The hyper-connectedness of our contemporary existence is, as Jean Baudrillard would describe, alienating. Particularly in the year of the pandemic, technology & the Internet have become our windows to the world as we are further plunged into indeterminacy, witnessing the death of our norms.
So it goes.
Being unstuck in time became my looking glass since I read Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse V’ in 2010 and I believe it headlines the postmodern condition. In this ongoing body of work titled ‘Take a Picture’ and made in collaboration with my mother, we are taking the Covid-19 lockdown as an opportunity to simulate travel to my mother’s dream destinations, which in turn is taking me down a rabbit hole of musings. The images are a response to my present environment, yet displaced in time and fluid in space, as is only possible within a virtual universe, one that is facilitated by the Internet today. On the brink of nostalgia, the implosion of time in these images allows the past and future to seep into the present.
Still in its infancy, this first language study is loosely based on a 7-day tour itinerary for Japan as provided by my mother’s travel agency which is about to shut down as a result of the pandemic. The title is her mantra - she hands me her phone after she finds her position in front of a scene and invariably says, ‘Take a Picture’.
Using multiple visual devices - images from her archives, screenshots from google street view, desktop wallpapers found on the internet, and images captured through the laptop computer’s lens - the simulations are created on ‘Zoom’ using the program’s virtual background feature. I believe the popularity of Zoom is a cornerstone for our present times, and it marks a shift in our dependancy on telecommuting.
Industry, connectivity and media have turned landscapes into hyperreal objects of desire - the same industry that turns experience into commodities, and portraits into performances to be communicated to a virtually omnipresent audience via social media. The emergent pool of homogenous imagery creates templates for the industry to ‘tailor-make’ experiences, and so also for the holiday photo. In the moments where these images breakdown is when the illusion is broken. In ‘Take a Picture’, the broken simulations & distorted satellite images create a tear in the fabric, facilitating collisions in time and deterritorialized experience. It is on one level a performance and on another level a documentation, both of our predicament and of our present stage of technology. The scope of such collaborations with my mother is infinite and she being a priority in my life, these collaborations are a way of tethering our parallel existences in an enjoyable, meaningful way.
This project is part of the 25 x 25 Initiative by India Foundation for the Arts, supported by lead donor Kshirsagar-Apte Foundation, and philanthropy partners Titan Company Limited, and Priya Paul and Sethu Vaidyanathan.