This event is part of our Past Programme
What do computers ‘see’ when looking at family albums? Are algorithmic models able to grasp the cultural traces of a community when looking at their archive of photographs?
A·kin takes artist Aarati Akkapeddi’s family photo album as its starting point. Akkapeddi combines these personal photographs, from the south Indian state Tamil Nadu, with images from the Studies in Tamil Studio Archives and Society Archive (stars.archive), a collection which investigates the history of South Indian studio photography between the 1880s and the 1980s.
The installation takes the shape of a Kolam, where patterns are traditionally drawn with rice flour by women on their home entrance to welcome all but the evil spirits. In this case, the kolam is formed by groupings of photographs organised on a grid by an image classification algorithm, and assembled on clusters by Akkapeddi’s own artistic intervention. Each group is represented by a central image, a composite averaging all of the images within the cluster. A new digital interactive extension of the work invites visitors to pull apart the composites and learn about the source and cultural insights of each photograph.
At the centre of the wall a video includes oral interviews with family members reflecting on the diasporic identity. Stars.archive researchers also share insights on the particularities of eastern studio archives and family albums in relation to a more western view.
A·kin highlights issues in grasping anthropological, historical and cultural notions about personal and collective identity when photographs are considered as mere data points.
Aarati Akkapeddi is a first-generation, Telugu-American, interdisciplinary artist, educator, and programmer interested in the poetics and politics of datasets. Their work touches on themes of intergenerational memory, loss, and diaspora.
Akkapeddi works with both personal and institutional archives to explore how identities and histories are shaped by different methods of collecting, preserving, and presenting data. They combine code, machine learning and analog techniques (photography, printmaking, & embossing), and often use family photographs and archival images as a source material, creating performative rituals of information extraction.
Studies in Tamil Studio Archives and Society (stars.archive) is a multidisciplinary research collective which aims to investigate the history of Tamil studio photography between the 1880s and the 1980s as well as to protect and promote the rich and vulnerable photographic productions.