© Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai. Photograph by Anil Rane

As the next iteration of State of Nature—a project initiated by Goethe-Institut and Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai in 2018 that brings together multiple perspectives to understand and address our present ecological crisis—the exhibition New Natures: A Terrible Beauty is Born is a proposition to rethink the world as we know it today. Taking place in Spring 2022, the exhibition was curated by Ravi Agarwal and curator of literature Ranjit Hoskote, who conceptualised a complimentary programme consisting of prominent writers, poets, and essayists.

Gallery Walkthrough—New Natures: A Terrible Beauty is Born


Walkthrough of the exhibition New Natures: A Terrible Beauty is Born with curators Ravi Agarwal and Ranjit Hoskote. Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai, Spring 2022.

Curatorial statement

“All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born”
[Easter, 1916. The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)]

Climate change, environmental destruction, species extinctions, now increasingly common terms, are symptoms of a deeper planetary emergency. At its root lies an historical alienation from nature, which converted lived nature relationships to an abstract idea of separateness. Nature’s commodification converted its polyphonic values to a singular monetary one. A hyper-real metaverse technoshpere has further reduced complex ecosystems to mere data. Extractive, capital-technology driven economies—propelled by colonization and thoughtless industrialization—have caused planetary limits to be exceeded and have catapulted us into the Anthropocene. The recent zootonic viruses are a “phenomenon” produced by the “intra-acting” (in Karen Barad’s terms) networks of capital and its institutions, and harbingers of unfolding perils. Alongside, the entangled worlds of culture and nature, which we have gloriously inhabited for long are facing erasures. Recovering a heterogeneity of nature-cultures, not as a binary but as “culture enclosed in nature, (and) nature reworked in culture…” (A.K Ramanujan) is already a radical task today. Also, as biogenetics reveal, we are all but assemblages, who have co-evolved with other beings. We need to urgently find ways to embrace humbler, more inclusive existences with the more-than-human world.

This exhibition is a proposition to rethink the world as we know it today. It is a conversation between different artistic positions and their reflections on the worlds they inhabit. It hopes to help invoke an ethics of healing, care, and responsibility. The artists and thinkers presented here have had long practices embedded in questions of nature. They search beyond disciplinary boundaries, to unearth relationships which form identity, language, politics, livelihoods, and worldviews. In doing so, they show how nature is being constantly “produced,” through everyday local and situated knowledges, concerns, and struggles- presenting a counter narrative to its homogeneous and totalizing idea. They reveal the way we are, the way we have come to be, and the way we could be, in this viscous lava of precarious reformulations. As intimate listeners and makers of their worlds, they are harbingers of new futures.

Ravi Agarwal

To read the full curatorial statement and for more information, visit the Goethe-Institut State of Nature: New Natures website.

Participating artists: Arunkumar H G, Gigi Scaria, Gram Art Project, Himali Singh Soin, Ishan Tankha, Karan Shrestha, Navjot Altaf, Parag Tandel, Paribartana Mohanty, Prabhakar Pachpute, Rajyashri Goody, Ranbir Kaleka, Rohini Devasher, Sahej Rahel, Sharbendu De, Sonia Mehra Chawla, Tanmoy Samanta
Ravi Agarwal