“Selfie of an Indian City” presented by Narayanan, Chandran and Chanthar


Presentation Title:

  • Selfie of an Indian City



  • The art project is an exploration with reference to the engagement between the self and the city. The way city projects itself and the way the self perceives it, as an “epistemological project to record and understand the world by objective means.”1)
    A city as understood, is almost always seen from the top, of what we call a plan, a map. Most important thing in a city map are its roads and the pattern they create. At eyelevel, the city is something different. We can identify a city based on the map of its road network….Roads! The physical manifestation of development, liberation and freedom…. Roads the modern day sites for experiencing crime, inequality and totalising nature of cities in India.
    As the selfie as in the electronic world is a projected image of the self – a constructed image, so the selfie of a city ought to be the image of the road from top, devoid of all the imperfections, projecting just the fast moving machines, or just image of the machine, an image which is almost like a map of the city but not really a map.
    The output of the artwork envisages video panels with multiple projections. An audio-visual involvement in the gallery to bring about the nuances of the Indian city 2) thereby self critiquing the very process of viewing the urban. The visuals will be an X-Ray video of the specific parts of the city from above, with the road on the focus, which brings the rhythm of the moving automobiles in different parts. This visual with an audio will completely negate and/or dilute the glitches present, as a way to bring the anarchic ruptures of the city, inside the gallery space. The presence of the experience is brought about in the gallery space in intentional fading out of the human presence, far removed because of the ‘looking down’ act.
    Cities perceived from top, by distancing the viewer, “lifted out of the city’s grasp … elevation transfigures him into a voyeur. It puts him at a distance. It transforms the bewitching world by which one was ‘possessed’ into a text that lies before one’s eyes. It allows one to read it, to be a solar Eve… The exaltation of a scopic and gnostic drive: the fiction of knowledge is related to this lust to be a viewpoint and nothing more.”3) Lust for a glitch free image in the making but never made. Taking into account the – social, economic and cultural inequity, inherent to the roads of Indian City, with the withdrawn ‘voyeur’ approach and juxtaposing it with the glitch free perception of viewing the road from top, gives a potent tool for critical engagement with the volatile context of urban India.

    1) Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010 (Reprint))
    2) This project deals mainly with the city of Delhi, India
    3) Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (University of California Press, 2011 (reprint))