ARKO DATTO (IN)
In eastern India – where the fleeting winter months offer the only time to “enjoy” the otherwise unbearable tropical sun – picnicking is a pastime that is taken very seriously. These photographs explore the phenomenon of the picnic.
Buses and cooks are hired, as groups of families, friends, neighbours and colleagues travel far to claim the perfect picnic spot, preferably around the innumerable rivers traversing the landscape. Vats of freshly slaughtered chickens, sacks of vegetables, and an arsenal of pots, pans and gas cylinders are lugged to the riversides. Extravagant loudspeakers are transported in their own hand-drawn carts or mini-vans, alongside dedicated electrical generators, while songs from recent Bengali and Hindi blockbusters blare at extreme volumes.
Drunk on whiskey and rum, men of all ages brawl, dance and pass out, as wives, girlfriends and children watch. And then, as the sun sets, the buses depart, leaving behind carcasses, peels and leftovers amidst broken bottles and styrofoam plates. Fragile delicate environments are irreversibly altered by indiscriminate pollution and littering. Pik-Nik tries to make sense of this social activity, and shed light on this wintry zeitgeist.
Text by Arko Datto
ASMITA PARELKAR (IN)
Giraffe Behind the Door
God loved the birds and invented trees.
Man loved the birds and invented cages.
- Jacques Deval
Giraffe Behind the Door is a project about animals in captivity, and a questioning of the contemporary relationship between humans and animals.
As human beings evolved we built walls, set boundaries and kept the wilderness out. Then, in our efforts to reconnect with nature, we built gardens and zoos, confining wild animals within cages and glass boxes.
Wild animals hide in their natural habitats, and shy away from human beings. But zoo exhibits are designed so that the animals are always visible to the public gaze in their artificial habitats and enclosures. Beautifully painted dioramas create the illusion of an open landscape, and are reminders of a wild home – of rainforests, savannas, oceans and jungles that these animals, or at least their ancestors, once inhabited. Yet the stress of being in captivity often leads animals to zoochosis – abnormal behaviours such as pacing and self-mutilation.
An animal in captivity is nothing but a ghost of its former self.
Text by Asmita Parelkar
JASON FULFORD (USA)
A Dozen Doors
I once read that citizens of Switzerland have three official “homes” — the place where their families traditionally settled; the place where they were born; and the place where they currently live.
My own life is nomadic, so this idea appeals to me. As I get older, the notion of “home” shifts from a geographical place of identity to something more abstract.
Home, literally, is a roof (or a cave) over one’s head. But it is also a state of mind, from which you look out into the world.
Text by Jason Fulford
JOHN MACLEAN (UK)
Artists evolve by absorbing what they need, at any given time, from any given place. They collect and refract a spectrum of influences into their art through the prism of their own insights, eccentricities, obsessions and limitations. They gather existing ideas, re-energize them, make them new, and pass them on.
Hometowns began life as a line in my notebook: “Photograph the hometowns of your heroes” – an idea for an investigation into the places that influenced those artists whose work has influenced my own. In total, I have travelled to twenty-five towns and cities — specifically, the environments where my artistic “heroes” spent their formative years.
This project is very personal pilgrimage, as well as an homage to a unique group of artists who have been my own mentors-by-proxy. Yet simultaneously, it’s an attempt to untangle the strands that connect me to their work. It pays tribute to the spirit of each of my “heroes”, but also incorporates twists and turns of my own, ultimately reflecting upon the paradoxical emotions that every artist experiences during the creative process: both the anxiety and the ecstasy of influence.
Text by John MacLean
NOLA MINOLFI (AR / IT)
The Man Who Never Saw the Sea
Emilio kept saying to me: “I don’t know what I’m still doing here.” He is 85-years-old, and has lived his entire life in the house where he was born. He has never seen the sea.
The village of Chamois has ninety inhabitants. The houses are spread across a mountain in the Italian Alps, 1,800 meters above sea level. It is the highest municipality in Italy where cars are not allowed. The only way to get there is by foot, or by cable car.
“I spent all of my life working”, he explains. “I never had a single day off. I grew oats, barley, rye, and also had cows, which gave me very good milk. I was able to make cheese all year long.”
“Emilio, do you have a girlfriend?”
“No, I haven’t got anyone”, he replies, blushing. “My mother wouldn’t allow me to have one. She held me tight.”
Emilio laughs a lot. He’s pure and genuine. He struggles to walk. But he always hopes to live to the next spring – in order to see his meadows in bloom.
Text by Nola Minolfi
REGINE PETERSEN (DE)
Find a Fallen Star
In Find a Fallen Star, Regine Petersen explored the stories of various meteorite falls around the world. A rock crashes through the roof of a house in Alabama in the 1950s, and hits a woman; a group of children recover a meteorite in their village in post-war Germany; two Rajasthani shepherds witness the fall of a mysterious stone in the desert in 2006. Petersen travelled to the sites where these incidents occurred, visited eyewitnesses, and delved into their stories, expanding upon her own photographic observations through interviews, documents, and press reports. Just as meteorites could be considered time capsules, each story encapsulates a specific place in a certain time, questioning the notions of memory and history, as well as the relationship between the ordinary and the sublime.
Text by Regine Petersen
SALVATORE VITALE (IT / CH)
How to Secure a Country
Switzerland is commonly held as one of the world’s safest countries. It is also often characterized as a prime example of efficiency and efficacy. Salvatore Vitale’s How to Secure a Country sets out to discover the central underlying tenets for such a country to evolve, exist and endure. He proposes to find these in sets of embodied and often internalized individual routines, which support the production of systemic statewide national security. By tracing networks connecting the activities of insurance companies, weather forecasting organizations as well as the state-run police, the military, or organizations related to customs and migration, it traces and visually maps what could be referred to as a Swiss public-private security complex. Vitale’s goal is to capitalize on the actual fluidity and abstractness of the country’s security measures, and to re-appropriate the “matter-of-factness” of the instruction manuals and protocols found in bureaucratic procedures; to trace and render visible the complexities that lie behind the Swiss security industries, by providing a view from the inside thanks to an active collaboration with its actors and institutions.
Text by Lars Willumeit
SEBASTIAN BRUNO (AR / ES)
Duelos y Quebrantos
Castilla-La Mancha is the central region of Spain, and the setting for Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel, Don Quixote de La Mancha. Eighty percent of its surface is flat, the soil is dry, and today most of its inhabitants are elderly people. In many ways, it is historically stagnant, and is an area culturally determined by the persistence of values and traditions that transcend the passage of time.
This project follows in the steps of Don Quixote, through the region of Castilla-La Mancha. I travelled 2,500 kilometers, through the five provinces of the region – Albacete, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Guadalajara and Toledo. In order to create a timeless parallelism between the society described by Cervantes and our contemporary one, I positioned and imagined myself as the character, Don Quixote. The result is Duelos Y Quebrantos – a sincere interpretation of an often misunderstood and ignored land; a personal journey that delves into the lives of the inhabitants of Castilla-La Mancha.
Text by Sebastian Bruno
TEREZA ZELENKOVA (CZ)
A Snake That Disappeared Through a Hole in the Wall
A Snake That Disappeared Through a Hole in the Wall centers upon Tereza Zelenkova’s return to the Czechoslovakian landscapes of her childhood, and to various historical and folkloric sites within it. Zelenkova’s intuitively rich and darkly imaginative sensibilities thrive in such environments, sidestepping literal description and conventional associations in favor of overarching personal and emotional resonances. Although the photographs are situated in places that purportedly contain legends of Medieval mass murder and heroic villainy – as well as the “Devil’s Table” and the “Gates of Hell” – the specifics of these histories and affiliations are secondary to the underlying, unnerving tenor of the images themselves. “I’m more interested in exploring the general poetics – of the Czech-Slovak landscape and stories tied to it – than in archiving individual legends or facts,” Zelenkova explains. “I’m tracing a sort of subjective image of the place where I grew up, and creating what might be called my own landscape mythology.”
Text by Aaron Schuman
TERJE ABUSDAL (NO)
Slash & Burn
“The Forest of the Finns” is a contiguous forest-belt along the Norwegian-Swedish border, where farming families from Finland settled in the early 1600s. These immigrants, called Forest Finns, were “slash-and-burn” farmers – an ancient agricultural method that yielded plentiful crops, but required large forested areas and regular relocation, as it quickly exhausted as the soil.
Over many decades the Forest Finns spread across Scandinavia. Their understanding of nature was rooted in an eastern shamanistic tradition – rituals, spells, and symbols were used as a practical tool in daily life; one that could heal, protect, or safeguard against evil – and they are often associated with magic and mystery.
The Forest Finn culture of four centuries ago no longer exists, yet many people still feel a deep connection to it. Today, the Forest Finns are recognized as one of the national minorities in Norway. The only official criterion for belonging to this minority is that, regardless of your ethnic origin, you simply feel that you are a Forest Finn. Slash & Burn investigates what in means to both feel like and be a Forest Finn today - and in doing so poses questions about how one’s sense of self, one’s past, and one’s place in the world are as much a matter of feeling as it is of fact.
Text by Terje Abusdal
MR. CHAND / CHRISTOPHE PREBOIS (IN / FR)
The Artist and the Photographer
Christophe Prebois’s story with Mr. Chand is almost as old as Prebois’s fascination with India itself. Prebois met Mr. Chand in the late-1990s, when Chand’s Ajmer studio was fully operational and enjoying the well-deserved reputation it had earned during the 1960s and ‘70s, when it was amongst the trendiest in town. Prebois - a French artist, connoiseur and dealer of Indian vernacular photography - was impressed by Mr. Chand’s range, by the humour within his pictures, and by Chand’s inventiveness in expressing his fantasies, which are apparent in his backgrounds (and often employ multiple negatives or painted backdrops).
This exhibition showcases just a tiny selection of Mr. Chand’s studio portraits, in which the clients appear to be fully aware of the photographic moment being recorded. The sitters place a disarming amount of trust in the camera, and allow themselves to perform gestures of fondness that would have been unthinkable outside the protective walls of the studio.
Outside of old Indian photographic studios signs were commonly placed that read, “Photographer and Artist” – the artist beeing the person in charge of hand-painting the photographs. Conversely, this exhibition invites the visitor to view Mr. Chand – the photographer – through the eyes of Prebois - the artist.
Text by Lola Mac Dougall
SOHAM GUPTA (IN)
2013 - 2017
If marriage symbolizes the beginning, and death the end, then – when you walk down the pavements of Golpark in South Calcutta, or perhaps those by the Lake Market – you will end up finding beginning and end coexisting under the sky-blue tarpaulin roof of the roadside flower-man’s little shop. During the winter season, ideal for both new beginnings and last breaths, he sells flowers to weddings and funerals, the white being preferred for funeral wreaths while the red is favoured by the brides.
At some distance, in the Nimtala crematorium, the aged patriarch burns away on the pyre, as shivering drunkards and mad men warm themselves up by the blazing pyre’s soothing heat.
Text by Soham Gupta