#FaunaOfMirrors - An ancient myth and a curatorial premise

This story highlights the curatorial theme of Chennai Photo Biennale's second edition - by Artistic Director, Pushpamala N. #FaunaofMirrors

By Chennai Photo Biennale

Chennai Photo Biennale 2019

Curators' Walk, Madras Literary Society (2019) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

Pushpamala N, CPB2019 Artistic Director

The curation of the ensemble is the work of Pushpamala N, artistic director for the edition, who began her career as a sculptor before turning to photo and video performances. Her curation reflected her vast experience of shows at various international biennales & art festivals.

International Conference on 'Light Writing' - The Photographic Image Reloaded (2019) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

Often known as “the most entertaining artist-iconoclast of contemporary Indian art”, Pushpamala is one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India and a renowned photo and video-performance artist, sculptor, writer, curator and provocateur. 

She is known especially for her sharp feminist work, her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. In her collaborations with writers, theater directors and filmmakers, she seeks to subvert the dominant discourse. 

Pushpamala N (2019) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

I start with the Photograph: Pushpamala N for Livemint

"You won’t usually find installations in a photography show, but you will find many at the biennale. There are performance works, political and activist works, and photo essays as well. But all the works use the photographic medium—there are documentary series and portraits and some video works based mainly on still images". - Livemint

Varun Gupta, Co-founder of CPB, in conversation with Pushpamala N. In this discussion, she takes us through her curatorial process behind the second edition of the Chennai Photo Biennale.

'Fauna of Mirrors’ is an old Chinese myth that talks about an alternate universe that exists behind the mirror; another dimension which is home to unknown creatures.

I will argue around the myth to see the practice of photography as a mirror reflection of modern life, creating a parallel world of images- familiar yet strange, perhaps friendly and intimate, sometimes mysterious and hostile – but always magical. - Pushpamala N

Visitors at Government College of Fine Arts (2019) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

Pushpamala believes that photography in its extended uses has been, more than any other art form, a witness of human activity and a continuing archive of modern life ever since its invention. 

Visitors at Government College of Fine Arts (2019) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

She is interested in provoking questions about the meaning of photography today in an age of new media: how in its various forms, pure and impure, old and new, it can engage with the world. This Biennale will explore different languages of photography.

On the edge of the sea (Installation Video) (2019) by Atul BhallaOriginal Source: Artist Website

Artist Film - Atul Bhalla | India

Atul Bhalla is a conceptual artist working with environmental issues, particularly on water or more than two decades. Primarily using photography, the artist explores histories and associative meanings of sites of everyday living, building narratives through performance and many times using text as well.

Artist Film by CAMPOriginal Source: Artist Website

Artist Film - CAMP | India

CAMP is a collaborative studio set up by Ashok Sukumaran and Shaina Anand in 2007. It has been producing widely-exhibited new work in video and film, electronic media, and public art forms, sustaining long duration and sometimes large-scale artistic work.

Kodak City (Installation Video) (2007-12) by Catherine LeuteneggerOriginal Source: Artist Website

Artist Film - Catherine Leutenegger | Switzerland

Catherine Leutenegger is a visual artist based in Switzerland. She has won several awards, and her works photographs have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions on the international scene.

Artist Film by Chan-Hyo BaeOriginal Source: Artist Website

Artist Film - Chan-Hyo Bae | South Korea

Chan-Hyo Bae explores Culture, Prejudice and Stereotypes in his works. Since graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2007, he has expressed in his work the feelings of cultural and emotional estrangement he experienced in the UK. 

When the Gun is raised the Dialogue Stops (Installation Video) (2002) by Sheba Chhachhi & Sonia JabbarOriginal Source: Artist Website

Artist Film - Sheba Chhachhi & Sonia Jabbar| India

Sheba Chhachhi’s lens-based works investigate contemporary questions about gender, the body, the city, cultural memory and eco-philosophy.

Sonia Jabbar is a writer, photographer, filmmaker and activist who has been associated with a number of people’s movements since 1990.

Students' Showcase (2019) by National Institute of Fashion Technology, ChennaiChennai Photo Biennale

Chennai Photo Biennale 2019 Exhibitions

Primary exhibitions were housed in historic, heritage buildings and public spaces in Chennai city - the Government College of Arts, Egmore Museum, Madras Literary Society, Senate House, Art Houz, Cholamandal Artists' Village, and MRTS train stations.

On the edge of the sea (Installation View) (2019) by Atul BhallaOriginal Source: Artist Website

These spaces were transformed into beautiful galleries and the exhibitions were presented in harmony with the buildings/spaces that they are displayed in. 

Horror in Pink (Installation View) (2001) by Manit SriwanichpoomOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 1: An Unbearable lightness of being

A sense of dystopia, unease, maybe even giggly laughter, hysteria, melancholy, or even pictures of the unnoticed.      

Ctrl+Alt+Del (2016) by Shadi GhadirianOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 2: The Face of Another

Here faces and bodies may transmogrify into other things, or stare at your you boldly.

Pixelated Revolution (2012) by Rabih MrouéOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 3: Fractured

Broken up and incomplete images communicate in a loose and ever changing universe.

Manjunath Kamath Showcase by Manjunath KamathOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 4: Why look at animals?

Where camels, giraffes, elephants and innumerable creatures invade our world. 

On the edge of the sea (Installation View) (2019) by Atul BhallaOriginal Source: Artist Website

CPB 2019 Artist Films

CPB brought to you exceptional renowned artists from India and around the globe. Each distinctively different in their styles, genres, techniques, media and forms of photography & video. The artists were carefully curated to show you an ‘alternate’ world through their lens.

Privation (Installation View) (2001) by Angela GrauerholzOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 5: The library of Babel

Here there are innumerable old books and books within books.

Red Carpet II (Installation View) (2007) by Rashid RanaOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 6: Labyrinths

And the world is a complicated irregular network of images and texts in passages and paths. 

Masterjee (Installation View) (2016) by Dayanita SinghOriginal Source: Artist Website

Exhibition 7: I Love Cinema

It's all about cinephilia. 

Open Your Eyes (Intsallation View) (2010) by Kader AttiaChennai Photo Biennale

Exhibition 8: Material Evidence

Where faces and places are markers of histories.  

CPB Second Edition Team (2019-03-24) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

Team CPB2019

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