Open Call for Lens-Based Artists from India and Wales



Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation in collaboration with the Diffusion Festival-Wales with the support of the British Council and Wales Arts International announces the Open Call for a grant for resident photographers and lens based artists from India and Wales to submit proposals on the theme - IMAGINING THE NATION STATE. 

This collaboration enables a total of four grant awards - to two Indian and two Welsh photographers/lens-based artists for the production of work on the basis of proposals submitted through the open call. The works produced by the four artists will be exhibited at the next Diffusion festival in 2021. The work is also likely to be showcased at a subsequent edition of Chennai Photo Biennale on the basis of available funding and further grant support.


It is somewhat of a paradox that at a time when individuals are more globally connected than ever before, the idea of ‘nationhood’ remains a powerful unifying force for people. 

Could it be that the idea of one’s national identity is defined by a common language, history and culture is at odds with the complex, pluralistic and ever-changing state of nations? 

Is the term ‘nation state’ simply an outmoded and divisive construct around which people and land are organised, or does it have a contemporary relevance?

Can we create a new, inclusive vision of nationhood compatible with our global responsibilities?

How do we ensure that a nation’s innovations, cultural forms, wealth and resources are harnessed for the common good, not just for the benefit of those living within its borders?

There is often one nation state, but there are many imaginations of the nation state depending on where one is speaking from.

Photographers/lens based artists are invited to engage with these and many such questions in the process of producing ongoing, current and relevant imaginations of the idea of the nation state. Specific to such efforts must be an active conceptualization of both sameness and difference, in relation to what is understood to be the template of the nation-state. To this extent, artists might choose to work with many modalities including but not limited to narrative, materiality, symbolism, phenomenology, fantasy, event, and contingency. At the heart of submissions, must be a willingness for conceptual experimentation and a spirit of critique.

*Concept note development: Mathangi Krishnamurthy, David Drake, Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation

Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation and its Welsh partner Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography (a biennial event curated and run by Ffotogallery Wales) were collectively awarded the The British Council Connections through Culture: India-Wales 2020 grant which has made this project possible.


The theme for the grant submissions is ‘Imagining the Nation State’ and invites proposals from resident photographers and lens-based artists in India and Wales, with special encouragement to female/female identifying practitioners.


Applicants must be a resident of either of the two countries


Applicant is of non-Indian or non-Welsh origin and has concurrent resident permits from 2015 of either of the two countries valid at least till Dec 2021.

The grant amount being awarded is 1500 GBP per artist and will be issued to the awardee in four parts - the details of which will be emailed to the awardee upon selection and announcement.

Shortlisted applicants will be announced 10 days prior to the final award. The jury will be doing video interviews with the shortlisted candidates to arrive at their final decision.

The grant is given to four independent artists towards the production of four bodies of works - two from India and two from Wales. Selected work will be new or a development of a body of work under production, but not yet realised in exhibition form.

The grant will also consider if two artists would like to apply as a team offering two interconnected/conjoined proposals (for instance, one proposal supplementing the other, or one could be a photo-based work and the other a video work).

The four awardees can choose to work independently or collaborate with each other and take their projects forward.

In support of their proposal, applicants should submit an ongoing body of work or have a folio of work from a similar genre to supplement their written proposal.

No single-image works will be considered for the grant. Your submission should be a series from one body of work/project. 

The grant is towards the production of the work and should include a reasonable fee for the artist. Every proposal will be required to present a detailed timeline and how the artist intends to spend the grant amount on the basis the production timeline.

Exhibition/presentation costs, including printing, framing, installation, invigilation and interpretation, will be determined and met by the curating organisations, subject to available resources.  

In consultation with the artists, work created and submitted will be used for promoting the grant via social media, newsletters, video and traditional media. Awarded artists will be expected to provide material from their project and remain available for interviews with the media and with CPB Foundation and Diffusion/Ffotogallery social platforms. The organisers' and granters' websites will also serve as a portal for collating the processes and outcome of the entire project.

Exhibition of final works at either Diffusion 2021 or CPB will be designed basis available funding and venues in conversation with artists. 

By applying to this grant, applicants implicitly agree to abide by the grant terms and conditions and keep to timelines specified. Failure to reach milestones or participate in follow up communication may result in withdrawal of further grant funding.

Should the production of the work require more time and the artist-awardee is unable to meet the deadline due to health reasons or unforeseen circumstances, the artist should contact the grants committee immediately on [email protected]


  • Open call announcement – June 15, 2020

  • Application deadline: September 30, 2020

  • Shortlist announcement - 7 October, 2020

  • Announcement of 4 finalists + virtual announcement ceremony : October 24, 2020

  • Period to produce work: 15 November 2020 – 15 May 2021

  • Final presentation of works to jury - 22 May 2021

  • Virtual Public presentation with Jurors+CPBF+Diffusion of the works produced and discussion - 29 May 2021

  • Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography: Launch event Sep/Oct 2021


  • Written proposal of max 500 words about the proposed project for the theme 'Imagining the Nation State' in PDF format

  • A set of max 20 images from the same body of work pertaining to the proposal. If you do not have images for the proposed project, please share 20 images from a relevant, previous body of work for the jury's perusal. 

  • Alternatively, video work can also be submitted with a link to the video, with password details if required. It can also be shared in a low resolution via a transfer site to [email protected]

  • Images to be shared in 100dpi 1000 pixels on the longer side as separate JPEGs (not as one PDF)

  • Detailed budget proposal with timelines to be submitted in PDF format

  • Detailed bio of the applicant with contact details, current residential address, previous work links and showcase trajectory to be submitted in PDF format

  • Images/video + project proposal + budget statement + bio to be shared in one folder named as: "your name-surname_INSG2020" to [email protected] with the subject line as: "your name-surname_INSG2020" to [email protected] 

Entries will be accepted until 11:59 PM IST on Aug 30 

We are curating a series of reading materials and works to encourage artist participation in the process of producing ongoing, current and relevant imaginations of the idea of the nation-state.

Two Donkeys in a war zone by Clément Lambelet

Two donkeys in a war zone by Cle?ment Lambelet is a series that stems from an American army video available on YouTube. A drone records an attack on an ISIS camp. Between two explosions, the aircraft’s infrared camera briefly captures two donkeys.

The Flavours of Nationalism by Nadita Haksar

In this book, Nadita Haksar recounts her culinary journey, as a human rights activist and lawyer in search of answers to the fundamental political questions that have arisen during recent controversies over food - what can we eat, who can we eat with, what foods are forbidden or denigrated, and what all this says about our country.

Talcum by Seba Kurtis

Seba Kurtis’ photographic collages ‘Talcum’ refer to an incident when illegal refugees from the Middle East were hiding in a truck transporting talcum powder (originating from the Arabic word ‘talq’) in order to get over the British border. Images of the minerals cover the faces of immigrants who must remain in hiding from state authorities during their illegal stay. The rocks in the foreground also stand for the prioritization of the inorganic material over the worth of human lives on our economic scale of values.

The photography of Seba Kurtis and his investigation into the environment of illegal migration attempt to restore balanced and humane dimensions of migrants’ identity. The overexposed and aesthetically intense images help change our negative perception of illegally migrating people and zoom in on their own complicated journeys and circumstances, which are part of global political phenomena.

The civic view from above by Hagit Keysar

The Civic View From Above gathers together research and collaborative work by Hagit Keysar with Public Lab’s DIY aerial photography toolkit in spaces of political conflict. Keysar works with local activists and communities to gain a birds’-eye view of contested spaces. In doing so, she is able to deploy aerial photography as a human rights testimony against urban planning interventions that many find to be disruptive.

Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die), film by Alain Resnais & Chris Marker

Statues Also Die (French: Les Statues meurent aussi) is a 1953 French essay film directed by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, about historical African art and the effects colonialism has had on how it is perceived. The film won the 1954 Prix Jean Vigo. Because of its criticism of colonialism, the second half of the film was censored in France until the 1960s.

The film traces the devastating impact of French colonialism on African art. As Resnais' co-director, Chris Marker, stated, "We want to see their suffering, serenity, humor, even though we don't know anything about them." Their film shows what happens when art loses its connection to a culture. Consequently it was banned in France for 12 years.

Imagine Otherwise: Ani Maitra on Media and Identity in the Public Sphere

Identity has undeniable social, political, and economic consequences. But can we imagine a world where what defines me and others like me does not hinge on exploitation, oppression, or exclusion in some form?…Now, the million dollar question for many, many scholars has been, how do we get there? My attempt to answer that question has been to suggest that instead of celebrating or dismissing identity, we need to rethink its production and persistence. We need to reexamine how identities are mediated by capitalism and how these multiple mediations are, in fact, designed to pit identities against each other.

Paper txt msgs from Kashmir (2009 - 2011) 

Paper txt msgs from Kashmir began in December 2009 as a lo-fi participatory media project initiated by Alana Hunt as a kind of tongue-in-cheek response to the government’s ban on all pre-paid mobile phone services in Indian occupied Kashmir on the basis of ‘security’.

Over time the work grew into a multi-platform body of work incorporating video, installation and a publication circulating in both on and offline environments. First released as an e-book online in May 2011, which you can download from this website, and published in print in August that same year the publication contains a collection of new writing from Kashmir by Suvaid Yaseen, Majid Maqbool, Zooni Tickoo, Iram Razzaq, Rahim Seab, Gowhar Fazili, Uzma Falak and Tanveer Ahmed.

The State is not a Work of Art 

The exhibition examines the problematics, contradictions and ideologies underlying nation and nationalism in the constantly transforming European socio- political landscape. Offering a more nuanced view, beyond stereotypical definitions and polarised, simplistic narratives that divide the world into nationalistically driven binaries of ‘them’ versus ‘us,’ the exhibition aims to highlight that these are highly intricate issues with complex historical and socio-political roots.

Mõtleme oma emakeeles ka siis, kui selles ei räägi” (you think in your own language even when you don’t speak it) by Lisa Harlev

Exhibited at “The State is not a Work of Art”, curated by Katerina Gregos, Tallinn Art Hall, 2018

"New Year's Boy" by Jaanus Samma 

Installation and performance exhibited at “The State is not a Work of Art”, curated by Katerina Gregos, Tallinn Art Hall, 2018

The Unknown Land of the South by Ella Littwitz

Installation exhibited at “The State is not a Work of Art”, curated by Katerina Gregos, Tallinn Art Hall, 2018

Everyone votes here by Marina Naprushkina

Exhibited at “The State is not a Work of Art”, curated by Katerina Gregos, Tallinn Art Hall, 2018

What’s in a name? The politics of naming a dance form. 

Naming is a political act. The common understanding of “Bharatanatyam’s” naming is as follows. In South India, temple dance was called Sadir, and then when in the 1930s it was “revived,” it was renamed Bharatanatyam in Madras. Because there is a tendency to align this dance with ancient Sanskrit and Tamil texts, all sorts of ideas about its name in the hoary past are floating around today. What we do know with a degree of certainty, is that in the moment prior to both the reform and the reinvention, in Tamilnadu, this dance was known by a huge range of names, and not just “Sadir.” These included Chinna Melam, Kelikai, Kachcheri (Urdu), Melam, and Bharatanatyam.

APEX by Arthur Jafa

An 800+ photo-collage of abstracted imagery of an undefined boundless concept of what blackness is. It is his response to his idea of black cinema, the precedent to a large scale film of epic proportions setting itself apart as the complete opposite of mainstream Hollywood film. Jafa says, “The mantra is really about trying to force people to think more deeply about what a black cinema might be, and what it might look like.”

9645 kilometers of memories by Helena Schätzle

Almost every person in Europe has part of their family history connected to World War II happenings. With the dying out of the last living witnesses of this time, we are entering an age of forgetting and overcoming our past. This project does not just remind of that time and the remains still perceivable in today’s society but also close a circle of time with personal records and memories of still living witnesses in photographic and text form.

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