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Contemporary Art Practice (MA)

Tony Jacob

Tony Jacob (b. 1995, Kerala, India) works across textile, text, print, installation and more recently with performance and photography. His practice explores the discourse of the body and its relationship with social control. By using his own body that embodies the queer and the postcolonial, he examines the gendered and racialised subjectivity of the body in its navigation of public and private spaces.

He holds a Bachelor of Design degree in Textile Design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Chennai. Previously, he worked with textile studios, NGOs and craftspeople in various parts of India as well as a writer in publication and academia. 

Picture of artist lying on the floor

I’ve been paying attention to the ways in which my body has been navigating public and private spaces. Recently more so than before. Since my move to London for my MA in 2021, I find my body more visible, alert and shameful of itself in public spaces. Prior to the move, back in India it was more conscious for its display of queerness and masculinity over its racialised subjectivity. 

My interest in the discourse of the body and social control comes from the ways in which my body has internalised and memorised ideas of shame, ridicule, differentiation and inferiority when subjected and subjugated to scrutiny and examination for its queerness, masculinity, racial and cultural identity by the public gaze and in public spaces. 

My practice adopts the use of my own body to assume positions of release over control as an act or performance of care. Through this, I aim to explore and uncover the powers that operate it, and to imagine how a body that defies the necessities(?) of such control might operate with autonomy. Grids become a recurring motif in my practice on which the body interacts; where its ubiquity becomes synonymous with normalcy and normativity. The idea of the gaze extends beyond the scope of vision to the grid when the body learns to look and measure itself with and through its field. 

The act of resting is suggestive of a state of compromised consciousness, a poise of passivity, and a stage of not knowing. Conversely through this act of lying down, the body assumes a state of becoming - becoming of the figurine of the decolonial; an opportunity to imagine alternate realities.

Here lies my exposed body, in and with all its nakedness.  

Artist lying on the floor on a piece of textile. Wooden stands and a curtain are in the background.
Image of textile on floor with wooden stands and curtain in the background.
Close-up image of feet on textile.
Close-up of the artist's face and hand on textile.
Close-up of wooden stand.
Image of curtain.
Close-up of curtain.

Body Double is a body of work that exists as performance, photography, print and installation. Taking reference from photographs and prints produced during the time of British colonisation of India, where native bodies were measured and studied against a standard backdrop of a 2x2 inch grid in poses that suggest hostility, control and captivity, this work reimagines those bodies by using my own in gestures that demonstrate rest, comfort, embrace and release. As lying down is considered a private act, ideas of spectatorship are examined through the positionality of the installation that further explore the liminal space between public and private, reverence and irreverence, revealing and disclosing, comfort and discomfort, and the domestic and the clinic. The grids are woven in Britain using 100% British lambswool and is soft to the touch. 


MDF, metal, 100% British lambswool


2.5 x 2 x 2.1 m
Artist lying on a blue coloured patchwork quilt in a foetal position.
Image of a blue quilted fabric.
Artist lying on a blue coloured patchwork quilt in a foetal position.
Image of a blue quilted fabric.
Artist lying on a blue coloured patchwork quilt in a foetal position.
Image of a blue quilted fabric.

Man Enough is a body of work that exist as performance, photography and installation. Assuming a foetal position that suggest ideas of protection, cowardice and regression, the body lies on textile quilts that hold disintegrating texts in the Malayalam language referencing phrases and words that have been used to identify and dislocate my queer male body. 


Cotton, thread


2 x 1 m