CHENNAI PHOTO BIENNALE 2019 – The second edition of India’s largest photography event kicks off 22 February – 24 March

The second edition of India’s largest photography event kicks off 22 February – 24 March 2019

The  second  edition  of  Chennai  Photo  Biennale  (C`PB),  an  international  biennale  of photography, will be held between 22 February – 24 March 2019 with large scale exhibitions in a variety of public  spaces,  showing  works  by  over  50  artists in  print  from  13  countries  across  the city of Chennai. Alongside  the  exhibitions,  the  Biennale  will  include  an  extensive  programme  of  artist  talks,  workshops, films, projections, residencies, skill development in photography and much more.

The  Biennale, co-founded and co-organised by the CPB Foundation and the Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan,  Chennai,  has  chosen  renowned  sculptor  and  photo  performance  artist,  Pushpamala  N.  as  the Artistic Director for the second edition. The philosophy for this edition is Fauna of Mirrors, an old Chinese myth that talks about an alternate universe that exists behind the mirror, another dimension which is home to  unknown  creatures  and  unknown  worlds.  Pushpamala  N.  explores  the  myth  to  see  if  the  practice  of photography is a reflection of modern life, creating a parallel world of images – familiar yet strange, perhaps friendly and intimate, sometimes mysterious and hostile – but always magical. The curatorial concept uses the ancient fable to ruminate in a philosophical and poetic way around photography today.

“The Chennai Photo Biennale seeks to expand the field of photography with a terrific array of photo-artists who  use  the language of photography to speak to the world. Set in important historical and contemporary venues  across  the  city,  the  Biennale  will  be  a  thought-provoking,  spectacular  and  entertaining  public festival” Pushpamala N, Artistic Director, Chennai Photo Biennale 2019

One of the highlights of the Biennale is the International Photography Conference, 16 – 17 March (to be held  at  the  historic  Egmore  Museum  Theatre),  the  first of its kind in India and open to all. The title of the conference is Light Writing: The Photographic Image Reloaded and it is supported by the Shergil-Sundaram Arts  Foundation  and  presented  by  Savera.  The  conference  will  include  a  dynamic  program  of  artists, curators  and  scholars  from  different  parts  of  the  world  who  will  present  papers  and discuss the state of photography  today.  Speakers  include  Ashwini  Asokan  (India),  Diwas  Raja  KC  (Nepal),  Emeka  Okereke (Nigeria),  Kristoffer  Gansing  (Germany),  M.K.  Raghavendra  (India),  Rashmi  Sawhney  (India),  P.  Sainath (India),  Sabeena  Gadihoke  (India),  Satyajit  Mayor  (India),  Shela  Sheikh  (UK),  T.  Shanaathanan (Sri Lanka), Y.S. Alone (India), Zhuang Wubin (Singapore).

“As  a  photographer  and  artist,  I  have  travelled  to  photo  festivals  and  art  biennales around the world and returned  inspired  by  the  quality  of  exhibits  and  the sense of community that these events foster. Chennai Photo  Biennale  aims  to  establish  a  much-needed  home  for  photography  in  India  which  brings  together practitioners,  allied  arts,  curators,  gallerists  and  the  general  public  to  elevate  the  medium  in  the  region.” Varun Gupta, Founder, Chennai Photo Biennale.

In its second edition, a key initiative that the Biennale wanted to undertake was to work with students at an early stage of learning. The CPB Education Program was launched in November 2018 and has run iPhone photo  camps  in schools across Chennai with 265 students (ages 10-16) which will also continue after the Biennale.  An  advanced  residential  photography  workshop  with  25  selected  students  was  conducted between 1 – 3 February 2019 and the resulting works will be showcased at the Biennale.

The  Biennale  aims  to  engage  and  enrich  diverse  communities  and  encourage  viewing  photography  in  a more  democratic  and  accessible  way.  By  energising  venues  all  over  Chennai,  the  Biennale  hopes  to enhance  the  cultural  offering  of  the city to residents and visitors alike.   Locations include Senate House – the University of Madras, Government College of Fine Arts, Government Museum, Madras Literary Society, Southern Railway:  Chennai  Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS), Cholamandal Artists’ Village and Art Houz Gallery with many of the exhibitions adapted to the exceptional architecture and ambience of the venues.


The  Biennale  includes  international  artists,  many  of  whom  have  been  supported  by  Foreign  Cultural institutions in India including the British Council, InKo Centre, Canadian Consulate, Institut Français, Japan Foundation and Pro-Helvetia Delhi.

“Goethe-Institut  Chennai  focuses  on  public  art,  bringing  art  to  frequented and unexpected urban spaces, sharing ideas openly, initiating new conversations in the city for public impact. In a fast-growing metro like Chennai, in “Incredible India” that continues to be shaped by so many divides, this seems obvious. From the very  start,  there  has  been  the  vision  to  create  a  big  and  meaningful  photography  event  accessible  for everyone:  Chennai  Photo  Biennale!”  –  Helmut  Schippert,  Founder CPB and Director, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai

Participating  Indian  artists:  3rd  Space  Lab  Collective,  Aishwarya  Arumbakkam,  Akhila  Vijayaraghavan, Amshu  Chukki,  Archana  Hande,  Arpan  Mukherjee,  Arun  Vijai  Mathavan,  Atul  Bhalla,  Balaji  Maheshwar, CAMP  India,  Cop  Shiva,  D.  Ravinder  Reddy,  Dayanita  Singh,  Desire  Machine  Collective,  Gauri  Gill,  Indu Antony, J.H. Thakker, Karthik Subramanian, Kowshik Vasudevan, Manjunath Kamath, Nalini Malani, Nandini Valli Muthiah, National   Institute Of Design Gandhinagar, National Institute of Fashion Technology Chennai, Navjot  Altaf,  Offset  Pitara  curated  by  Anshika  Varma,  P.  Sainath,  Ram  Rahman,  Raqs  Media  Collective, Sheba  Chhachhi  and  Sonia  Jabbar, Srishti School Of Art, Design And Technology, Susanta Mandal, Tejal Shah, Vijay Jodha and Vivan Sundaram.

Participating  international  artists:  Angela  Grauerholz  (Canada),  Anna  Fox  (UK),  Armin  Linke  (Germany), Catherine  Leutenegger  (Switzerland),  Chan  Hyo  Bae  (South  Korea),  Jason  Shulman  (UK),  Kader  Attia (France  &  Algeria),  Liz  Fernando  (Germany),  Manit  Sriwanichpoom (Thailand), Munem Wasif (Bangladesh), Naeem Mohaiemen (Bangladesh), Putu Sayoga (Indonesia), Rabih Mroue (Lebanon), Rashid Rana (Pakistan), Shadi Ghadirian (Iran) and Tracey Moffatt (Australia).

Notes to the editor

About Chennai Photo Biennale

CPB is an international Biennale of photography, which takes place in Chennai across several historical, art and public venues in the city co-founded and co-organized by the CPB Foundation, a non-profit trust and Goethe-Institut   Chennai.   Besides   exhibitions,   there   will   be   an  international  seminar,  workshops,  film screenings, talks and performances. The city will be immersed in photography in various forms during the course  of  the  Biennale.  This  will  be  a  premier  visual  art  event  and  a  benchmark  in  the  cultural scene of Chennai and India. While the first edition was modest, the 2nd edition will be more ambitious in content and engagement.

About Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation

The  CPB  Foundation  is  a  non-profit  charitable  trust  engaged  in  promoting  photographic  art,  meaningful socio-cultural discussion and educational activities. Active around the year, the Chennai Photo Biennale is its primary activity.

About Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai

The Goethe-Institut is the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institute, active worldwide. It encourages international cultural exchange and promotes the study of German abroad. In Chennai, it has been deeply entrenched in public engagement projects.

About Varun Gupta, Founder, Chennai Photo Biennale

Varun Gupta is a Kolkata-born freelance photographer who returned to Chennai, where he now lives, after a five-year stint in USA. His personal work revolves around his life as a passionate traveller. Varun has been involved  with  public  arts  for  a  decade  in  Chennai, forging the groundwork for Chennai Photo Biennale of which he is the co-founder and Biennale director.

About Helmut Schippert, Founder CPB and Director, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai Helmut Schippert has been working with Germany’s cultural institute for 33 years, most of them abroad in Cairo,  Santiago  de  Chile,  Paris,  Mexico  City  and,  since  2014,  Chennai. Being a specialist in international communication  and  cooperation,  in  Chennai  he  has  focused  on  change  projects  with public impact, like new  approaches  to  the  urban  water  crisis  or  the  implementation  of  a  major  contemporary  art event: the Photo Biennale!

About Pushpamala N., Artistic Director, Chennai Photo Biennale

Often known as “the most entertaining artist-iconoclast of contemporary Indian art”, Pushpamala is one of the pioneers of conceptual art in India and a renowned photo and video-performance artist, sculptor, writer, curator  and  provocateur. She is known especially for her sharp feminist work, her rejection of authenticity and embracing of multiple realities. In her collaborations with writers, theatre directors and filmmakers, she seeks to subvert the dominant discourse. Starting her career as a narrative sculptor, she began working in staged  photography  and  photo-performance  in  the  mid-1990s  and  has  been  a  major  influence  on  the photography scene in the country. Her richly layered and inventive work uses the idea of cultural memory to explore  contemporary  society  with  irony  and  wit.  She  exhibits  widely  in  India  and abroad in solo shows, Biennales  and  museum  shows. In 1996 she created a fictional institute in Bengaluru named Somberikatte (Idler’s  Platform  in  Kannada)  through  which  she  conducts  talks  and  seminars.  Pushpamala  N.  lives  in Bangalore and her work can be seen at


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Facebook: @ChennaiPhotoBiennale

Twitter: @chnpb


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