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Sep 02, 2009, 07:16 IST | Namita Gupta

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew's art photography is an art connoisseur's dream. Here's what goes into these wall collectibles

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew's art photography is an art connoisseur's dream. Here's what goes into these wall collectibles 

With fine art photography carving a niche for itself amidst the fervent art scene in India and abroad, this one is worth more than a chinwag. You will not find Annu Palakunnathu Matthew doing the mundane, but dabbling with something innovative every time.

Annu is Professor of Art (Photography) at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island and is represented by Sepia International Inc., New York City & Tasveer Gallery, India. Her latest collection the Virtual Immigrant Series draws on the experience of call centers workers in India. One might perceive these as complex, multidimensional work of art. As Annu explains emphatically, "These Virtual Immigrants become Americans/Westerners for a workday but remain physically in India. To work in these call centers, Indians study American/Western culture and either neutralise their Indian accents and adopt American ones. They virtually work between cultures without leaving their country of origin. The tangible markers of identity such as race, ethnicity, gender or class, are made more malleable." 

Multifaceted: Annu Palakunnathu Mathew is professor of Art (photography) at University of Rhode Island in the United States Pic /Vinod Kumar.T

Bangalore connections
Annu's trips back to her childhood hometown of Bangalore, exposed her to a lot of call center employees from different backgrounds, who later became her subjects, with which she explored their dress bifurcations, speeches and their juxtaposed lives between Indian and the Western culture within their workplace. Because they are interacting with Westerners while physically in India, they seem to virtually live between cultures without leaving their country of origin. Her own experience of living between cultures allows her to relate to thier situation making for a different perspective in today's global world.

What is lenticular print?
The lenticular prints in this series are derived from two photographs that have been wedded, put together and mounted against a lenticular lens, so that from one angle you view a portrait of the call center worker in his/her work clothes, usually perceived as more Western.  From the other angle the Virtual Immigrant appears dressed in clothes that he/she may wear for a more formal occasion, which is invariably Indian. The lenticular prints combined with the audio suggest the impact of globalisation and Westernisation on the Virtual Immigrant.

A step backward
A visual treat for many, this is again one of many Annu's firsts and a different kettle of fish entirely. Move back and forth and you will notice how the 50 x 70 inch portraits get even more fascinating and you start noticing the gray areas, the internal struggles that exist within the call center workers, their similar in-between experience, which relates to migration/immigration in a real and for them, virtual world.

Early days
Annu's Bollywood Satirized was based on her experiences from 20 years of living in India. She says, "But it also comes from a different time in my life. Some people defensively say that India has changed and the issues I address don't happen anymore. Of course there has been a lot of improvements but a lot of these issues still exist, like the dowry system, especially in a more materialistic India."

East meets west: Annu's photographs show a stark difference between Indian and American cultures

What next
"My next project, Re-Generations, explores the viewer's ideas about time and the warping of cultures over time. I collapse the presumed progression of time, so the past and present, Indian and Western, appear in the same virtual space. Yes, by using the old photographs it readily brings up the connotation of memory and experiences, actual or perceived," avers Annu. Re-Generation shows connections between generations of women and subtle differences. To take part in the project contact her at annu@annumatthew.com

Celebration of art
Her work finds place in the book BLINK from Phaidon, which features the quality and vision of today's 100 most exciting international contemporary photographers apart from an upcoming book Self-Portraits by Susan Bright.

Her recent exhibitions include Sepia International, New York City, the RISD Museum, Newark Art Museum, 2009 Guangzhou Biennial of Photography, China, 2006 Noorderlicht Photo Festival in Netherlands and the 2005 Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal Photo Biennale in Canada.

In 2007, Matthew was the first of three artists to be awarded the MacColl Johnson Fellowship in Visual Arts. Among the list of other grants recently supporting Matthew's work include the John Gutmann Fellowship, Rhode Island State Council of the Arts Fellowship and the American Institute of Indian Studies Creative Arts fellowship.
She was also an artist in residence at the Yaddo and MacDowell Colonies. Her work can be found in the collection of the George Eastman House, Fogg Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Center for Creative Photography, Daimler Art Collection and the RISD Museum among others.

When: The exhibition is on view till Sept 19, 11 am to 6 pm (Sundays closed)
At: Tasveer, Sua House, 26/1, Kasturba road cross.
Call: 2212 8187
Wallet factor: Price on request.

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