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Annu Palakunnathu Matthew Presents Migration Of Memory

Geetha Patil

MIT Wednesday Discussion Group invited Annu Palakunnathu Matthew who is a professor of art (photography) at the University of Rhode Island's Department of Art and Art History to discussion on the topic  "Migration of Memory" through her creative photo-based work on 12th Apr 2017 evening, at Cambridge, MA. Annu’s work draws inspiration from her experience of having lived between cultures and about being an immigrant in the USA.

Mr. Jaspal Singh Ji thanked the audience for attending the meeting and introduced Annu Palakunnathu Matthew to them by saying that  she is currently working as the director of the URI Center for the Humanities. Her works have been featured in The New York Times, CNN Photo Blog, and in Buzzfeed  and also included in the book Blink which compiles the work of 100 contemporary photographers.  Her work has been exhibited at gallerist, SepiaEye, in New York The RISD Museum; Guangzhou Biennial of Photography, China; Tang Museum, New York; and The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

She showed her photographic works on different themes. She illustrated some photos on the theme ‘An Indian from India’ to present some of the confusion between Native Americans and Indians from India.  She said that the photographs of Native Americans from the Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century perpetuated and reinforced stereotypes in the minds of Nineteenth century British photographers working in India and tried to finds similarities in them.

In the next series of photos, she used animations to explore the turmoil of families impacted by the Partition of India in 1947, under theme called “Open Wound.”  During partition, more than 12 million people were displaced within three months and millions of people died in this turmoil. Unlike other similar tragedies such as Holocaust, there is no commemoration about partition. There is very little recorded information for the general public to understand impact of this tragedy on the Indian society in general and the people who put out of their original place due to partition in specific.

Next, she presented to the audience, the power of photography under the theme of ReGeneration that builds on the recognized genuineness of photographs that stimulates a vital reflection and its effect on the perception of memory, family and the cultures over time. She built animations from the archival images and recent photographs of three or more generations of women. She combined the digital technology and animation to makes it appear as if the old and new images flow one into another.

Annu displayed a series of photographs under her “Memories of India” that depicted her mixed background, as she was born in England, raised in India and now is living in America. These images involved with time facet, revisiting the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood impressions of her cultural homeland, India. She took the images by the using a simple plastic-lens Holga camera, that makes images with a dreamy quality.

In the theme “Fabricated Memories”, she used digital technology and Polaroid film to reconstruct memories by combining recent images with childhood snapshots. She said to the audience that these images show the realistic view of events that never happened but reflect emotions from her childhood. She showed a small handmade accordion book that presented the images as Polaroid emulsion transfers and some pages also include text.


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