“A curator of an art gallery has to take in account what the audience in all its variety wants to see.” These were Ms Motture’s words at the beginning of our class. Of course, if you think about it the whole point of curating and designing a gallery is to make it appealing to the public, to present it as well as you can so that the flow of people will increase as the good word about the gallery spreads. Perhaps the curator of the Enlightenment Gallery at the BM ( by the way, her name is Kim Sloan ) did not pay much attention to all the issues addressed by Peta, but I believe that there is much more than we, as ordinary visitors, can see and observe. It is probably so subtle that we cannot even perceive it. For instance, the name of the gallery is The Enlightenment Gallery. I noticed, perhaps erroneously, but maybe not, that the whole room is bright: the wide windows at located high on the walls of the gallery allow sunlight to flood the room, hence making the Enlightenment section Bright. Back to Ms Motture’s statement, I believe that the amount and the heterogeneity of the items that were (and had to be) displayed did not permit the curator to take in account the variety of the visitors. It was either the visitors or the exhibition. Fine, perhaps the disposition and the clarity of the objects could be improved, but what’s the whole purpose of a gallery if not identifying yourself with an individual from the age on display and seeing it actually with the eye of someone living 2 and a half centuries ago? It was probably a mess back then. Items crammed together on shelves. Then, as I was reading the labels on the cases, I suddenly remembered the issue (apparently big) brought up during our discussion in class: Ms Motture was very concerned about the length of the descriptions for each object, whereas I noticed that the ones in the Enlightenment Gallery exceeded the “50-word-criterion” that Peta told us about. But after all, different objects have different needs, and some have to be explained more thoroughly than others, also given the historical context to which they belong. But they mostly did not concern the history of the object or its use, rather they focused on their acquisition by famous collectors and the journey that brought them to the BM. Listening to Peta Motture’s speech, each and every segment of a gallery is designed to entertain, engage and transform the visitor and her knowledge. The Enlightenment Gallery, despite its formal partition, has to be taken as a one ( like this post, one chunk ), and the visitor should engage with it as a whole. But after all, there is always space for improvement.
I must admit this was the last piece I viewed, even if it is placed in the first part of the exhibition, just at the bottom of the stairs. It is a huge open book, and it immediately caught my attention as I approached the glass behind which was contained.
It is actually an album, on which the 21 Mughal provinces have been depicted. The book was open on the page featuring the map of the province of “Shahjanabad” (today’s Delhi), along with drawings of the emperor’s throne and imperial accoutrements. The Mughals were said to be dynamic, powerful and resourceful, being able to rule an empire as vast as the subcontinent for three centuries. The systematic land division is one of the most important mechanism utilized for such a successful reign. Akbar divided his empire into “subahs”, each controlled by a governor or “subahdar”. A strict bureaucracy was a vital part of this division: a revenue officer and a military-administrative officer provided support to the governor.
The album was prepared for colonel Jean Baptiste Genitl, a French officer in the service of the provincial governor of Avadah in the late 18th century.
I believe that the curators decided to incorporate this piece in the exhibit because it provides the visitors with a clear understanding of the advanced administration used by the Mughals to control their empire.
The world, mine for the taking;
Part of a greater being, which embraces the whole;
I do not feel
Essential, my actions blown away, like sand on rock;
Called by God, pulled toward him by the greatest force ever known
What am I? What do I really feel? Am I mere breath, continuous action, main means on life?
Only God, highest truth, can enlighten my soul and mind.
I imagined a response to the poem “Only breath”, connecting to it via the use of the term “breath”. For the poem I tried my best to keep a hermetic style, trying to give an idea of the importance of the world, yet of the state of mind of Sufi poems, who have a vocation toward God and aim to him. As one of them, I have contrasting feelings about the environment that surrounds me: it is something I can (and should) experience, yet it is not where I belong and that tries to annihilate my existence. My admiration for God is unmistakable, as the only source of love for the world. The image I attached is meant to suggest a very hin passageway between the “real” world, the one we all live in, and the world of God, to which everyone aspires, yet nobody knows what it is.