In 2020, when international borders were suddenly closed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aishwarya Arumbakkam, a photographer from India was stuck in Austin, Texas, leading to a profound and poignant separation from her parents.
Their relationship was mediated through different kinds of communication platforms and technology, complicated by the distance and difference in time-zones. Via (video) calls, messages, and photographs, Arumbakkam and her parents shared arguments, laughter, tears, and eventually, mundane nothingness and silence.
In her work Lines, Arumbakkam depicts the routes her father walked within his room as lines on paper. On some days there were many steps; on some, fewer; and on others, there were none. In Appa Walking—a hand-drawn animation—the photographer’s father walks in an endless loop, accompanied by the rhythmic sound of a metronome that syncs with his footsteps. Within the video, there is no horizon, no surroundings, no indication of time and place, and there is no narrative. Time is extended and cyclical.
For her work Call, Aishwarya scrutinized the messages she and her father exchanged, searching for repeating patterns. The recurring theme of their exchanges was a constant attempt to connect, and a failure to do so.
In Aishwarya’s works, there is no indication of where either she or her parents are, but there is an indication of those spaces being separated by duration and distance. By looking at, listening to, and visualizing the presence of her parents through abstract impressions, Aishwarya repeatedly tried, sometimes in vain, to bridge the distance between them.
The work of Aishwarya Arumbakkam is part of the group exhibition Space to Breathe, curated by Newsha Tavakolian and on display in the Grote Kerk Breda.
Aishwarya Arumbakkam (b. 1988) is a multidisciplinary visual artist working with photography, filmmaking, and drawing to create narrative installations and artist books. An artist from Chennai, India, Aishwarya is currently pursuing an MFA in Studio Art at The University of Texas, Austin. In 2020, she was awarded the Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellowship.
Location: Grote Kerk