Vernacular politics and Malaysian Tamil pictorial digital ethnography

Dec 3 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge, MA
Sorayut Aiemueayut (Lecturer, Department of Media, Arts & Design, Chiang Mai University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Michael Herzfeld (Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University)
 
Co-sponsored with the Harvard University Asia Center

This talk points attention to the pictorial practices in a small studio engaged in the Malaysian Tamil community, a working-class community which has a historical background as British colonialism's forced immigrants in the Malay peninsula. This studio offers mainly photographic services and edits portrait images in a digital collage style by changing the environment of the photo by using a backdrop of a religious screen or other scenic places, and using abstract colors.

This talk will discuss the illusion of colonial traces and its artistic embodiment. The Malaysian Tamil are the colonial heritage as the cultural stereotype of docility, who work hard and do tedious labor. The work of art in this small studio is a pictorial digital ethnography for re-narrating the Malaysian Tamil identity to lively, creative people and shows the process of redefining identity. Moreover, the aesthetic in their work is a critical dialogue with the professional artist. The contrast, unevenness, and reduced resolution embodies vernacular politics and makes the local producer a traveler in a digital no- man's land, an area in which they can go beyond human finitude.