French photographer, Tiane Doan na Champassak has been recognized extensively for both his documentary photography and his use of found photography gathered from the Internet. He uses an intriguing mix of narrative and vernacular works to translate his endless questioning and curiosity of contemporary society, sexuality and gender blur.
Showroom is a collection of images Champassak made in Tamil Nadu, India, focusing on an annual festival attended by thousands of hirja or eunuchs, a transgender community who are permanently trapped in an identity and social class that is seen as both sacred and shunned by Indian society.
Champassak’s photographs bear witness to the events as they reach their height in a village called Villuppuram where the hirja come each year to be ceremonially wed to Mohini, the female form of Krishna a character of the fabled story of Aravan, son of famed Hindu warrior Arjun. In the story Aravan was to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali in order that the side of right and virtue would win the great battle at Kurukshetra. The festival is a re-enactment of Aravan’s wedding to Mohini, an event in which the hirjas symbolize Aravanis.
The sacred event becomes a frenetic party when, at the height of the festival the stone effigy of Mohini is pulled around the village, after being wed to thousands of Aravanis and then burned – immediately widowing all the symbolic brides. The result is a frenzied display of grief and loss, followed by a strange mix of festival and wanton displays of sexuality.
In Showroom, Champassak captures ‘an unspoken tradition which has emerged alongside the refrain of the Aravani mythology, a tradition born of traumatized modern Indian sexuality.” In his photographs the artist reveals the complexities of a blurred sexual identity. The showroom is the hirja’s desperate moment within this festival where they strive to be seen and accepted in a society where their position is viewed from the polar opposites of spiritually divine and the unspeakably depraved. Champassak looks at this culture with an unflinching eye; the resulting images are explicit, yet truthful and captivating in their honesty.