Annu Matthew’s photography work focuses on social relationships that derive from the overlapping and intertwining of stories and cultures that are very different. Her research has roots in her own life. Matthew lived in India for twenty years and has always lived between this country, England and the United States where she currently resides.
The exhibition contains seven works, six of which belong to the “Re-Generation” series (her latest work that gives the name to the exhibition) and one to the “The Virtual Immigrant” series.
“Re-Generation” is a research project that the artist has been working on since 2008 and that develops around the concept of memory expressed through family photo albums to which, still today and since photography started, we entrust our history. They tell our past, they give us comfort in the present and they reassure us about our future: perhaps this is why they are similar all over the world. They portray men, women, children, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, always in the same poses. Smiling or solemn, they all display happiness, confidence, fulfilment. But the stories that are hidden behind those poses, those smiles, are often complex and tormented.
The photographs from the family albums, edited so they fade into each other in a slow sequence, form a video that links the images of the past with those of the present in a continuous cycle that has neither a beginning nor an end.
Matthew’s research started in her homeland, India, then moved on to Vietnam and Israel. But it has not finished there, because every corner of the world has something to say about work on memory. To this end, the exhibition in Rome also represents an occasion for Matthew to develop her research inside the Italian family.
To welcome the visitor at the entrance of the gallery, there is a life-size lenticular print (a printing technique which allows the image to change according to the angle from which one looks at it) from “The Virtual Immigrant” series, a socio-political work which recounts the transformations of society through the stories of young Indians who work in calls centres in their country. The companies that employ them are often American and they are requested to behave like Americans when they answer phone calls from clients, even adopting the accent of the American state in which the company has its head offices. This makes them “Daytime Americans”, virtual immigrants who dress like westerners during office hours but who wear their traditional clothes in their leisure time. This way of living between two cultures is one that is particularly dear to Annu Matthew who was spent her formative years in many different cultures
Besides photography, the installation also includes audio with the stories of the people whom the artist has photographed: the use of sound and lenticular prints are like symbols of the impact of globalization on people’s lives.