The Lotus Chronicles
bangaloResidency /Goethe-Institute Max Mueller Bhavan, India, 2014
The photographic practice of German artist Catrine Val is largely concerned with testing cultural and historical assumptions and the role that images play as agents of perception. This ongoing project stands as a critical reimagining and recasting of the canonical figures that punctuate the world of ideas. This body of work, though falling under the larger conceptual rubric of Philosophers, charts a photographic journey through pages of Indian history, literature, and metaphysics to seize on the voices of women.
Woman in Philosophy is a deliberately ambiguous category; it indicates a racial and cultural or gender designation but also suggests invisibility. Philosophical enagements are a global phenomena; we all ask the same existential questions,” What is a good life? What is reality? What is knowledge? ” Despite the abundant variety of questions the answers are surprizing uniform and consistently demonstrate a paucity of female voices.
With this lacuna in mind, my methodology builds on the cultural effects of individualism and mechanization to employ transformations, mirror images, doubling and replications, as means to develop slippery fiction. In an effort to nuance both the questions and the answers, the conceptual task of this project is to celebrate the presence of independent female thinkers, reformers and mystics, through time and to reimagine their appearance in today’s world. The central protagonists of these images open doors for further thought; their visage transcends religious boundaries and synergies and attests to the complexity and multiplicity of identities across India.
And with this in mind, it is interesting that I cast an ordinary individual to “play” the role of this formidable activist. It is the “role playing” that strikes as fundamental to understanding this image in a broader cultural context.Though these photographs are staged and manipulated they point to the necessities of specificity, and underscore the need to challenge the passive consumption of images. Though this brief narrative offers some preliminary thoughts on Catrine Val’s “The Lotus Chronicles” , the proposed interview will offer a critical dialogue with the artist as means of foregrounding what animates the spirit of her photographic practice in India.
These images adopt a “meta” relationship to the world, where the boundaries that mark truth and authenticity are heavily blurred. The title of the work is intended as a statement. It is simultaneously taken from the most important (though under acknowledged) work of female philosophers and literary figures, some of whom come from Kerala. “The Lotus Chronicles” pinpoints a new concept of identity that takes as its catalyst Indian culture and knowledge. This project emphasizes the historical presence and absence of women to step beyond discursive postmodern modes of reasoning to propose a new language and grammar for thinking.