Sixth Annual IAAC 2009 Erasing Borders Exhibition of Contemporary
Indian Art of the Diaspora

Prince Varughese Thomas

Prince Varughese Thomas

Artist Statement

Taking its title from a law that was passed by the US Congress, patriot ACTS consists of three combined videos that are intended to speak metaphorically about the dangers of blind patriotism. My interest in creating this piece began with considering what happens to the individual, the child, and the family in times of armed conflict or war. Specifically, the every day person, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or border, who has no exacting power but are affected by the powerful.

Within this piece, on the left and right are two videos that reference two abstract forms. These forms are moving in repetitive gestures. Through the course of the video these abstract forms become concrete images of a man, showing the anterior and posterior views of the same figure, synchronized in movement. Given time the viewer can recognize that the figure is in the act of shaving his head. Depending on the historical context, this act has various meanings including hygiene, punishment, indoctrination, submission, empowerment, solidarity, and humility.

In the middle section of this video, the viewer observes birds in flight. Initially, the rhythm of the birds is meant to be contemplative in nature and through time become more visually aggressive. Starting with just one bird in flight, by the end of the video the viewer is confronted with hundreds of birds flying in the screen. The bird, metaphorically, becomes subverted through the course of the video into a hostile object, much in the same way the term Bird is used by the military to refer to a Missile or a Fighter-Jet.

Towards the end of this video the man with a shaved head looks deadpan into the camera. The piece closes with a segment of text that states, "And our birds still fly." It is my intent that the text calls into question what the viewer has just seen. Is the figure Perpetrator or Victim? Terrorist or Patriot? And which of these is to be held accountable for the loss and sorrow of innocent lives affected by acts of aggression?

The music for this piece was scored in collaboration with composer Joel Love.


Prince Varughese Thomas is an artist who incorporates a variety of photographic and digital techniques into his artwork. He is a naturalized Indian-American citizen born in Kuwait and raised primarily between India and the United States. The act of crossing borders, both physical and psychological, in no small part contributes to the content of his work.

His work has been shown nationally at museums, university galleries, and alternative spaces including the Contemporary, Atlanta, GA; the Dallas Visual Art Center; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Center for the Visual Arts, Toledo, OH; Society for Contemporary Photography, Kansas City, MO; and New Jersey Center for Visual Arts, Summit, NJ; the Alternative Museum, NY, NY; & Stux Gallery, NY, NY.  His work is represented in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Thomas received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a M.F.A. in Photography from the University of Houston.


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