Genesis, one of the Chakravarthi‘s early video works and the first piece shown at the Visiting Speaker’s lecture, seems to summarise some key issues in his work. Chakravarthi’s live performances, videos, installations and photographs are concerned with gender, sexualities and racial identities. Various works are linked to the places where people meet such as bars, dating agencies or public places (Maxx Shurley’s Speed dating!, Barflies); means of communication such as postcards, letters (To the Man in My Dreams; Places); and other identity-forming (and contesting) media, where sexual or racial divisions often become most noticeable.
The creation of identities in Chakravarthi’s work is linked to destabilisation of socially and culturally accepted norms. Genesis, a large-scale video projection of face and upper body, proudly showcases the artist’s body, while offering a more intimate emotional aspect, which destabilises Western codes of behaviour. The transition between laughing and crying, interior/exterior questions the viewer’s preconceptions and arguably contests common representations of the self in Western Culture.
In some of his self-portraits, art historical references to Manet’s Olympia, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, or Indian Goddess turn the attention away from the self, and onto the Other, the marginalised. Manet’s Olympia is re-enacted in a video piece emphasising the active role of the viewer instead of the fixed and distant image of the other (the stigmatised prostitute). It is exactly the breaking up of binary structures (not just of viewer/artwork, self/other) that Chakravarthi’s work deals with. In short, his work is concerned with the creation of complex identities that challenge simplistic categorisations.