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Image: Installation view of Visions of India: for the colonial to the contemporary featuring artworks by Indu Antony, Monash Gallery of Art, 2021 Photo: Lauren Dunn

Indu Antony

by Yask Desai, artist

The ubiquitous ‘uncle’ is a term that all of us are expected to use as Indians when we address a male from the generation above us, either family, family friend or indeed a complete stranger that happens to be significantly older than us. With iterations of the extended family and notions of communal living still prominent within Indian society, the use of the term ‘uncle’ is often endearing and allows one to informalise what may be seen in the West as a more distant relationship between generations. At times, however, the familiarity it implies is an unwanted intimacy that one is socially compelled to infer, particularly when one is young and the ‘uncle’ is largely unknown or innately unwelcome to one’s budding sense of self-determination. It is also particularly grating to recite when ‘uncle’ is close to our inner circle but not what he seems.

Indu Antony’s work is a typology of hairy male legs made visible by the subjects’ slightly parted lungis (sarongs), which are commonly worn by males of all classes and faiths in the southern states of India. With its deep shadows and the repetition of a seemingly banal subject, the work immediately exudes an ominous mood. Each image is made all the more threatening by both the camera’s frontal positioning and, even more so, by the identical low angle from which all of the images are made. This is the viewpoint of a child. The title is also chillingly childlike when one contemplates possible readings of the work. What fate may have befallen, or be about to befall the viewer as child, is left unsettlingly projected back onto the looker. ‘Disturbing’ is an adjective that is overly used to describe almost any photography with perceived gravitas, however Antony’s work is most remarkable for the truly troubling nature of what is suggested, subtly, empathetically and most of all distressingly.


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