The Jaffna-based artist Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan and AAA Mobile Library collaborator develops an art project, the first in an ongoing series, that archives the experience of multiple displacements behind individuals associated with the letter press and studio photography between 1950 and 2000 in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
Studio photography and the printing industry of the 19th century were displaced by the introduction of digital technology in the late-20th century across the world. Sri Lanka underwent a cycle of physical displacement due to thirty years of civil war. Combined with these factors, the lack of recognition of these underexplored practices in written art history, and inadequate documentation of them in current visual art archives, have produced a gap in which these important agents of modernity are missing in art historical narratives.
This art project aims to address these displacements through an archive that documents the personal histories of studio photography and letter press practitioners, interlacing techniques through a method of conversation; collection of material such as photographs, printed matter, and drawings; and a collage of memory, oral history, and text—culminating in the form of a library index card box that plays with the idea of the archive, memory, and index.