The Banaras Back Book

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Co- published by Terry Burrows and Kriti Gallery, Varanasi, India

October 2013 Limited Edition 300

The Banaras Back Book lines up many torsos – 1,008, an auspicious number for Hindus – along the ghats of the Ganges at Varanasi (Banaras), city of Shiva, one of India’s most revered sites of Hindu ritual. This parade of backs, mostly male and strangely impersonal, conveys much of the cultural wealth and contradiction that is contemporary India. It’s a wryly odd subject choice, and the styling itself is unusual in that, while obliquely containing elements of both, this is not portrait-photography, nor is it photography of place. Some of these ‘torsos’ could be piles of rugs wrapped up and left on the ghat.  Others amuse simply by seeming to perch object-like on a step. The metaphysics of the face, and also the politics of caste and religion, have been eschewed in favour of an approach that is object-oriented and onto-phenomenological. Indeed, Burrows in his focus on this non-traditional object of the gaze – the back instead of the face – is engaging with India cross-culturally through the absurdist perspective of early twentieth century Europe.  From Beckett, through Jarry and Artaud, to Deleuze and Guattari, there’s a history of subverting the face in order to privilege the torso or trunk.

ANN FINEGAN (extract from ‘The Banaras Back Book’ 2013)