Aarati Akkapeddi’s “A·kin”
              Michael Kurtz
              Aarati Akkapeddi’s work exploits the uneasy interaction of analog and digital—paper and pixels—to convey the strangeness of both our warped view of the past through dog-eared images and the mediation of the present by algorithmic technologies. “A·kin,” at London’s Photographers’ Gallery, continues the Telugu-American artist and programmer’s practice of using machine-learning algorithms to analyze and manipulate historical images. The installation combines Akkapeddi’s family photographs from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu with those from an archive created by the STARS research collective of Tamil studio photography from the 1880s to the 1980s. Akkapeddi used an image classification model called VGG-16 to sort the photographs into a grid based on formal similarity, and then divided them into twelve generic groups: portraits of children propped up by an object, for instance, and close-ups of couples in which the man stands on the left. These “clusters” are arranged across a gallery wall within the interlocking forms of a kolam—a pattern drawn with rice flour at the entrance of Tamil homes to bring good fortune and exclude evil spirits. A larger composite image at the center of each group collates the surrounding photographs as if to identify what they share, while interviews …

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