Khoj, Delhi – In conversation with Raqs Media Collective: curating conceptual gastronomy


Khoj International Artists' Association - In Conversation with Raqs Media Collective (Shuddhabrata Sengupta): Curating Conceptual Gastronomy, Public Lecture

Speaker: Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Raqs Media Collective, India
Speaker: Ryan Frederick Bromley, Canada & Poland


While all of the events and lectures that I undertook over the course of my PhD research were valuable stepping stones in realising my aims, the event that I organised with Shuddha Sengupta was perhaps the most important for me. The event came about as the result of relationships developed in India within the contemporary art community, and was arrived upon in a mostly unscripted manner. I had come to respect the mind and the work of Shuddha and was excited to engage him in some form of discourse concerning my research. This discourse took shape as a public event that was included as a part of the programming for Khoj's In Context: Public. Art. Ecology - Food Edition III residency. Khoj had selected 'food as a material in art' as their curatorial theme, a phrase that I had been repeating as a sort of mantra since my arrival in India. Curiously, the importance of this event became more clear to me after it was completed. I did not impress upon Shuddha any imperative for my undertaking of this event; however, his independent assertions concerning the ability of the chemical senses to communicate in complex symbolic concepts was both unexpected and delightful. As Shuddha is an internationally acclaimed giant of intellectual art and curatorial practice, (in my opinion) I could not have found a more potent voice for the validation of my research within the art world.   


Event Description

The event came about as the result of exchanges with Jesus Clavero Rodriguez, Chief Programming Officer at the Spanish diplomatic cultural body, the Cervantes Institute, New Delhi; at a time when I was struggling to organise my research visits in Spain, Jesus became a helpful facilitator. Upon my return from Spain, I wanted to contribute this research to the programming efforts of the Cervantes Institute, as it represented a very specific and attractive way to present Spanish cuisine for a food-crazed Delhi audience. Jesus was quick to include this offering into their programme but required a developed project concept. I approached Shuddha one evening at a Khoj event that we were both attending, in the company of Mrs. Pooja Sood, Director of Khoj, and the pieces fell into place - Shuddha was excited by the idea of the research and Pooja insisted that it happen at Khoj as part of their Food Edition programme. With a sponsor (Cervantes), venue and guest speaker in place, the event materialised in an organic way.

During the months leading up to the event I only met with Shuddha on one occasion, in the company of Jesus for the purpose of agreeing formally to the event. Although we exchanged a handful of messages, we never had an opportunity to explore the topic of food or art in any way. About one hour prior to the presentation of the lecture, Shuddha and I sat together in a quiet room and had our first exchange on the subject. In my opinion, the material stirred excitement in both of us and that conversation formed the core of the discussions during the public event.  For whatever reason, I felt that the conversation that took place in that quite room was more intense and inspirational than that of the event, where the Q&A discussion after the presentations felt a little flat.

The audience was an interesting mix of chefs, artists, journalists and curious attendants. The questions that arose after the event were typical of the public events that I had presented in before, with an enthusiastic audience that lacked words and examples to engage with the material but possessed a kindled enthusiasm. This event was the first in India for the newly appointed Director of the Cervantes Institute, Mr. Carlos Varona, and one which he repeatedly praised in our consequent meetings.

Overall, the event was as success. It received some press attention both in Delhi and in Spain but the real treasure for me was the contribution of Shuddha, whose insights and assertions unwittingly established the first notes of precedence for the validation of the chemical senses in art in an informed and scholarly way.  As this event came at the end of my PhD research phase, it also marked a sort of finale for my investigations and an important reference point for the assertions of my written thesis work.   












In Conversation with Raqs Media Collective
Curating Conceptual Gastronomy - public lecture 




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