Art

Here’s your guide for the Chennai Photo Biennale 2019

Out-of-the-box  A video installation by Archana Hande — more of a projection on the ground, specifically on glass pieces — delves into the camel trade between Asia and Australia in Centenary Gallery

Out-of-the-box A video installation by Archana Hande — more of a projection on the ground, specifically on glass pieces — delves into the camel trade between Asia and Australia in Centenary Gallery

Quick Gun Murugan stands on a railway track in orange pants, a leopard print waistcoat and mismatched white boots. A black-and-white image of a man sitting regally on a camel is juxtaposed against a colourful background. Two teenage boys revel in the frenzy of the first-day, first-show, experience somewhere in Tamil Nadu.

What to look out for
  • An International Conference on Photography, Light Writing:
  • The Photographic Image Reloaded moderated by Pushpamala N, a first-of-its kind conference in the country, will happen at Museum Theatre, on March 16 and 17.
  • Initiation to book making: a workshop by Japanese curator Yumi Goto: February 18 to 21
  • Photojournalism and Visual Storytelling by Dimtri Beck: February 18 to 21
  • I Love MGR, talk by artist Cop Shiva on February 23
  • Horror in Pink, a talk by artist Manit Sriwanichpoom on February 23
  • Country Girls, a talk by artist Anna Fox on February 23
  • Kodak City, a talk by artist Catherine Leutenegger on March 2
  • Photography for Teenagers by Shannon Zirkle on March 16

At the ambitious Chennai Photo Biennale (CPB), which opens tomorrow and will run till March 24, expect to see a wide range of photographs, installations and media projections by over 50 artists from around 13 countries. The second edition of the event promises to be big, bold and diverse, transforming multiple spaces across the city into temporary art galleries. This includes the sculpture-studded campus of the Government College of Fine Arts, Senate House, Madras Literary Society and Government Museum, as well as a clutch of MRTS stations.

Out-of-the-box Senate House, another venue part of the Biennale

Out-of-the-box Senate House, another venue part of the Biennale

The biennale was launched in 2016 as a collaboration between Goethe-Institut and city-based photographers Varun Gupta, Shuchi Kapoor and Gayatri Nair. It’s intent was to promote photography as art, and in the process draw people’s attention to the city’s public spaces, heritage buildings and culturally important landmarks. CPB deliberately avoids the ‘festival’ format because the founders plan to engage the audiences through residencies, workshops and discussions through the year.

Showcase for Chennai

Like Kerala’s Kochi Muziris Biennale, which has grown into a landmark event for both domestic and International tourists, CPB also intends to be a showcase for Chennai. Hence, Deepak Jawahar of The Architecture Story has given the venues a dramatic facelift, meticulously designed in congruence with the art on display and the history of the spaces.

The brick-red building of the Madras Literary Society library, with its massive racks (staggering under vintage books and first-edition copies) will host site-specific installations. ‘The Library of Babel’, named after the book of the same name by Jorge Luis Borges, will feature work by Canadian photographer Angela Grauerholz, who photographs books for libraries. Outdoors, Indonesian artist Putu Sayoga, has captured a ‘horse library’ where books are delivered on horseback, to children in a village in Bali. “Also look out for Liz Fernando from Germany, who has created an archive of people by transferring photographs onto rice paper,” says Pushpamala N, who is a photo and visual artist, as well as the curator of CPB.

Meanwhile, animal lovers should make their way to the Government Museum to see, ‘Why Look at Animals?’ which is also incidentally, the name of an essay by John Berger, discussing the human-animal dichotomy. In the Centenary Gallery inside the building, a video installation by Archana Hande — more of a projection on the ground, specifically on glass pieces — delves into the camel trade between Asia and Australia. “There are a lot of issues that come to the fore through this project: aboriginal land, mining, the concept of being an outsider or insider...,” says Pushapamala. Manjunath Kamath, meanwhile, has created montages of random shots with a mix of mythological and historical characters, that have been transformed into hoardings. “But again, these random shots will have a lot of animals roaming around. For instance, a palatial mansion with an elephant standing right in front,” says Pushpamala.

Senate House, within the Madras University, will host 10 installations. A huge piece by Indian artist Atul Bhalla welcomes visitors, while a beautiful reading room conceptualised by Anshika Varma, from Delhi, invites them to linger. Three books created by German artist Armin Linke, are on display. Camp Collective is putting together an installation of a 100-foot sequence of images from The Hindu archives.

Out-of-the-box  The Government College of Fine Arts, a venue part of the Biennale

Out-of-the-box The Government College of Fine Arts, a venue part of the Biennale

The Government College of Fine Arts, and its beautiful museum, screaming hues of rusty brown, have been transformed into a gallery space featuring work rooted in art history. Arpan Mukherjee’s project here draws from traditional photographic printing techniques. South Korean Chan-Hyo Bae’s series on people dressed in aristocratic attire will be juxtaposed with portraits of modern-day Chennai women athletes by city-based Akhila Vijayaraghavan. Then, to amp things up, live video-mapping will be done on the white building of the college on March 23 and 24, by 3rd Space Lab Collective.

Out-of-the-box  South Korean Chan-Hyo Bae’s series on people dressed in aristocratic attire

Out-of-the-box South Korean Chan-Hyo Bae’s series on people dressed in aristocratic attire

If you don’t go to the art, the art will come to you. Three of the city’s train stations are doubling up as galleries to draw in commuters. The students of NID, Ahmedabad, will showcase their work at Kasturba Nagar MRTS station. A team from Bengaluru-based Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology will take over Chintadripet station. And students of NIFT, Chennai, will put up their display at the Thiruvanmiyur station. Though the works have been vetted by the curator, they are conceptualised by the students themselves. “We asked them to bring any work that adopted the sense of the city,” says Shuchi. “Why MRTS stations? Because, we wanted their work to be on large formats and stations give you that liberty in terms of space and viewership.”

Explore the city

  • At CPB

A full tour of the biennale will take at least two days. “Of which, the heritage venues can be covered in a single day as they are more or less in the same vicinity,” explains Shuchi. There will be a curated walk led by Pushpamala on the opening day in Senate House and Government College of Fine Arts. Volunteers will take people around.

More details on www.chennaiphotobiennale.com


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Printable version | Aug 13, 2022 5:13:37 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/heres-your-guide-for-the-chennai-photo-biennale-2019/article26320688.ece