The FotoFest 2018 Biennial takes place March 10 – April 22, 2018, in Houston, Texas, and will focus on contemporary photography and new media art from INDIA, a nation of over 1.3 billion people, and the world’s largest democracy. This is the second time in its 35-year history that the FotoFest Biennial will focus exclusively on photographic artwork from Asia. The Biennial draws over 275,000 visitors during the course of its six-week run. It attracts visitors and participants from over 35 countries, and is one of the world’s longest-running, largest, and most respected international contemporary photographic art events.
India and its society are at the forefront of a changing world. The Indian subcontinent has been a center of culture for millennia, and is widely known for its relics and antiquities. Its history over the last seven decades, since independence from Great Britain, reflects India’s complicated society and emergence as a world economic and cultural power. As one of the five BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), it is acknowledged as an advanced, growing economy - currently the seventh largest in the world.
The FotoFest 2018 Biennial will focus on this emerging powerhouse, and the artists that live and work there, as well as the Indian diaspora. Lead Curator Sunil Gupta is organizing the INDIA: Contemporary Photography and New Media Art exhibition program. Gupta, a Delhi-born artist and curator, splits his time between India and the U.K., and has curated over 30 exhibitions in four countries. Steven Evans, FotoFest Executive Director since 2014, is Biennial Director and exhibition Co-Curator. Together, Gupta and Evans bring nearly 60 years of curatorial experience with contemporary photography and art to the project.
The 2018 Biennial will present artists and collectives that work in dialogue with the long history and emergent future of India and its people. The exhibition will focus on the contemporary mo. ment, and a mix of approaches will be included, including art photography, contemporary practices, installation, moving image, journalistic and documentary photography. Themes will include, but are not limited to, caste and class, the partitioning of the sub-continent, gender and sexuality, conflict, religion, nationalism, new technologies and developments, the environment, human settlement, and migration.
“As a large, multilingual subcontinent, India has always relied on images to maintain a cohesive whole across myriad subcultures, regions, castes and languages. The introduction of photomechanical imaging in the nineteenth century enabled the rapid reproduction and dissemination of both spiritual and scientific ideals,” states Lead Curator Sunil Gupta.
Gupta continues, “Photography for most of its history was too expensive and technical and was left in the hands of ‘experts’ — until the birth of digital technologies and the arrival of the mobile phone, which has given more than 800 million people in India the power to make their own photographs and moving images. This exhibition will address the legacy of the last twenty years, a period when photography and moving image media have been consistently included within critical exhibitions of fine art.”
INDIA: Contemporary Photography and New Media Art will include the central exhibition, on view across multiple venues; a conference on contemporary Indian Art; forums and panel discussions; commissioned projects; a film program; and a performing arts program. FotoFest will publish a hardcover book to accompany the program, with reproductions from Biennial artists, and essays from experts on the region and contemporary art.
“Exploring contemporary Indian art and putting it on a large international stage at FotoFest is a unique opportunity, “says Steven Evans, “not only for the artists, but for the viewers, many of whom will be encountering contemporary South Asian photographic art for the first time. We expect it to challenge many conventions and expectations they have for the region, and for its art and cultures.”
FotoFest has a long history of focusing international attention on emerging and under-known regions. At the FotoFest 1992 Biennial, FotoFest placed a spotlight on Latin American photography in one of the largest exhibition of its kind up to that point. In 1994, they did the same with a focus on Latino Photography in the U.S. In 2000, the FotoFest Biennial exhibition on Contemporary Korean Photography was the first to bring wide attention to that country’s photographers in the West, spawning successive generations of young and talented image-makers. FotoFest 2008’s CHINA Biennial focused on the evolution of photography in that country between 1934 and 2008. The 2012 Biennial was a groundbreaking exhibition of post-war Soviet and Russian photography. Recently, the 2014 Biennial focused on the Arab World, showcasing 49 artists in what was the largest program of its kind in over a decade.
If you are not a member of artforum.com you must register.