ESRC Digital Good Network

Past event

Studio Visit: Anshul Roy

‘Institutional Critique through New Media Art’

This event took place on Friday 24 May 2024.

Part of the Digital Identities Over Time artists residency

Untitled Design 36

Join Anshul as he discusses his on-going project ‘Rage Against the Archive’.

This talk will touch on various themes like Ethnographic Photography in Colonial India, Electronic Civil Disobedience, Digital Archives and Network Image Culture, Institutional Critique and Visual Ethics in cyberspace.

This session will be chaired by Linda Spurdle from Birmingham Museums Trust.

This event is part of the Digital Identities Over Time artists residency.

What is the aim of the residency?

The aim is to provide different perspectives and provoke debate about what future digital identities might be like, how they might unfold over time, and what we want from such digital identity systems – particularly given the emerging technologies in this field such as: self-sovereign identity systems, biometrics, facial recognition, identity cards, social media, AI, etc.

What questions can the residents explore?

  • How might our identities be represented online, and how might the tension between the choice to identify vs implied consent to be ‘identified’ play out in these systems? 
  • Is it possible to represent dynamic identities that acknowledge our inherently fluid, fragmented, and messy selves?
  • How might we think about digital identity (and identification) as it relates to monitoring, profiling and/or erasing certain identities (often the most vulnerable and marginalised) in our societies?
  • What are the social, political, cultural, philosophical, environmental implications of the way digital identities might represent us and those around us?
  • How might we think about assemblages of things, places, people forming collective identities over time?


Anshul Roy Portrait Bnw Scaled

Anshul Roy

Visual artist

Anshul Roy (b. 1997) is a visual artist from Ahmedabad, India, pursuing his MFA in Art Photography from Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. In 2020, he received a B.Tech in Bioengineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, where he became interested in the intersection of STEM and Arts and how these diverse knowledge systems could merge. Roy’s current artistic practice is inspired by Postcolonial discourses, exploring issues like cultural representation, identity, historical memory and visual ethics. He is interested in critically probing how Britishers employed photography in colonial India for “othering” and visual propaganda and how these ethnographic photos exist in our contemporary institutional archives. Roy has exhibited his work at :iidrr Gallery (Manhattan, NY), Art Gallery of Peterborough (Ontario, Canada), Light Work (Syracuse, NY), Manifest Gallery (Cincinnati, OH), Black Box Gallery (Portland, OR), Praxis Gallery (Minneapolis, MN), Photoworks (San Francisco, CA), Drewelowe Gallery (Iowa City, IA), SPE Media Festival (St. Louis, MO), Greenly Center Gallery (Bloomsburg, PA), and Full Circle Fine Art (Baltimore, MD).


Residency focus:
During my Digital Good Network Residency, I would be expanding my ongoing artivist project Rage Against the Archive. This project, comprising experimental video, new media and performance art critically probes how digital archives like the New York Public Library’s catalog, display and even sell dehumanizing ethnographic photos from the 19th-century book The People of India, that was first published by the British Colonial government after the 1857 First War of Independence in India. During this residency, I would explore how these images, which were mostly taken under duress, and represent the visual spoils of history, exist in our Networked Image Culture, completely decontextualized and losing their gravitas. With this project, I aspire to use web technologies to challenge and disrupt entrenched power structures and propose a decolonized digital archive where technology is harnessed to foster respect and care. I am also interested in exploring the conceptual parallels between modern-day facial recognition systems and ethnographic photography and plan to start working on a custom facial recognition software that would be fed a biased dataset from The People of India, and hence see the world and categorize people through a problematic colonial lens.

Linda Spurdle

Linda Spurdle

Head of Digital, Birmingham Museums Trust

Linda is the Head of Digital at Birmingham Museums Trust, leading on digital strategy, digital engagement and ICT across Birmingham Museums Trust.

She has spearheaded Birmingham’s open access policy, which has made thousands of out of copyright images free to use without restrictions. The online image resource and the partnership with Unsplash has resulted in these images being viewed millions or times and downloaded by hundreds of thousands, and the lockdown period saw more people than ever use these resources.

Early in 2020 Cut Copy Remix project challenged artists to create new works with open access images. Working with Cold War Steve and the Black Hole Club, the project was to culminate in an exhibition and opening event in April 2020. As a result of lockdown it became a digital first project, and was the perfect tonic for the time, having a huge reach and inspiring many people.

Working with KULTURA in 2020, many of Birmingham’s public domain images were added to the massive multiplayer online video game Occupy White Walls, and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was reimaged, built and curated by players within the game. In 2022 this partnership was further developed, working with Birmingham artists to bring music, spoken word and art into a specially created Birmingham inspired area of the OWW metaverse.