It is perhaps fitting that Chennai, the site of the first colonial endeavour to measure and map the subcontinent, the ‘Great Trigonometrical Survey’ of 1802, is now the place of construction of resilient cartographies. The Chennai Photo Biennale, a biennial event organised by the CPB Foundation and the Goethe-Institut Chennai is committed to promoting photography across various demographics. The CPB Foundation’s main area of focus is photography education and discourse throughout the year, resulting in a city-wide public-art photography festival every two years that provides a platform to showcase and a chance to connect with global, national, and independent artists and curators. The third edition of the Chennai Photo Biennale (CPB) began on December 9 and concluded on February 6.
The biennale’s participants, through their contributing pieces, negotiated conflicting ideas of our global future. They questioned the invisible realms of power and knowledge shaping our global present. The artworks were often political in nature, raising fundamental questions on the inequitable distribution of global resources, which result in the marginalising of interests and voices of different communities and peoples. All this, through the medium of photography. After all, a picture does really speak a thousand words.
LuxeBook spoke to Shuchi Kapoor , founding member of the Chennai Photo Biennale, about the third edition of the Biennale and the uniqueness behind it.
Tell us more about the theme for this year’s event.
The theme of this year’s biennale was titled Maps of Disquiet. The third edition of the Biennale reflected on the urgent issues of our times: resisting majoritarian impositions, ecological collapse, and technological dystopias by reclaiming pluralities of thought, voices, and art, and building new networks of solidarity and care. The theme intricately links the simultaneous mapping and photographing of the colonies in the subcontinent and areas around it by Western colonisers as a means of exerting their authority over the captured region and its peoples.
What was different about the third edition that makes it stand out from the previous ones?
The third edition was being presented in hybrid physical-digital forms this year. The international biennale of photography was held in both physical and virtual forms highlighting works by artists from across the world. The physical exhibitions were held in spaces including Forum Art Gallery, Ashvita’s Gallery, Roja Muthiah Research Library and Madras Literary Society along with in-person and online screenings of video works at Goethe-Institut, Chennai.
How many artists participated in the third edition of the Biennale?
The ongoing virtual and physical exhibitions explored exemplary works by artists from around the globe. The festival was curated by Arko Datto, Boaz Levin, Kerstin Meincke and Bhooma Padmanabhan. Some of the artists participating in the Biennale include Amitesh Grover, Anaïs Tondeur, Andreas Langfeld, Sarabhi Ravichandran, Arthur Crestani, Babu Eshwar Prasad, Carolina Caycedo, and more.
How have you adapted to the ongoing pandemic? Can artists who are unable to attend the festival participate in the festival and access its resources?
For our virtual audience, the physical exhibitions held in Chennai are accompanied by the digital showcase of the artist’s works available on Chennai Photo Biennale’s official website for public display. In addition to this, online screenings of video artworks are held at Goethe-Institut, Chennai on all Wednesdays and Saturdays.
What can the visitors or audiences look forward to?
Alongside the physical and virtual exhibitions, Chennai Photo Biennale’s young minds from CPB Prism have launched a photographic series titled, ‘This is Home’ that reflects on the notion of home through five perspectives: House, People, Objects, Neighbourhood and Self. The exhibition reflects the continuous dialogue the eighteen participants of the workshop had with their environment and how those conversations have translated into a body of work. The physical exhibition will be on display at Dakshinachitra, Tamil Nadu from January 20.
Maps of Disquiet wants to avoid any pretension of completeness or precision, lest it ends up like Borges’ shredded map. The Biennale presents an open-ended draught, a loosely braided plurality of narratives, histories, and future visions of difficulties and resistance. It offers a platform to critical mapping practices—a mapping from below, in flux; mapping as an insoluble question, or as an unlearning of sorts. It involves works and photographic grammars that reflect on this history, providing counter-maps and charting alternative futures.