studies by narrowing it down to time and geography and mental map of the changing culture i.e. looking at migration in the last 25 years, changing cultures in the last 25 years and connecting it to the modern geography of Bombay.
In Pallon Daruwala’s photograph what is interesting is aerial photography of cities. There is a history of aerial photography of cities in urban research. The photograph of Mumbai city by Pallon Daruwala used in the exhibit shows two things: high-rise construction on the left and it is showing the city as a landscape, the photo emphasizes less on the details of the city like the streets, the chawls, the balcony, the playgrounds making the city an imagination.
The exhibition dealt with different kinds of mediums. Where is the workforce? How is the workforce of the city coming? At one point we are constructing the high-rises so there is construction labour. On the other hand, these high-rises need special maintenance so there is a whole maintenance staff for maintaining the curtain wall.
In one of Pallon Daruwala’s photographs we can see rather than emphasizing on the curtain wall we are looking at the cleaner person cleaning the wall who is a pavement dweller versus the picture of a luxurious apartment with a beautiful view that one dreams of having a rich lifestyle. These photographic materials were used by the curator to understand how other people perceive the city.
Other mediums used in the exhibit included newspaper cuttings in the context of everything the curator was working on over the last 10 years that were based around the topics of food delivery, taxation, uber strikes that were discussions based on what is going around in the city. This was done to perceive what is the mood of the period, the curator understood the history of the time by collecting these articles and relating them, and justifying the argument of the arrival city through them.
Other mediums showcased in the exhibit include works by Sudhir Patwardhan and Sameer Kulavoor.
In Peter Bialobrzeski’s photographs, we see how aspiration is crystallized into visuals of infrastructural development while the gaping holes in the city’s economic fabric are still visible. The exhibition also displays extracts from two projects that focus on housing in the city: State of Housing: Aspirations, Imaginaries, and Realities in India and the other from Extreme Urbanism IV: Looking at Hyper Density – Dongri, Mumbai (Harvard University).
- Sameer Kulavoor. 2021. The Shifting City – Sameer Kulavoor. [online] Available at: <https://sameerkulavoor.com/portfolio/the-shifting-city/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
- Verve Magazine | India’s premier luxury lifestyle women’s magazine. 2021. In Conversation With The Creative Minds Behind The Exhibition ‘Shifting City’ | Verve Magazine. [online] Available at: <https://www.vervemagazine.in/arts-and-culture/in-conversation-with-the-creative-minds-behind-the-exhibition-shifting-city> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
- Editorial_DI, V., 2021. The SHIFTING CITY… city of arrivals and arrived-in. [online] DOMUS India. Available at: <https://domusindianet.wordpress.com/2020/04/07/the-shifting-city-city-of-arrivals-and-arrived-in/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].
- The Asian Age. 2021. Giving Shape to a Shifting City. [online] Available at: <https://www.asianage.com/life/more-features/070419/giving-shape-to-a-shifting-city.html> [Accessed 4 April 2021].