A Bengaluru-based artist and writer, Chinar Shah’s practice looks at how contemporary photographic images are created, multiplied and circulated in mainstream media, particularly in depictions of violence.
She spent her childhood in Ahmedabad, where she completed her BA in English literature with communicative English at St. Xavier’s College in 2008. The same year, she moved to Hyderabad to pursue an MA in literature and cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), graduating in 2010. She then moved back to Ahmedabad in 2011 for a postgraduate diploma in photography from the National Institute of Design (NID), completing it in 2013. Through a collaboration between NID and the University for the Creative Arts, UK, Shah also received an MFA in photography at the same time. She was a lecturer at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, from 2014-20. Along with Aileen Blaney, Shah co-edited Photography in India: From Archives to Contemporary Practice (2018), an anthology of essays on scholarship around lens-based art practices in South Asia.
Much of Shah’s practice consists of collaborations and conceptual installations. A key example of this is The Real Taste of India, a 2017 exhibition made with Nihaal Faizal and Aileen Blaney at Mumbai Art Room, which sought to emphasise how the media and cultural institutions standardised an exotic, commodifiable idea of India. One of Shah’s other notable projects is Russia-Turkey Landscapes, deriving its title from a 2016 exhibition of Russian landscape photographs held in Ankara, Turkey. When visiting the exhibition, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated and Turkish photographer Burhan Ozbilici took a series of photographs of the incident. From the background of these photographs, Shah pulled the pixelated images of the Russian landscape shots that were on display, as a commentary on how violent moments force cultural ties into the blurred backdrop. Another 2016 project, titled Bin Laden Situation Room, is a photo essay that used multiple copies of a photograph showing former United States President Barack Obama and other members of the national security team watching a live feed of Osama Bin Laden’s death in 2011, the only image taken of the event. Shah has also published A Memorial for the New Economy, a book that lists the deaths resulting from India’s currency demonetisation in 2016. Her ongoing curatorial venture, Home Sweet Home, involves her holding temporary exhibitions at the residence of a fellow art practitioner. The project often involves the display of art that is itself about the notion of home, covering themes of domesticity, family and personal heritage.
Shah has received a number of grants for her work over the years, most notably for The Real Taste of India from the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, Göteborgs Stad Kultur in 2017 and a 2019 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for her project Flowers for the Empire while in residence at Bluecoat, Liverpool. Her work has been exhibited at Art Bengaluru, Mumbai Art Room, Serendipity Arts Festival and Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
At the time of writing, Shah lives and works in Bengaluru.
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