Monday, June 29, 2015

The Unimportant Histories of Architecture Ouso Chakola | Debut Solo Clark House Bombay

The Unimportant Histories of Architecture
Ouso Chakola | Debut Solo 
Clark House Bombay 
Saturday 20 June 2015
Preview: 5.00  pm to 9.30 pm 
Artist Talk - 4.00 pm ( Alternative Printing Processes in Photography) 
Exhibition continues to 4 July 2015 
Open all days except for Monday from 11 am - 7 pm.

Ayodhyapattinam 2015 , cyno-type  
The road to Tiruvannamalai wanders through a dry and dusty scape that is largely agrarian, the temples do not compete with large industrial installations that have been touted since  independence in a secular India as the natural competitors to temple complexes.  But a certain buoyant 'cottage industry' takes industrial scale as you approach the town.  Workers from as far as Orissa whittle down large granite black boulders into many faced Ganeshas, neo-Sai Babas and pantheons of the Dravidian rationalist political mythology.  Just outside Ayodhyapattinam - concrete is casted into Goddesses for the 'Gopupurams' or mountain inspired towers of southern Indian temples, apart from them MG Ramachandran,  Karunanidhi and the ‘people’s lady’ caricatured along with local politicians, decorative armed guards and lions meant for gates that seem to suffer from both genetic and visual sculpting history disorders.

 Ayodhyapattinam is its popular name but in rational Tamil Nadu officially it is known as Nedungundram.  Ayodhyapattinam  is a smaller complex of temples  dedicated to Lord Rama that are seeing an unfortunate revival that is attributed to politics rather than heritage preservation.  Outside the temple stands a majestic hand carved wooden chariot, probably of Burma teak, financed by the Chettiars who made their fortune in the Rangoon Rice Trade, its wheels now have given way and it has sunk into the courtyard that leads to the temple.  By standers say a new chariot is on its way, to be sculpted with an automotive mechanism and better colours, some say the present one would be destroyed and the others say it would be carted away by the Archaeological Survey of India.   A baksheesh allows us permission to document the main hall outside the altar of the temple.  A smaller temple to the monkey god Hanuman has been painted on with emulsion paint, and the main temple awaits its coat, a coat that will hide the pain staking frescoes inside.  As renewal even of gods is an essential Hindu obsession, architectural or aesthetic histories are less cared off specifically in a moment where our nation is keen to write new histories that favour one over the other and play Medicis or Cholas to new temple complexes - the one at Ayodhyapattinam seems to be out of favour.  Ouso Chakola is interested in documenting some of these fragments as they get edged out by a mightier visual culture.  

For Ouso the narrative is immediate in his images, he doesnt seek his audience to linger,  its layer lies in the inherent drama of their production.  Ouso studied alternative - rather traditional pedantic processes of photography at Monash University Melbourne and since 2005 has practiced as a photographer in Kochi, Kerala.  Photography is a medium that often has the burden of comparison or scholastic solidarities.  Henri Cartier-Bresson is one such photographer who is often seen as an important mention in the timeline of photography and always mentioned when we discuss photography in India.  Bresson was in India at opportune times, such as the death of Gandhi or as Nehru pondered what to do with a fledgling republic.   But Bresson soon stylised a genre of Indian exotica, the beauty our nation continuously uncritically offers.  Instagram & French tourists have since continued the inherent tradition.  Stepping out of that, Ouso makes caricatures of other plundered inheritances that plague  Tiruvanamalai.  

The Annamalaiyar temple is one of the five most favoured places for the Tamil Saivite cult that is based on literature and poetry inspired by Shiva. The tevarams or religious literature celebrates the beauty of the presiding deity and how the temple's architecture orchestrates itself for a frolic between Parvati and Shiva.  Shiva manifests himself into a pillar of light, seen during 'Deepam'  when millions flock to the town to witness a divine light on the red Annamalai mountain that symbolises one of the 5 elements of Shiva.  The town also invited and lured one of India's most gifted philosophers Sri Ramana Maharishi.  Sri Ramana, adored the space of the secular, for him de-materialisation of one's life arose from the personal space,  Lord Annamalai was the perfection of aesthetic wants and its unaesthetic - the anaesthetic to our troubled lives. Bresson remarkably captured the divine light as the Sri Ramana breathed his last, fighting cancer.  A legacy of touristic voyeurism grew from Bresson's photographs; Ramana is now plundered for all the material that is left on him and about him.  

Tiruvanamalai was crafted during the early Chola period -9th century, by master craftsmen who were said to have descended from the  divine architect Vishwakarma,  since then the city has passed through various masters who have expanded on the temple.  But today many families of Sthapathis or traditional sculptors have large yards where imported granite and marble is polished into fine rock sculptures of various pantheons using heavy-duty electric stonecutters.  Not only do they produce more statues in lesser time, the statues have finer decorative edges - neo-classical elements from Rome & Greece have intermingled with Chola yore to create large statues that make us wonder.  But the discerning eye realizes that the hand-chiseled  traditional Chola statues depended on a play with perspective, that is cinematic,  and when one walks through the corridors of the temple we realise this cinematic play, the drama that is instantaneous. But statues of neo-lore cannot depend on painstakingly made and thought out sculptures, rather conceptual abilities passed down by tradition are erased by neo-political needs from religion.  Dravidian architecture or rules of depiction do not sit well with the new conservative Indian, it has not been made popular in the numerous television series based on religious epics; Bollywood has rather ignored it. Becoming a lesser history that is not applicable to school texts.  

Barber-Kadai 2015, Tricolour Gum-Bricomate 
Ouso captures the drama that unfolds at the Ramana Ashram, Sri Ramana has been encapsulated within polished marble, Europeans and some Indians perambulate around his shrine,  many of them ignorant or blissfully ignoring the woes of the city.  Many of the ‘expats’ are escaping the woes of the world.  The genre of exotica has served them well.  Sri Ramana at an early stage embraced the newer technologies of his time, there are many photographs of him by the greats such as Cartier-Bresson, footage of him exists on all kinds of forms of camera,  all of this has been digitised for sale at the curio shop in the ashram.  Exoticism is voyeurship, Ouso turns the lens  at first by ignoring them and at times capturing them.  Off all that is not romantic and perfect in the temple city are turned painstakingly into cynotypes, van dykes, argotypes, and tri-colour gum bichromate prints.  

Ouso has been experimenting with traditional methods of photography, it arose out of passion but also a couple of glass plates he inherited and were from a studio in Tripunithura  the royal quarter of Kochi that he digitised.  Bresson in Tiruvanamalai is inherited by many who depend on post-photoshop production that depends on dramatising colours and the belief in archival multi-jet printing.  Ouso was invited along with Clark House Initiative by Abul Kalam Azad to Tiruvanamalai on a research residency at the Ekalokam Trust for Photography. Azad established ETP as an organisation to preserve and popularize photography and other art forms among an audience that is not restricted to a rural population.  Azad has always admired the Maharishi, who he says is lost in the crowd of superficiality in the town, the Deepam or the divine light for him rather is the conceptual beckoning to think rather than an act of ritual.  Since then he has had many photographers at his yard where like the sthapatis he nurtures apprentices to photography.  Years of practice allowed Azad to master analogical photography, which he continues while using more accessible attributes of digitisation.  

The  Un-Important Histories of Architecture is not about architectural history but the social history that surround these magnificent edifices,  and  those histories that are unpsoken in the many layers - the Annamalaiyar temple is dedicated to Ardhanarishwara - the half woman and half man form of Shiva & Parvati's union, which is uncertain today in a world where ungendering and sexual attributes are precarious  in a realm of misogyny.  Ouso returns to traditions of photography that use light and labour to throw light on the labour of many lost in a world that believes in the labour of machines & the digit. Ouso recreates the frescoes on the ceilings of Clark House while placing large 'Van-Dyke' prints in forms architectural installations to re-tell his moment near the Annamalais.  

Sumesh Sharma,  Tiruvanamalai, February 17 - 2015  

Ouseph Chakola, 1980,  is an artist based in Kochi, Kerala.  He has studied photography & visual communication with a special Interest in alternative printing processes at the Monash University Melbourne.  His is interested in narratives in photography that question received forms.  

EtP (Ekalokam Trust for Photography) is registered at Tiruvannamalai, founded by noted contemporary Indian photographer Abul Kalam Azad. EtP has been informally working since October 2011 and was legally formed in the year August 2013 by Abul Kalam Azad, Kulanthaivel - an art enthusiast based in Tiruvannamalai, and Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi, a development activist who has a decade of not-for-profit management experience in India and abroad. The main purpose of EtP is to protect and promote contemporary photography and connected art forms. EtP’s vision is to preserve our heritage by creating and preserving photographic visuals of our culture and lifestyle. Rejuvenating the traditional analog medium, technique and processes is the intent behind EtP’s collective public photo art projects. Taking contemporary photography and connected art initiatives to the larger rural population is another driving force behind EtP’s activities and programmes

Abul Kalam Azad (born 24 September 1964) is a noted contemporary Indian photographer. Abul's photographic works are predominantly autobiographical and expose the areas of politics, culture, contemporary history, gender and eroticism. His works attempts a re-reading of contemporary Indian history - the history in which ordinary people are absent and mainly provided by beautiful images and icons. Abul's works makes an active intervention in the common illustrative discourse of this history. Using the same tool, photography, that chisels history out of a block of ‘real’ human experiences, Abul makes a parody of it. 'Overall, the corpus of Azad’s work can be seen to have a thrust towards an archive of local micro-history at the level of personal memory and in that sense, his works add up to a kind of social anthropology of his land and its people, though not necessarily in the line of tradition of the objective documentary. 

Clark House Initiative is a curatorial collaborative and a union of artists based in Bombay. 
Address: c/o RBT Group, Ground Floor, Clark House, 8 Nathalal Parekh Marg (Old Wodehouse Road), 
Bombay 400039. Opposite Sahakari Bhandar and Regal Cinema, next to Woodside Inn. 

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