Published: 02nd March 2019
Here's why every millenial should visit the Chennai Photo Biennale
The concept of this year’s CPB is “Fauna of Mirrors”, based on an old Chinese myth that talks of an alternative world that exists behind mirrors inhabited by creatures unknown
You must have heard about the Chennai Photo Biennale from that one artsy friend of yours who you tag along with on their visits to art galleries on a monthly basis. You must have heard at least a thousand promises of “I swear, this time it’s going to be different. You’ll definitely like it!” But I swear this one is different and you’ll for sure love it!
The concept of this year’s CPB is “Fauna of Mirrors”, based on an old Chinese myth that talks of an alternative world that exists behind mirrors inhabited by creatures unknown. The concept links mythology, poetry, philosophy and photography to tie an intricate knot of art across the city with six major venues and nine major shows with themes of their own.
This was my first CPB and it was really surprising to see the sheer variety of photographic and videographic art that Chennai Photo Biennale offers this year. There’s something for everyone - from bookworms to FDFS fanatics to political afficionados to nature lovers to architecture lovers to tech geeks to even people who visit railway station! (When I said “everyone”, I meant EVERYONE!)
If you’re still not convinced here are 5 reasons why I think you need to put artsy-pants on and visit CPB.
ART THAT COMES TO YOU
The CPB does not require its viewers to go around hunting for fancy art galleries in the city. The art comes to you- in railway stations, in libraries that you would regularly visit. If this is not great news to lazy lads like me, I don’t know what is!
The CPB exhibits the works of around 7 artists and art schools in the Madras Literary Society and a handful of MRTS stations in the city.
Apart from these venues, there are
This expansion beyond the traditional art spaces to unconventional yet public spaces is simply fascinating!
(Pic: Sai Soujanya)
ART MIDST BOOKS
While we are on the topic of using spaces appropriately and optimally, The MLS library has never failed to fascinate me with what is possibly (in my opinion) the best use of space: BOOKS! The Madras Literary Society has always fascinated me with its sheer volume of old books and when I heard that this historis space housed art, I shrugged my shoulders in prejudice. The only way someone couldd make the place better was to bring in more books and taller shelves! Well, how wrong could I get! Angela Grauerholz, Liz Fernando, and Putu Sayoga have used up the space in and around the 200-year-old library, adding exquisite flavour to the already inquisitive shelves of the library. This one is a must-visit for all book lovers!
ART THAT IS ALSO MOVIE?
This edition of CPB has a good number of video installations with a wide range of themes including consumerism, wildlife, cinema, dystopia, anarchy and so much more! With an equally enthusisatic (and patient) friend, these video installations can definitely replace your movie dates!
ART THAT IS INCLUSIVE
You know what I’m talking about. From representaion by artists from 13 countries to Queer representation, Dalit representation and Tribal representation, this edition of CPB is indeed a salad bowl of cultures and ethnicities.
ART THAT IS EXPERIMENTAL
The CPB this year has made numerous unconventional leaps of faith with experimental art with its use of space and personal engagement. Samar Jodha’s show at Gallery Veda is possibly the fist time Chennai as a city is experimenting with light (or lack thereof) in photogrphy exhibitions.
(Pic: Sai Soujanya)
ART THAT IS PRETENTIOUS
As a lover of art (read: art-apologist), I hear this sentence way more than I deserve. And yes, you are right. Art IS pretentious.
Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.
An attempt to impress by affecting greater importance than is actually possessed is in fact a leap that one has to take to create anything! Any art is made of a bunch of random stuff- objects, materials, substances, sounds and movements, that aren’t usually expensive. In what I would call an Alchemical process, artists take these things and make something else in an attempt to make meaning and value out of it. These mere clumps of materials are trying to impress you, regardless of the fact that they’re made of rocks, paper, glass, water or even pixels for that matter. So yes, you are right. Art is pretentious. All you’ve got to do is get impressed.
ART THAT IS ALSO A CONVERSATION
Apart from visiting these venues, this edition of CPB also comes with a bunch of photowalks, workshops and artist talks through the moth to keep the conversation around photographic art up and alive.
I suggest you take everyone you know with you. Especially that one friend who owns a DSLR just to make your Instagram feed look better!