As a documentary photographer, I am interested in the idea of staged studio-photography. It creates a space for conversation with people — the backdrop creates an opportunity to interact with strangers in a context like Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, for example, connecting with the history of painting and photography, and embedding it in a public space as a public and interactive project.
I choose the iconic painting by the legendary painter Raja Ravi Varma, currently featured in the Mysore museum. Although Ravi Varma is originally from Kerala, he had a pan-Indian following. The painting ‘Galaxy of Musicians’ is visionary and choreographs women from different regions of India as parts of a dramatic setting. It envisions ‘Unity in diversity’. I wish to reclaim Raja Ravi Varma in a contemporary trans-cultural context.
This painting is inspired by group studio photography. It excludes the common people. I believe in dismantling the aura of the painting and making it commonplace. I use the ‘Galaxy of Musicians’ as a popular cutout for the local people to interact with.
This is an attempt at a retake of Ravi Varma, to create a more inclusive context to celebrate diversity of humanity and be more inclusive. It also presents an opportunity to create a situation in the public space for conversation and reconnections with history and diversity, set amidst the social and political context of contemporary cosmopolitan Kochi.