Personal spaces seep into photographic practices at exhibition in Goa

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Panaji, Dec 16 (IANS) Exhibited at the Serendipity Arts Festival here are visuals of the gendered body of a Sri Lankan woman with words like ‘war’, ‘rape’, and ‘abortion’ projected over them, presenting a contrasting picture to what the photograph has been all along. As more “cameras turn to relational things”, instead of showing the world around, the exhibition traces contemporary photographic practices that move towards the personal and intimate.

Curated by photographer-curator and environmental campaigner Ravi Agarwal, the show titled “Intimate Documents” looks at the photograph as a document that turns more contemporary as it showcases more of the photographer’s personal space.

The project, titled “Projecting The Sri Lankan Woman” by Natalie Sosya ad Sachini Perera, looks at the woman’s place in the Sri Lankan society and key issues such as rape, abortion, political discourses around women’s bodies.

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Instead of tracing the women’s movements with a larger focus on history, the project is a visual and conceptual ‘personal’ narrative of the journey of the Lankan woman as she navigates through ideas of place, space and rights.

Another co-exhibitor in the group show displaying seven such practices, Anoop Ray puts out ‘intimate’ photographs in his sub-section “Friends and Their Friends”. Captured between 2006 and 2017, these photographs form a personal space of his world.

A walk through the exhibition makes the viewer confront photographs that lie deep down in the camera rolls of most phones. For instance, photographs of women stained in Holi colours, or selfies taken in front of monuments. One may think twice before exhibiting these in a public space, but what if intimacy becomes an approach to one’s art practice?

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As Ray notes about his exhibition, these images come from relationships, not observation. “This body of war is my diary, my relationships and my history.”

When Agarwal saw “a lot of people turning their camera to very relational things”, at the level of “conscious” photography practices, instead of photographs being “note-taking” documents showing the world, it became important for him to examine such practices.

“The question that matters to me is how they’re dealing with their subject matters. Even in the Sri Lankan exhibition, they’re not showing protest marches or revolutions, but the gendered body. Now relating to the photograph becomes important,” Agarwal, who has co-curated public art ecology projects “Yamuna-Elbe” and “Embrace Our Rivers”, told IANS.

“It had been proclaimed that the photograph is dead. Yet it thrives, morphing to respond to an ever-shifting contemporary. In many senses it is irreplaceable. As ‘truth’ becomes contested, photographic idioms and metaphors have evolved to speak to new ‘realities’,” Agarwal wrote in his curatorial note.

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The photograph shifts from ready reference of the reality — a frozen still of the world outside — to transform into a document that the photographer infuses her personal space into, as well as changes how, where and what it sees.

“Intimate Documents” seems to capture this personal and intimate change happening in the larger photographic practice in the South Asian scenario.

(Siddhi Jain is in Goa at the invitation of the organisers of the Serendipity Arts Festival. She can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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