Habitat Photosphere 2016 holds a programme of events including an exhibition of the four awardees.
Entitled “Panchtattvas: The Road Ahead”, the exhibition of photographic work by the winners of Habitat Photosphere 2016 takes place at India Habitat Centre from 1 to 31 December 2016.
The India Habitat Centre (IHC) in New Delhi established the Habitat Photosphere Award in 2016 to support emerging photographers and their artistic practice. IHC has a long history in championing photographic art: in 2003, it launched the India Habitat Centre Award for Photography, the first of its kind in India, and now holds the annual Habitat Photosphere Festival, an event centred around the issue of sustainable development. The 2016 Festival includes a programme of exhibitions, workshops, treasure hunts, curated walks, show and tell presentations, and a film festival on sustainable development curated by Nitin Donde.
The winners of the inaugural Habitat Photosphere Award were announced in March 2016, and after months of preparation, thanks to the Habitat grant prize, they unveiled their work created especially for the award exhibition entitled “Panchtattvas: The Road Ahead” launched on 1 December 2016. The show includes the work of the four awardees Harikrishna Katragadda, Monica Tiwari, Shraddha Borawake and K. R Sunil, as well as the work of each artist’s mentor responding to the work of their mentees, including renowned photographers Parthiv Shah, Bandeep Singh, Prabir Purkayastha and Aditya Arya respectively.
Also part of the exhibition is a light-based multimedia installation entitled Illume by New Delhi artist Ashim Ghosh, celebrating light as a sixth element, and presenting creatively new perspectives on issues of sustainable development. The work is crafted using proprietary “diliet” techniques, making artworks come to life in colourful animations, controlled and conducted by special light signals.
On show are also a video essay called Deep Weather by Swiss artist, writer and video essayist Ursula Biemann and a video work by Photosphere Artistic Director Dr Alka Pande on river Ganga, which uses the visual metaphor of the descent of the Ganges into Shiva’s locks to speak of the regenerative properties of the Ganges and of the five primordial elements.
Biemann’s work reflects on the global reach of changes ‘inflicted’ on the world ecology, and sees the latter as as an interconnected system. In Deep Weather the effect of heavy fossil fuel extractions made in the boreal woods of Northern Canada are experienced by Delta inhabitants in Bangladesh, who struggle by hand to protect themselves from the raising sea levels.
Photographic displays will also be on at Mandi House metro station (of works by the four awardees and their mentors), while images from Kavita Kale and Santosh Kale’s graphic novel for young adults on sustainable development entitled “17 Seen Unseen” commissioned by UNESCO MGEIP and based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals will be on show at Jor Bagh metro station.
In the press release, Dr Alka Pande, comments about Photosphere:
Photosphere is a concept and an umbrella which is addressing the seminal concern of sustainable development in the world using the democratic and immediate medium of visual culture, namely photography. We are a festival with a green conscience evoking the bhaav of sustainable developments across all genres of photography. The month long exhibition will act as a sign post for the nation, urging them to ruminate on environmental issues, a matter of critical importance, through the lens of photography.
Art Radar follows up on its introduction of the winners in March to have a closer look at each awardee’s exciting new work on show at IHC until 31 December 2016.
1. Harikrishna Katragadda
Mumbai-based, University of Texas graduate Harikrishna Katragadda was mentored by Parthiv Shah, Founder-Director of Centre for Media and Alternative Communication (CMAC). At Photosphere 2016, Shah’s images explore important ecological issues facing the world such as how plastic is corrupting our natural beauty.
46-year-old photojournalist Katragadda has created a project entitled You Can’t Step Into The Same River Twice focusing on the river Ganga. River Ganga not only holds a deep religious, mythological and cultural significance, but is also a lifeline for agriculture and industries based along its 2400 kilometres journey from Gaumukh in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. On a daily basis, Ganga receives 220 million gallons of raw untreated sewage and effluents from 1,072 industries. The holy river is treated as a sewer, with the inhabitants of cities and villages along its banks disposing garbage directly into its waters, where people also bathe and do their washing.
The location of the first part of Katragadda’s project is Manikarnika Ghat in Benaras, one of the most important sites of cremation for Hindus, where the majority of the estimated 30,000 bodies burnt every year in Benaras are cremated. As part of the traditional funeral rites, bodies are wrapped in Markin cloth and burnt with the local fire believed to have been lit thousands of years ago. The charred remains of the body, along with the embers, are then dumped into the Ganges. People still prefer this traditional way of cremating their relatives to the perfectly functioning electric crematorium available nearby.
Katragadda also shot in the locations of Nagwa Nullah amd Khidkiya Nullah in Benaras. In the exhibition, he presents the photographic prints, as well as a book-shaped installation made of leather sourced from a Kanpur tannery, which includes more cyanotype prints. In a statement about his work, Katragadda says:
The consequent traces on the landscape charred by the fires, and the river contaminated by ash and flesh is the starting point of my work. I have used elemental processes such as a mark-making using site-specific material on the cyanotype chemical coated paper. This paper, sensitive only to the ultraviolet light, is then scratched with the charred landscape; at times exposed with dead fish and debris found in the contaminated waters of the river. The patterns formed by the Markin cloth on the paper metaphorically represent the river, simultaneously bound and unbound, and signify that nothing is constant in nature.
2. Monica Tiwari
Delhi-based documentary photogapher Monica Tiwari was mentored by self-taught, award winning photographer Bandeep Singh whose evocative works give the impression of the crowded city of Kolkata releasing pressure on the Hoogly.
For Habitat Photosphere, 28-year-old Tiwari has documented the lifestyle changes in children of migrant parents, in order to better understand the effects of migration on their education, health and social well-being, and specifically in the context of global warming led migration in the Sunderbans.
After moving away from their native villages in search of work and to avoid the floods and crop losses now happening every year due to environmental changes, such families experience estrangement. Tiwari explains in a statement:
My project aims to focus on this climate change led migration pattern in the Sunderbans, especially focusing on the children who are left behind in their native lands, growing up without the presence of their parents.
The island of K-plot in Sunderbans does not have electricity or running water, and regularly faces the risk of tiger attacks. Its biggest challenge, however, lies in the river which nestles it, and eats away at the land with each passing year with regular flooding. The press release reveals furthermore that
The salty river water has left most of the peripheral farms unfit for farming, and in a place where options for a vocation are limited primarily to fishing and agriculture, this has led to a huge rise in unemployment, and consequent migration. A similar story is easily seen throughout the Sunderbans, where water, that essential most of elements, often proves a lethal presence, threatening the very existence of these islands and her inhabitants.
3. Shraddha Borawake
Pune- and Holland-based Shradda Borawake was mentored by veteran photographer Prabir Purkayastha, whose images on show for the exhibition are rooted in Buddhist philosophy and explore how the unmanifest becomes manifest.
33-year-old NYU graduate Borawake has chosen Earth as the topic for her installation-based photographic project entitled Benevolence. The artist highlights that which the eye does not see, bringing attention to elements taken from Earth itself that make up the life we live on this planet. A small piece of plastic for example is made with oil that has been extracted from the ground and converted into a toxic material used to support human consumption.
Bricks are baked soil and our hard drives are made of precious metals to fulfill our daily needs. Borawake shares in a statement:
Therefore, when looking at Earth in Panchattatva, through the lens of sustainable living, poses complex questions, especially when we try to place value judgments on these relationships. Everything that is an artifact of man is a result of being processed through the 5 elements to create that, which is drawn from the earth.
Borawake’s work visualises the invisible: gravity, which holds everything down to earth, including the life forms, their journeys, their creations and destruction. The artist explores the human experience of Earth, a place that allows us to take control of the natural elements (at times) and to thrive and populate. Borawake continues in her statement:
That is what I am exploring. A celebration – with a highly critical eye – considering the complexities of our times. I am formulating a way to set up an installation that will provide an all-encompassing experience of all these various layers of thought, subtleties and nuances. The photographs will be of this installation.
A section of the installation is designed in collaboration with ceramic artist Ruby Jhunjhunwalla who adds supplementary clay forms that help tie together the concept of Benevolence.
4. K. R. Sunil
Kochi-based sculptor and photographer K. R Sunil was mentored by Aditya Arya, whose poetic images of the Aravallis superimposed on the walls of the Habitat Centre investigate how, in this region, there is a little bit of the Aravallis in everything. The Aravallis are a range of mountains in western India which is threatened by environmental change.
40-year-old K.R. Sunil‘s project revolves around the ethnographic photo-documentation of ponds in Kerala, which are on the verge of extinction due land reclamation and urban waste.
Sunil documents the physical features, as well as human-ecology, local history, myths and narratives of each pond. Usually attached to public places, temples and mosques, ponds are at the centre of a secular, socialising space where religion and caste and other identities become irrelevant.
In the last few decades, a number of such water bodies in Kerala have been reclaimed to create land for housing and industrial purposes, under the pressure from real estate entities. Some of them are also used to dump urban waste.
Sunil’s work brings attention to these changes by also documenting the life that takes place around these important locations. He shares in a statement:
Every pond is a beehive of activities that come alive from dawn to dusk every day. This project takes an ethnographic documentation of each activity – how various sections of population engage with the local ponds from close quarters, both individually and collectively as a group. Another aspect involved documenting activities that vary from swimmers’ groups to resistance movements which stand for the conservation of the ecology of ponds.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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