How Bengaluru and Gandhinagar students took over Chennai’s stations with their art

For Chennai Photo Biennale, students Srishti Institute, Bengaluru and NID Gandhinagar used Chintadripet and Kasturibai Nagar stations as art galleries

Flowing images

What look like indigo blue tie-dye sheets hang from a clothesline at Chintadripet MRTS station. They start at a height of about six feet and almost sweep the dusty floor, but passersby scarcely give them a second glance: perhaps because they have been in place since December last year.

In fact, some of the sheets have been pushed aside so that they now resemble curtains shoved open to some let in some sun, though the station remains as shaded, cool and dank as ever. On closer inspection, they aren’t tie-dye patterns at all, but cyanotype prints resembling seascapes.

Created by the Bengaluru-based Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, its students, faculty and mentors took over this particular station as a display venue for the Chennai Photo Biennale.

How Bengaluru and Gandhinagar students took over Chennai’s stations with their art

A vast, empty nook, one of many that characterise MRTS stations around Chennai, is taken up by a host of photographs. Most of them are in black and white; some are stuck on the tiled wall, while some are propped up against it on the ground in glass frames, but all of them have one thing in common: the sea. From friends captured in carefree laughter to funeral pyres left to stand by themselves, this exhibition was all about “fleeting moments by the ocean” that resonated with Srishti’s students. These, along with images of flowers and what appear to be intriguing, shadowy ripples wrapped along the station’s pillars, comprise the collection ‘Forget Gold – Invest in Water’ curated by faculty members Allan Parker and Chinar Shah.

“Two of the works were produced by mentors, and there was some student work as well,” says Shashank S, a faculty member at Srishti.

How Bengaluru and Gandhinagar students took over Chennai’s stations with their art

“We came on a recce to Chennai in December, and looked at how we could start dialgoues between the two cities. The students were allowed to research on places in Chennai that they could relate to personally, and places of similarity with Bengaluru. So someone chose Hingginbotham’s, while someone else chose a temple or a colonial building, and they were photographed in front of their choice.”

These photographs now exist as massive portraits hanging, as if on the halls of some proud mansion, above the rails on the station’s first floor. And because ‘Portraits of illusion’ was about the artist’s — visting mentor Jun Homma’s — conceptualisation of invisibility, each portrait shot was pockmarked with holes to an extent that allows the viewer to see right through it, at what lies behind.

Civilisations in the making

Three different coastlines appear to have spread themselves across the ground floor of Kasturibai Nagar MRTS station, with photographs of shipbuilding yards, empty shores and fishermen silently calling out to commuters, making multiple people pause on their way in the middle of a busy Monday afternoon.

How Bengaluru and Gandhinagar students took over Chennai’s stations with their art

The photos are NID Gandhinagar’s contribution to the Biennale. It draws from their students’ and alumni’s works along the Malabar Coast, Coromandel Coast and the Gujarat coast, and even from some work on rivers — like the Cooum — that have flown into urban areas.

“About half the photographers featured here are from the current batch, and the other half by recent alumni,” says Amarnath Praful, teaching associate, Photography Design, NID, who co-curatored the NID exhibit along with Rishi Singhal, discipline lead, Photography Design. The team comprised Sheik Mohamed Ishaq, Pavithra Ramanujam, Mohan R, Joel Fernando and Saravana Bharati, he informs.

Picture these: One end of a boat lies on a muddy shore, as good as rotting away, caked inside with Earth and puddles, a fresh waterbody rippling away beyond it; a man walks on scaffodling against what appears to be the edge of a ship: a structure so large that one patch of it fills the entire frame; abandoned looms in an old stone building: beams everywhere, framing a religious picture on the far wall.

Photos cover the Palk Strait dispute, structures abandoned in coastal Thalasseri, Kerala’s smallest river Kallai, the ship manufacturing industry in Mandvi, the state of the Cooum river, communities on the Rann of Kutch, the construction of the Vizhinjam International Sea port and more.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 3:41:18 AM |

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