The Under Secretary (S&F),
Ministry of Culture,
Government of India,
Sub: Reg. the Selection Procedure of ‘Junior Fellowship’ in the field of Visual Arts (2011-12)
With reference to the recently held interview (August 2013) and the results announced in the website of Ministry of Culture, we would like to bring to your notice, our observations and certain reservations in the entire process of implementing the scheme of granting fellowships in the field of Visual Arts (This is an open letter which would be circulated through social media and other forms):
v The applications were invited during 2012 and a total of 808 ‘short-listed’ candidates were called for the interview during the month of August 2013 (Graphics-113, Photography-37, Sculpture-143, Pottery & Ceramics-6, Painting-439, Other areas-70) for an available Fellowships less than 50 in ‘Visual Arts’.
v It is a general practice for any selection procedure in Visual Arts, that certain number of visual documents (images of works created during the past 1-2 years) are invited along with the application, so that it becomes easier to shortlist the applicants. In this case no such procedure was followed and the applicants were asked to send only a project proposal. The procedure would work for the field of literature or similar areas whereas for visual arts it is the ‘work samples’ which should become the primary criteria supported with an artist’s statement.
v This resulted in a whopping number of more than 800 candidates called for the final interview which was held for 16 days. So the average number of candidates interviewed per day was more than 50. As we have witnessed the process, the selection panel spent an average of hardly 5 minutes to interview each artist….!
v Since the members of the jury have not seen any images or woks samples of the artists before, they had absolutely no clue about the artists’ practice and concerns. It is really surprising that even for the personal interview, the Department didn’t mention in the letter asking the artists to bring any original works! But most of the artists brought their works voluntarily. We wonder how it is possible to select a Visual Artist for a fellowship by just going through a project proposal without even looking at his/her works…! Practically it is impossible to read, understand and discuss with the artists about the project proposal in detail and also see the original works in 5-10 minutes.
v It is hard to understand the criteria followed by the Department of Culture in appointing the panel of jury who are supposed to be the ‘experts’ in that particular area. The jury appointed had absolutely no clue about the contemporary art practice and finding it difficult to understand the basic language and technical aspects involved in visual art practice. We didn’t find any ‘expert’ belonging to Visual Art in the panel (they may be experts in other fields). Some of them were asking awfully ridiculous and stupid questions and it was obvious that they don’t have any basic information about visual arts. Some samples: ‘aap ka photo dikhayiye…? (to be understood as images of works..!); ‘aap ka kaam research oriented hai, to itna badha fund kyon chahiye?; ‘water colour jo light se dark hota hai, wahi hai na?
v After witnessing all these kind of drama and trauma, we think the artists’ community has all the right to question the ability of the members of the jury as well as very unethical system followed in the entire process of implementing the ‘Fellowship Scheme’. With complete authority and due respect for the jury members as ‘individuals’, we would like to bring it to your notice that, most of the candidates appeared for the interview are better informed and knowledgeable than the members of the jury panel in the field of visual arts.
v We urge you to consider these suggestions so that the procedure would be more transparent and effective in future:
* Make it mandatory to send certain number of images of the artist’s works along with
the application and other documents.
* The images should become the primary criteria supported with the project proposal.
* A well qualified team of jury members should short list the candidates; the number of
candidates called for the final interview should be limited, so that the jury could spend
more time with each candidate going through the works and interacting with them.
* The jury members should be highly knowledgeable, aware of contemporary art practice
and be open to discuss and understand the concerns of the artists from various
geographical and cultural backgrounds.
* Most of the time the applications for a particular year will be called in the next year and
the interview will be held a year after. (In this case for 2011-12 is held during 2013 and
results announced by late 2013). The ‘scheme’ should be fast tracked so that it is
implemented in the particular year itself. It is because the artist’s proposals are mostly
relevant for that particular time and the concerns and thought process could change in a
long period of time.
* There is huge imbalance between the number of artists selected between Performing and
Visual Arts. In this case only 52 Visual Artists were selected (from 808 shortlisted)
compared to 148 from the Performing Arts..! The list of selected artists proves that,
there is also a bias towards the artists from South India which is strongly objectionable.
We request you kindly consider the contents this letter as the concerns expressed by a large number of young artists who are disappointed and feeling letdown with the entire procedure of implementing the ‘scheme’ of fellowships under the Ministry of Culture.
Group of Young Artists