An ‘episteme’ organises our sensorium, educates our attention and orients our material disposition towards the world around us.
In Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things, the archaeological method attempts to uncover a positive unconscious of knowledge. This term denotes a set of 'rules of formation' which are constitutive of the diverse and heterogeneous discourses of a given period, which elude the consciousness of the practitioners of these different discourses. This positive unconsciousness of knowledge is captured in the term episteme, which is a condition of possibility of discourse in a given period; it is an a priori set of rules of formation that allow discourses to function, that allow different objects and different themes to be spoken at one time but not at another. An episteme is thus, a fundamental body of ideas and collective presuppositions that defines the nature and sets the bounds of what is accepted as true knowledge in a given epistemic epoch. Interestingly, while being such a structural whole, we are directed to attend to certain objects and events that have meaning and significance as well as can be created only within a particular historical-cultural context.
Essentially, different times are composed, not of events, but of systems of representation or modes of order. -(Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette in Art History Unstuffed). It is certainly easier to comment upon life in retrospect and much harder to understand what is going on when it is going on. An artist is known to be - potentially, the most sanguine observer of current, ongoing times who is able to translate that awareness into his work of art. Therefore, episteme, as an exhibition, explores artistic strategies of inquiry into knowledge-based drifts by highlighting personal and interpersonal relationships in artistic productions. The exhibition foregrounds a space for collective psyches that are intimately connected. At the level of our conscious thinking, it hopes to address multiple trajectories of unconscious phenomenon and create grounds for the realisations of these subjectivities.
History may define our times differently because it works on a meta-narrative based around events and encounters as the role of the historian is to tell a tale of progress-as-meaning. In order to construct this narrative, the historian works within the confines of the larger meta-narrative. Foucault had really hoped to write a history of the present when he said - ‘I seek to diagnose, to carry out a diagnosis of the present. To say what we are today and what it means, today, to say what we do say.’
Does art do that today? Does its practitioner understand the current condition or time while it is in the middle of those times?
Through re-imagining and re-problematising ideas, concepts, methodologies, discourses and histories, this exhibition aims to create a space for realisations that can challenge the historical as well as material relevance of the present. It also attempts to generate different modes of (un)conscious choices and how those can be shaped, navigated and disseminated to open a field of artistic associations. From a curatorial perspective, the attempt of this exhibition is to explore artistic strategies of inquiry into knowledge and generate sense-making through artistic images in the hope that the process of image making itself, subtly but surely, carries within it, a deep awareness of the world of experience while we are experiencing it.
This exhibition is specially important to me; not the least because it is the first exhibition in the new expanded space, but also because with this curatorial premise, I wanted to show a synthesis of different times for the gallery. Thus, I reached out to those artists with whom I started my journey and brought them together with those practitioners whose work like theirs, I believe, intuitively grasps the times we live in.