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Not playing to the gallery

The new breed of gallery owners in the city ensures that the distance between the art work and the viewer is minimal

Could there be a model different from the usual commercial art gallery system?

Could viewing art be made more experiential and less intimidating? With concerns like these weighing on their minds, many young art practitioners in the city are experimenting with spaces whose priority is to showcase art and not sell.

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Taste of India at Taste of India

detail-of-initial-exhibitionTaste of India at Taste of India

In each part of the world, there are similarities, recurring names and iconography, which reflect regional cultures. The prevalence of the of Main Streets or Via Cavours or Mahatma Ghandi Boulevards in their respective cultures is a pleasant precursor to the fact that most cities are now outlined with strip malls featuring the same chain restaurants, service centers and shopping paradises. You can close your eyes entering a Statoil gas station in Sweden and still find your way to the café latté, the candy, and the groceries. The sameness is both disappointing and reassuring.

”Taste of India” by Aileen Blaney, Nihaal Faizal and Chinar Shah builds on the universality of the name ‘Taste of India.’ The exhibition is held in the restaurant Taste of India, housed in the Yelehanka bus stand, operated by chef Amod Kumar Bhutiani. Bhutiani started the restaurant in 2002 in the bus station, then moved to a more central shopping street in a second floor location, then nearby to a larger less central location, and now back to the bus stand. However, the clientele has followed the trail of stuffed parathas and fragrant northern curries, as well as the curated art exhibitions by students and faculty from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, all around the neighbourhood.

The photographic work in the exhibition was curated by the artists from found-on-the-internet photographs of the facades of diverse restaurants all named ‘Taste of India.’ A sound piece regularly calls out ”Taste of India” in a computer generated tone on a loop from an inexpensive orange speaker which blends in with the decor of Yelahanka’s Taste of India, yet seems contrary to the richness of the flavor we associate with Indian cuisine.

While the sound piece mimics the sound of food orders called from waiter to cook, the text work, a menu, lists the addresses of the restaurants from around the world found on the internet. Some are in highway malls, some with architectural details or colors that seem to refer to the Motherland. The choice of showing the photographs snapshot size is congruent with the anthropological aspect of the project and works well in the intimate proportions of the space. The smaller size minimizes the variation of quality in the downloaded photographs and shares conceptual and archival roots with such projects as Ed Ruscha’s ”26 Gas Stations.”

The Yelehanka Taste of India closed almost directly after the opening of the exhibition and shifted to a new location. First hung in a grid, the photographs are now presented in a continuous line as if we are driving around the world only opening our eyes every 100 miles as we pass another ‘Taste of India’ calling to us. Downloaded from the internet, ”Taste of India” thus calls to the public from around the world.

The restaurants differentiate from one city to the next as each embodies a personal version of the taste and the tastes. This exhibition gives us hope for diversity.

Taste of India is on view at Taste of India in Yelehanka, Bangalore, India until March 22, 2016.

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Photographs That Challenge Queer & Gender Norms

Photographs That Challenge Queer & Gender Norms By Indu Antony And Chinar Shah

If you looked very carefully around the sixth installment of Art Bengalaru, you might have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the work of Chinar Shah and Indu Antony. Tucked around the back corner of the lounge, away from most of the festival work, the two photographers were hung side by side. After exploring all of the art I could find at the festival, scouring the festival map, and asking staff – who told me that there was no Chinar Shah showing in the festival – it was with no small measure of difficulty that I located the frames of these two artists, frames that were created to challenge the binary notion of gender that holds sway in the popular imagination.

Even as much of the world is waking up to bright new tomorrow with Caitlin Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, it still remains vexingly difficult to bring queer content to mainstream Indian media. A piece on gay nightlife in New Delhi that I once pitched to a prominent magazine kept its nightlife spin, but didn’t have even a hint of gay in it by the time the editing process was done. And I’ve been trying to sell a piece on gay parenting in India for over a year – the topic strikes me as surefire gold – but no editor with a bank account large enough to pay me for my time has been willing to bite. Much credit goes to Jayaram Suresh, who curated Art Bengaluru, for bringing Chinar and Indu along, even if they did end up relegated to an isolated corner.
( Read the full article on website )

Home Sweet Home – Gallery

chinar shah-home away from home

chinar_shah-srishti-home sweet home-art-galleryFrom galleries in living rooms and garages to artist-run community  kitchens, Bengaluru’s brush with the art scene rocks

Welcome to the edgy, quirky art spaces of Bangalore. They haven’t just survived but thrived. Making Space for Art, a book recently launched by 1 Shanthi Road — a veteran when it comes to alternative art spaces in India’s Silicon Valley — is a case in point. The book celebrates the 12-year journey of the space that has emerged as the biggest art adda in the city.

( Art addas — local style – The Hindu Bangalore edition article on September 30, 2015 )


Silenced Ruptures

Where should we go after the last frontiers,
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
– Mahmoud Darwish

The project started off as an investigation into victims’ lives of 2002 Gujarat riots has become a living memorial of the endless waiting for justice. 10 years have passed and the city has moved on erasing all the traces of violence. Traces remain only in the hearts of people.

Human bodies that became sites of violence have been pushed into garbage areas. All the ruptured memories have been silenced by the overwhelming infrastructural development. This is an attempt to surface what is hidden behind the ‘so called development’.

This image was part of an installation at Gulburg Society in Ahmedabad at the 10th anniversary of Gujarat riots. All the images are installation shots at the memorial.

Kheti Badi

I was in the 2nd standard of school when I learnt that India is an agriculture-based economy. I had never set foot on a farm back then. Today, after all these years, I have a farm on a virtual online game. I harvest my crops, feed my animals and buy pixels of land. It is my negotiation of being a farmer online and a practicing photographer away from the keyboard that has resulted in this body of work.

Today, the perfect red tomatoes, those genetically modified eggplants and even sized potato chips are what we recognize as healthy edible food. In this digital fantasy of perfection the farmer gets lost somewhere. Stories from the land and the farm have vanished in the face of this new culture of food consumption and farmhouses. The agriculture-based economy is a textbook dream in the wake of extreme industrialization and the ever-growing hybrid food industry. In the midst of such narratives, the farmer disappears in death and food in genetics.

Expanding my farm online is just a click away and I can be content with the illusion of knowing all about farming.

These images are made on the computer using apparatuses borrowed from the camera. The world we inhabit is one of digital aesthetic and our sense of beauty is constantly changing with the introduction of new technologies and commodities. Cameras make food look more appealing, while the food industry, in return, makes food that looks picture perfect. These photographs push the digital imagining to a breaking point. Pixels are the realities behind these digital beauties. Pixels are the reality we do not want to see in the same manner, we’d rather not see food that looks picture perfect. By breaking into those pixels with these images, dinner is served.

Medusa’s Affair

How does one negotiate desire within the hegemonic rules of love and marriage? When the utterance ‘love’ is barred, if one is denied access to a romantic self, how, then, can one inhabit a relationship with another? When ‘the undesirable’ body and polymorphous sexualities do not exist in language, how can one love in the name of this body?

Access to love and sexuality is a constant struggle. Marriage and notions of heterosexuality are so deeply rooted within us that it is impossible to find a language of desire outside it. Phrases such as ‘I love you’, ‘I want to be with you’, ‘Will you be mine’ and so on are so claimed by the heterosexual marriage spaces so that other forms of desire or love escape these expressions.

This narrative tries to encompass such complexities of desires. It is told from the first person point of view of the fictional character Medusa. In mythology, Medusa was raped in the temple of Athena. Enraged, the goddess Athena turned Medusa’s hair into serpents and cursed that whoever looked at her would turn to stone. Not only was Medusa raped, but was also forced into a life long exile. In this work, Medusa is not the woman who repulses the gaze, who is forced to be an asexual being. This is a story of her love affairs.


Mythologically, in order to win the battle of Mahabharata, Arjuna’s son Aravan who was born to a Naga princess was chosen to be sacrificed. One of his last wishes was to be married for a night before he was killed. No woman would marry him, as she would be a widow next morning. Krishna turns himself into a female avatar, named Mohini and marries Aravan. Mohini becomes widow the next morning.

Transgender community from all over south India celebrates this moment in a small village Koovagam every year. Many marry the lord Aravan and later perform the rites of widowhood the very next morning.

This body of work is an imagination of this story in contemporary India and thinking through the political and social climate today that has become increasingly abusive towards diverse gender identities and sexualities. It is about gender that is always in flux so is our connection to our mythologies.

This project is a collaboration between various artists.

Call for Chapter Proposals


Book title image - Call for papers

We are inviting abstract submissions for an edited collection on photography in India (Editors: Aileen Blaney and Chinar Shah)

Short Description

This publication will open up new dialogues around photography in India, exploring its present and future through a range of theoretical, visual and critic.

Continue reading Call for Chapter Proposals