Delving into the microcosm with Nocturne’s new curator

Holly Fraughton
Posted on December 2nd, 2023
by Holly Fraughton

Microcosm: “It’s a concept and a word that I’ve delved into in many different ways over the years,” ponders Shuvanjan Karmaker, Nocturne’s 2024 curator, sipping a cup of coffee.

“It’s something that I think about quite often, it’s in the back of my mind – maybe not every second of the day, but quite often. It’s also how I interact with the world. It’s mostly about where I am, and what I do in my day to day life – the microcosm, the people I’m around, how their stories and mine intertwine, and how we affect each other. How I am – in the physical form or the metaphysical form – part of my community and the city I’m in. And, how everything we do is also a part of something bigger.”

It’s also the theme that Shuvanjan has selected to guide and inform the 2024 festival’s four Anchor projects, which are funded through our partnership with Halifax Regional Municipality, are typically larger in scale and located in each of the festival zones, and act as an anchor for the theme of the overall festival.

Shuvanjan with Kamilah Apong & DJ Douvet - after a successful show posing in front of slide that describes the essence of the inclusive environment HOUSE MUSIC was built upon.

As curator, Shuvanjan sees his main role as supporting the artists. But on a more pragmatic level, he curates these Anchor projects. First, selecting the four accessible venues where he wants to see certain types of art interact with themselves and/or the public. Then, he begins selecting the artists who are going to be exhibiting or performing their art in those spaces.

“I am very lucky and fortunate that I get to decide that. It’s a lot of power,” he jokes, “It’s a responsibility and a wonderful opportunity, that I’m taking very seriously.”

The theme “Microcosm” is intentionally broad, allowing artists the flexibility to tell a personal story from a first-person perspective, or from the greater community, or even one that demonstrates the microcosm/macrocosm relationship. Ultimately, Shuvanjan hopes it results in a tapestry of local stories that speak to the times we are in.

His own background in International Development Studies may have influenced the theme, as well: “You’re always analyzing and critically thinking about where you are, your neighbourhood, your place. You’re constantly trying to understand different perspectives. ‘Microcosms’ is kind of a dive into understanding perspectives.”

Or perhaps it is also influenced by his own diverse background: Shuvanjan’s own artistic roots run deep, from a childhood infused with Bengali classical music and painting, evolving into his own artistic pursuits in film, photography, and music (if you attended Nocturne this year, you may have caught his incredible show with TUSH & DJ Douvet, “IN THIS HOUSE,” at the Art Bar). Over the years, he’s worked with a wide range of local arts organizations and events – like Everyseeker, SuddenlyListen, Halifax Music Co-op, Youth Art Connection, Apathy is Boring, Centre For Arts & Tapes, Halifax Jazz Fest, Inspire Festival in Moncton, and Evolve Festival – doing everything from facilitation, running media teams and promotions to working on documentaries and promotional videos and volunteer coordination.

In this house
IN THIS HOUSE by TUSH, Shuvanjan Karmaker & DJ Douvet at the Art Bar, October 14, 2023.

Shuvanjan recalls his first experience with Nocturne, as a participant back in 2009, shortly after he’d come to Halifax to study at SMU:

“It was really special. It was my first year in Halifax … The whole city was lit up, there was art in unexpected places, all the galleries were open and this was 9 o’clock and later, and at that point, I was kind of a newcomer, and I was trying to see what the city was all about. I am always hungry for art, and coming to Halifax, I was like, ‘I really hope there’s a sweet art scene here.’ That night was something that confirmed, ‘Oh, cool! There IS an art scene here and there’s all these artists!’ That was a nice big hug from the city to me.”

He’s been an ardent supporter of Nocturne ever since, attending every year, and eventually coming to participate as an artist. Now, to be able to curate a thoughtful festival for everyone is an inspiring opportunity “to offer something back to Halifax for all of the things that I’ve gotten over the years.”

Shuvanjan’s initial conversations with artists about the theme have been largely positive, while others are curious and want to have deeper discussion with Shuvanjan about what “microcosm” really means (he welcomes that opportunity).

He is also committed to ensuring Nocturne 2024 is inclusive and representative of the diversity reflected in our community, as well.

“I want to make sure that the art that’s coming out is representative of different communities: making sure that there’s a good amount of black, brown, indigenous and immigrant stories, altogether. That’s really important to me.”

Nocturne will be taking place October 17-20, 2024, and the call for submissions goes out in early 2024: stay tuned!

The Anchor Projects Program is funded through the generous support of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Banner image: By Taylor Alexandra Milne at Atlantic Kite Festival.