Chennai Photo Biennale 2019

I would like to thank Chennai Photo Biennale and artistic director Pushpamala N for inviting me to this event. In conjunction with the second edition of this event, the biennale convened an international conference on photography from 16 to 17 March 2019, titled “Light Writing: The Photographic Image Reloaded”. The venue of the public conference is at the historic Museum Theatre, Egmore. The abstract of my paper, part of an ongoing project, is given below. I would like to thank Ha Dao for helping me with some of the background work.

Here, I would like to share some of the documentation pictures that I have taken during my visit to the biennale. The event feels somewhat different to the photofestivals in Southeast and South Asia, partly because of the involvement of Pushpamala N. Even though she circulates mainly in the sites of contemporary art, Pushpamala’s taste in photography is clearly eclectic and wide-ranging. This comes through in her curation, which showcases performance, video, photojournalism, installation, photobook-making and her obvious love for cinema within the same platform. The conference mirrors this multifarious approach, as Pushpamala attempts to make people working in brain science, AI, film studies, political theory, journalism and media arts dialogue under the rubric of a photographic biennale. This sets the biennale apart from similar events elsewhere.

*

[Abstract]

Photographing the Vietnam War: A Comparative Reading of Two Photobooks from Vietnam
By ZHUANG Wubin

The Vietnam War was one of the most bloodied conflicts in the spectre of Cold War. Since then, the research on Vietnam War photography has focused mainly on the works of Euro-American photographers, sometimes setting them apart from those who worked for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This paper takes a different approach by attempting a comparative reading of two iconic photobooks produced ostensibly to represent the viewpoints of the two Vietnams. The first photobook is Viet Nam in Flames (published c. 1969), involving photographers Nguyễn Mạnh Đan (1925-2019) and Nguyễn Ngọc Hạnh (1927-2017). The second book is War Time Photos (published in 2000) by Lâm Tấn Tài (1935–2001). While recognising the imprint of politics dividing both Vietnams, this paper attempts to resurface the parallel (and diverging) contexts that informed the production and afterlife of both photobooks. This is made possible by tracing the biographies of the photographers involved, their participation in the global milieu of salon photography, how they understood their involvements in the war efforts, and their lives after reunification. This reading aims to complicate our dichotomous impression of two Vietnams and to unpack the reach (and limits) of politics in photographic production.

CONFERENCE

IMG_20190315_115936lo
15 March 2019 / Indian artist Atul Bhalla’s installation on the Chennai fishing communities, displayed at the Senate House

IMG_20190315_120610lo

IMG_20190315_120826lo
15 March 2019 / Sean Lee’s (Singapore) photobook, “Shauna”, exhibited at Senate House
IMG_20190315_121631lo
15 March 2019 / CAMP (India) reworks the photo archive of the historic “The Hindu” newspaper for this installation, titled “A Photogenetic Line”, at the Senate House.
IMG_20190315_124428lo
15 March 2019 / “When the Gun is Raised the Dialogue Stops”, by Sheba Chhachhi and Sonia Jabbar (India), shown at Senate House
IMG_20190315_124507lo
15 March 2019 / “When the Gun is Raised the Dialogue Stops”, by Sheba Chhachhi and Sonia Jabbar (India), shown at Senate House

IMG_20190315_124607lo.jpg

IMG_20190315_125018lo
15 March 2019 / Arun Vijai Mathavan (India) photographs the ‘untouchables’ who work at the mortuary in “Millenia of Oppression”, shown at the Senate House.
IMG_20190315_140220lo
15 March 2019 / A biennale volunteer is seen at the historic Government College of Fine Arts giving a tour to visiting students.
IMG_20190315_140407lo
15 March 2019 / “Visibile Work, Invisible Women” (1993-2002), photographed by one of Asia’s most important journalists P Sainath, is shown at the Government College of Fine Arts.
IMG-20190315-WA0011lo
15 March 2019 / A lady who was photographed by Sainath many years back travels to Chennai just to meet him again and to see the exhibition.
IMG_20190315_141015lo
15 March 2019 / “Hysteria” by Tejal Shah (India), shown at Government College of Fine Arts

IMG_20190315_140808lo

IMG_20190315_141132lo
15 March 2019 / Vijay Jodha’s (India) “The First Witness”, a work on farmer suicides, is shown at the historic Government College of Fine Arts.
IMG_20190315_141736lo
15 March 2019 / “Sites of Conflict” by Ram Rahman (India), shown at the Government College of Fine Arts
IMG_20190315_141841lo.jpg
15 March 2019 / “Horror in Pink” by Manit Sriwanichpoom (Thailand), shown at the Government College of Fine Arts
IMG_20190315_143212lo.jpg
15 March 2019 / Museum library at the historic Government College of Fine Arts
IMG_20190315_143448lo.jpg
15 March 2019 / “Fairer People=Beautiful People+Powerful People” by Arpan Mukherjee (India), shown at the Government College of Fine Arts
IMG_20190315_174531lo
16 March 2019 / Waiting for the international conference on photography at Museum Theatre, Egmore, to begin
IMG_20190315_195525lo
16 March 2019 / Chennai, India Backstage of the Museum Theatre, Egmore
IMG_20190316_150727lo
16 March 2019 / Satyajit Mayor, director of the National Centre of Biological Sciences, delivers a presentation titled “Imaging the Imagined”. Credit has to be given to artistic director Pushpamala N for attempting a dialogue between experimental science, cinema and the arts within the rubric of a photography conference.
IMG_20190316_191233lo
16 March 2019 / Projections on Elliot’s Beach
IMG_20190317_122317lo
17 March 2019 / Media arts historian Sabeena Gadihoke delivers a paper titled “The Partition in a Digital Age: An Archeology of Personal Photographs through Absence and Presence”, as part of the “Light Writing: The Photographic Image Reloaded” international conference at Museum Theatre, Egmore.
IMG_20190317_140826lo
17 March 2019 / Students’ iPhone work, shown at the Government Museum, Egmore
IMG_20190317_164134lo
17 March 2019 / Rashmi Sawhney delivers a paper titled “The Cinematic Photo-Image”, as part of the “Light Writing: The Photographic Image Reloaded” international conference at Museum Theatre, Egmore.
IMG-20190317-WA0001lo.jpg
16 March 2019 / I would like to thank artistic director Pushpamala N for inviting me to the Chennai Photo Biennale 2019 to participate in its international conference on photography, “Light Writing: The Photographic Image Reloaded”. I would like to thank Ha Dao for helping me with some of the background work in preparing this paper.

 

Advertisements