#FaunaOfMirrors: Labyrinths

And the world is a complicated irregular network

By Chennai Photo Biennale

Chennai Photo Biennale 2019

A Photogenetic Line (Installation View) (2019) by CAMPOriginal Source: Artist Website

Venue: Senate House, Chennai

Located in the campus area of Madras University, the Senate House is one of the most stunning buildings in Chennai. Flanked by four towers and domes painted in earthy colours, the monument is a perfect example of the Indo-Saracenic style bent with the Byzantine architecture. Chennai’s vintage landmark now houses administrative departments of the Madras University and offices of the Vice-Chancellor as well as the Registrar of the University of Madras.

Guided Tour, Senate House (2019) by Chennai Photo BiennaleChennai Photo Biennale

Exhibiting Artists

Armin Linke | Italy 
Arun Vijai Mathavan | India 
Atul Bhalla | India 
CAMP (Ashok Sukumaran and Shaina Anand) | India 
Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya) | India
Naeem Mohaeimen | Bangladesh
Anshika Varma | India 
Raqs Media Collective | India
Rashid Rana | Pakistan 
Sheba Chhachhi & Sonia Jabbar | India 
Susanta Mandal | India 

Assemblage (Installation View) (1998) by Armin LinkeOriginal Source: Artist Website


By Armin Linke (ITA)

Artist and filmmaker, Armin Linke is internationally renowned for his photographs and expansive archive, in which he documents the rapid changes occurring at the earth’s surface both photographically and in moving images. The pictures collected in Linke’s archive constitute a resource for developing an understanding of the human impact on planet earth - from seabed to rainforests to agrarian territories. 

Assemblage (Installation View) (1998) by Armin LinkeOriginal Source: Artist Website


By Armin Linke (ITA)
The archive raises questions with regard to the relationship between planetary processes, political institutions, and science. The big format books shown are original photographic prints designed to create three image-sequence in which one image relates to exterior and open landscapes, the other to interior and enclosed locations, and the third one to objects in space.  

The books work as a kind of 'editing machine’ that brings into relation, the places and time that have hitherto seemed disconnected.The books ask of the viewer to create, through an awareness of and thinking about possible interconnections and the social and economic forces, that brought to the shaping of the spaces and objects depicted. Read more

Millennia of Oppression (Installation View) (2016) by Arun Vijai MathavanOriginal Source: Artist Website

Millennia of Oppression

By Arun Vijai Mathavan (IND)

What we do with our dead, how we regard them, is dependent on the specific conditions into which we are born—belief, religion, language, place, sect, caste, gender and, in recent times, science. In India, those classified as ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ have been forced to handle the dead for centuries. 

Millennia of Oppression (Installation View) (2016) by Arun Vijai MathavanOriginal Source: Artist Website

In almost all hospitals in India, a range of tasks, sometimes even the opening of the torso with the Y-incision, is done by semi-literate, low-level staff. They often belong to the Dalit communities. The manner in which they are compelled to do this in modern, state-run hospitals has gone unnoticed and undocumented. Millennia of Oppression proposes to shine a light on an unknown, shrouded world. Read more 

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

On the Edge of the Sea

By Atul Bhalla (IND)

Atul Bhalla, in his engagement with the eco-politics of water, has been pushing for various thematic links through his multifaceted practice. 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.

His own body becomes a vessel in these explorations, as he photographs himself standing, sitting, lying or immersed in these spaces. He is particularly interested in the juncture where history makes itself visible in the present, not in a direct narrative manner but almost sublimely, where history is taken for granted despite its many implications which are in contrast to today’s world view.  Read more

A Photogenetic Line (Installation View) (2019) by CAMPOriginal Source: Artist Website

A Photogenetic Line


CAMP's installation is a 100-foot long branching sequence of images produced from The Hindu Photo Archives. These cutouts are a way of reframing and rebirthing existing photographs, as new organisms. Not to remove their background environment, nor to frame a heroic figure as in the traditional political cutout, but instead to create a new boundary or border for the image. A border that leads us to the next image.

A Photogenetic Line (Installation View) (2019) by CAMPOriginal Source: Artist Website

The sequence evolves by following one or more of these rules: a) people grow older, or younger; b) things in the background come into the foreground, or vice versa; and, c) two photo captions refer to each other. 

In this way, we traverse a series of perceptual (shape), historical (time) and geographic (political) borders. Here, like in cinema, the cut is not a brick wall but an invitation: for increased traffic at any border.   Read more

Residue (Installation View) by Desire Machine CollectiveOriginal Source: Artist Website


By Desire Machine Collective (IND)

Residue is an experimental film, a stroll through a dream world incorporating both the universe of the mechanical, human, and natural as when a machine morphs into a butterfly, or power meters indicate depleted figures. 

With their film, Desire Machine Collective hopes once again to construct raw symbols and images. Evoking the idea of “perception image,” the artists try to articulate the known cycle of the creation and destruction of memory. Read more

Abu Ammar is Coming (Installation View) (2016) by Naeem MohaeimenOriginal Source: Artist Website

Abu Ammar is Coming

By Naeem Mohaiemen (BGD)

Naeem Mohaiemen combines films, installations, and essays to research Bangladesh histories. A photograph circulates, showing five men staring out of a window. Actually, only four look out; the last man breaks protocol and looks at the camera. The light has a soft glow. The stage is a bombed building. All five men wear military fatigues; the color must have been olive green. 

Abu Ammar is Coming (2016) by Naeem MohaeimenOriginal Source: Artist Website

Snapped by Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins in war-torn Beirut of 1982, the image is a teasing enigma. Arabic newspapers claim it as evidence of Bangladeshi fighters in the PLO (Fatah faction). But go a little deeper into the memory hole and sediments darken the third world international. London yields an indifferent response, Beirut has men scared of the today and the dreaded security protocol.

Abu Ammar is Coming (Installation View) (2016) by Naeem MohaeimenOriginal Source: Artist Website

Talking about yesterday’s wars seems a luxury; requested by the visitor, unreciprocated by the precarious resident– still a ‘guest worker’ after twenty years. 

Abu Ammar was the code name of Yasser Arafat. His Fatah faction of PLO fascinated Bangladesh JSD (National Socialist Party) leader Major Jalil, despite the clearer Marxist tendencies of the George Habash faction. Still, the light was beautiful. Read more

Offset Pitara, Curated by Anshika Varma (Installation View) by Offset PitaraOriginal Source: Artist Website

Offset Pitara

Curated by Anshika Varma (IND)

The photographic document has stood over time to present itself as an unbiased, detached witness to a fact, often erasing the presence and sensitivities of the photographer behind it. 

The supposition of a final truth, a single uncompromising fact that can be captured, has placed upon the photograph and its creator a great weight. Within this medium, the growth and emergence of the photo-book has allowed an authorship to the act of creation of personal independent voices. 

The influence of ones’ perception in the creation of our truths, is presented with greater strength within the form of the book. Objects, situations and narratives become symbolic of these multiple realities. 

The Offset Pitara is keen to look at the multiplicities that exist within spheres of our public worlds, mass migrations, environmental impact on the human race and in personal associations of reality connected by memories and relationships. Read more

An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale (Installation View) (2011) by Raqs Media CollectiveOriginal Source: Artist Website

An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale

By Raqs Media Collective (IND)

An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale’ is a looped video projection of an archived photographic image in which a room full of surveyors is transformed by Raqs through a series of subtle alterations. 

The photograph in question is titled 'Examining Room of the Duffing Section of the Photographic Department of the Survey of India'. 

Raqs intervene in this image to conjure a constellation of stars on to a drawing board, induce tremors too gentle to disturb the Richter scale, reveal a dreamed-up desert, make time wind backwards, stain the afternoon with indigo and introduce a rustle and a hesitation in the determined stillness of the surveyors hard at work at mapping empire. Read more

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

Red Carpet II

By Rashid Rana (PAK)

Red Carpet II masquerades as a Persian carpet. For those bound to dismiss it as obvious imagery for a Pakistani artist, Rashid has the last laugh on them.

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

Rashid Rana is a contemporary Pakistani artist whose works incorporate painting, installation, photography, and collage. Much of Rana’s work has a political edge and often incorporate a dialogue with painting.

The individual pictures are photos of slaughtered animals and the red of the carpet upon closer inspection is blood. Rashid uses subversion to deconstruct cultural stereotypes and preconceived notions. Read more

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

When the Gun is raised the Dialogue Stops

By Sheba Chhachhi & Sonia Jabbar (IND) 

Intervening in media representations of armed conflict, dominated by groups of men with guns, this installation invites the viewer to enter the private spaces of war, to hear voices normally drowned out by the clamour of contesting stereotypes— the voices of ordinary women of Kashmir. 

Humble materials— earth, bricks and rice evoke the domestic, within a configuration that draws on the contemplative formalism of the Mughal gardens in Kashmir. 

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

Somewhat subversively, rusted iron ‘books’ are placed within a series of rihals, book holders, traditionally used for the holy books of Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. Each book is placed on a low platform, eliciting intimate contact with a B&W photograph and a testimony. 

These testimonies, gathered over a period of six years, 1995 onwards, break out of the homogenizing, highly polarized representation of ‘Muslims’ versus ‘Hindus’, ‘Indians’ versus ‘Pakistanis’, ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Women from a wide range of communities and subject positions bear.

Naukar ki kameez (Installation View) (2015) by Susanta MandalOriginal Source: Artist Website

Naukar ki Kameez

By  Susanta Mandal (IND)

‘Naukar ki Kameez’ is a sort of engagement with overlapping images. Photographs turn the real, moving world into frozen experiences. Susanta played with these still images through his kinetic structures. Here, the moving lenses create a slippery zone, so that the image acquires multiple dimensions, produces fragility of images, their absence/ presence and different understanding of duration too. 

Here, the anecdote is from his very personal experience – “when our previous peon retired, we were looking for a new assistant for our lab. A bunch of people came and went in a year’s time and the process of looking for a peon is still on. New faces actually don’t fit well with old one, though the uniform fits perfectly well”. The work was inspired from a film of Mani Kaul, which was in turn based on the literary work of Vinod Kumar Shukla. Read more

Credits: Story

Know more about the artists and their works at Chennai Photo Biennale website.

Click here to listen to the CPB 2019 Artist Talks. 

CPB2019 Programs
CPB Foundation organised 25 curated walks and guided tours and also conducted various workshopsphoto walksartist talks, films on photography and curated projections on the beach throughout the Biennale period. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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