In an attempt to showcase the exciting and burgeoning art scene that has sparked a fresh interest in art and photography, we invited 3 independent publishers, artists and collectives to share their work, and let us have a look at the photobooks they have on their shelves.
Last month on our blog, we introduced you to Reliable Copy, an artist-collective, independent publishing house and curatorial practice based in Bangalore.
You can read the article here.
As we come to the end of our three-part series on Photography and Self-publishing in India, our last feature is artist-collective, contemporary studio space and experimental meeting point — Kānike Studio.
The multi-hyphenated artist sanctuary Kānike, translated from Kannada to English as gift, was co-founded by artists and photographers, Indu Anthony and Vivek Muthuramalingam. The studio space began as a place for the artists to come together and grow their own nuanced experimental art practices, and soon the Bangalore-based venue welcomed art practitioners Aparna Nori and Krishanu Chatterjee. The collective welcomes art enthusiasts with open arms inviting them for a host of experimental photography workshops, musical nights and even houses an envious darkroom where the collective spends much of their time cooking up new work.
The collective works collaboratively, each pushing and complementing one another, even extending their ideas to a recent project that saw them preparing bars of soap with environment conscious brands – a fascinating project commenting on spiritual and intellectual cleansing signified through the ubiquitous bar of soap called ನಾನು, and maintains an open door policy, often opening their space up for visitors to view their work.
Kānike Studio is constantly engaging in new ways to express matters they feel firm about and the collective holds strong with the help of their own well-established art practices and their fervent passion to incorporate time-tested, organic, analog and handcrafted processes into their work.
The studio took form during the thick of the pandemic and was intended to become a space for the artists to foster creativity and shape new directions in learning, building a community of minds, and serving as a sanctuary for exchanges and conversation. The studio’s real Kānike (or gift) is their strong sense of community and an experimental drive to create a playful and progressive art practice.
We take a look at Kanike Studios’ list of published photobooks :
1. Jolly Bird By Kāṇike Studio; Kāṇike Studio
“People are closer to us than they appear on zoom”
Like many of us, creatives felt the urge to make sense of the year-long heart wrenching loneliness of the pandemic — Jolly Bird was a result of Kāṇike Studio’s collaborative expression of the events that filled our television screens and flooded newspaper headlines during the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019. As we sense feelings of deja vu slipping back into the isolation of the year past, Jolly Bird is a reminder of the constant urge of the human mind to find humour and connection amongst the noise and chaos.
Jolly Bird offers an alternative commentary by weaving together comical headlines from local newspapers, the artists own words, photographs and drawings sown together into a deeply personal, insightful and intimate hand bound photo journal.
You can view the photobook here.
Kāṇike Studio recommends their selection of photo books for our readers –
2. Dream is Wonderful, Yet Unclear By Maria Kapajeva ; Borrowed from the lyrics of a popular Soviet movie “The Bright Way”, the story of a female weaver whose journey from a factory peasant to Stakhanovite or heroic worker mimics the tale of the author, Maria Kapajeva’s own personal history with textiles and design. Kapajeva herself is the daughter of a talented Soviet textile designer, who spent much of her childhood at the Kreenholm mill in Narwa drawing fabric patterns and dreaming of carrying on her mothers creative legacy. The history of the textile factory whose 150 year life came to a slow and abrupt end in 2006, is seen in Dream is Wonderful ; Yet Unclear through the archive of similar collectives of Soviet workers that Kapajeva saw for most of her childhood.
In 2014, she visited their homes to interview many of the mill’s previous employees to hear and collect their histories and photographs — Family albums and exchange tales symbolized the fabric of their collective memories that were so closely entwined with the history of the Kreenholm mill. Interspersed with the artists’ own artwork, Dream Is Wonderful Yet Unclear is a personal retelling of sisterhood, family and a celebration of the intimate untold stories of the workers whose contribution to developing industries are the backbone of its success.
The photobook explores female collectivism, sisterhood, community and independence with the textile factory playing a central role in the book’s gentle narration. Intricately bound in its beautiful cover, a patterned fabric created by Kapajeva’s mother, a head designer at the mill.
You can buy the book here.
3. Kintsugi By Joan Fontcuberta ; Photo Book Centre Evoking the restorative zen technique of Kintsugi, a japanese ceremonial process of repairing broken pottery by marking fractured lines with gold, Joan Fontcuberta’s “Kintsugi” preserves the memories and archives of museum collectives by locating deteriorated photographic documents. Embodying his own practice of poetic assemblage and the conceptual gathering of these selected images, he tries to rebirth life into these “lost memories” in his carefully selected assemblage of these fragile and ailing images that recall the technique of Kintsungi.
Celebrating the history of the object, emphasising life’s natural imperfections and flaws, Fontcuberta salvages fragile photographic materials and throws light on the inevitable wear and tear stitching in “Kintsugi” in Japanese binding and golden thread. You can buy his book here.
4. Human Archipelago Fazal Sheikh & Teju Cole ; Steidl Artist, curator, novelist, photographic critic and anthropologist, Teju Cole is known for his poignant and touching essays of people, places and things, and he joins artist Fazal Sheikh’s longstanding important practice of documenting and photographing people living in displaced and marginalized communities to create their photobook Human Archipelago, to answer some very fundamental questions such as ‘What is home?’, ‘Who is a stranger?’, ‘Who is my kin?’.
In Cole’s own narrative and prose-like style, the photobook presents us with images of faces of those whose lives have undergone severe re-location and geographical erasure challenging the very perennial idea of home
The artist’s own heightened desire to create “Human Archipelago” came from the global shift to a political right, against the backdrop of Trump’s election, its repercussions across much of the world, and the resulting authoritarian governments.
The artists’ intentions and vision is best showcased in their very individual values and mutual spirit of cooperation that is driven to encourage its readers to reimagine an environment of harmonious global living and our own individual courage and kindness.
You can view the book here.
Coming back full circle, Kānike Studio is hosting a 3 month long Zine Festival titled “Play” inviting zine makers and artists from across the country to submit their work. The festival is in association with studio’s own Indu Anthony’s independent publishing house, Mazhi Books, and British Council India.
You can visit their studio space till March 2022 to view the wonderful and exciting array of over 100 zines. Click this link for more details.
As we reach the end of our series, we are reminded of the strength and beauty that lies in personal memory and the political urgency of highlighting tales that might remain absent from our mainstream cultural discourses, excavating gems that remain hidden in clear sight.
As we move away from blown-up photographic prints and aesthetic photo books, the assumed lacuna of thoughtful stories and playful design is no longer absent from the canon today.
The freedom from chronological narration and linear presentation now stands small when glancing at the powerful work that these collectives and global artists are putting out in the world today.
With their sharp eye for thought-provoking tales and excavated truths, these home-grown collectives and artists are tackling crucial ideas and experimenting with their own transformative art practices and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future!