The Creation of Histories and Binaries Through Images

Taking off from aspects that many of the blogs have explored in terms of meaning and knowledge making, stereotypes, epistemology and how we interpret and often misinterpret the world around us, I began to read up on what may shape these readings for us within the Building Bridges project that has brought us together.

In one way or another, many of us have worked with photographs, video and other digital media. The act of the shutter’s fractional movement monumentalizing a moment in time and space often becomes a way for us to engage with our surroundings and in turn have others engage with them as well. From Uzair’s reading of text as a mirror that reflects things around it and Jasmina’s similar mirroring and dependence of identity on the other, to Pranay’s use of photographic manipulations to oscillate between the Utopian and the Dystopian, and Vishal’s thoughts about the constant creation of binaries – photographs and videos as a medium become a tool for an artist to maybe exist right at the edge of reality. There is such an active impulse as this tool begins to shape how we as artists as well as the common man begins to comprehend his past, present and future almost entirely by way of such images – where these images are consciously being generated with a parallel inclusion and exclusion of spaces, facts and events. The viewer again and again sees what the maker of the image wants him/her to see, however close to reality that may be.

Sections of various societies and cultures have believed that the way in which a photograph freezes time is unnatural – often even deemed as dangerous for the individual being photographed. From it stealing the subject’s soul to even acting as a prediction of death, the understanding of the photographer and camera having a momentous control over the subject is one that opens up interesting dialogue.

Ignasi de sola Morales’ Terrain Vague, a short text, addresses a different aspect of the photographic image and its relevance, questioning the dialogue that is created between a photographer and his subject, and how that dialogue is translated and served to the society. 

Vague, the meaning of the word itself, translates to ‘oscillation and/or instability’ in German, and ‘empty, unoccupied, available, unengaged, uncertain’ in Latin. (A side note to Alejandro's thoughts on chaos as a spur to forward movement; Morales talks of instability as a space for shaping history as well in some ways). The context that Morales plays with is that of this space of uncertainty being manipulated by photographers in ways that shape history, one individual’s perception at a time. He says that history, and to a great extent a city (as a whole) cannot be comprehended in the way that we do today without the dialogue that we have with photographic images – each framed by photographers who pick, choose and omit in order to create very specific collective memories of entire generations.

These spaces begin to etch their presence into our understanding of cities, carrying years of residue.

The photograph becomes the sovereign analogue of identity, memory and history, joining past and present, virtual and real, thus giving the photographic document the aura of an anthropological artefact and the authority of a social instrument. (Enwezor, Archive Fever)

As the photograph lies between two planes, it creates a site for expectancy. Much like the dialogue between a canalized river and its barrier, the push and pull between the referent and that which is seen by the viewer has the ability to position the photograph as an artefact; an archived object. As many of the artists begin to address binaries, even binaries that often lead to a lack of belonging on either side, I realized that for my own work the photograph acts as a point of interaction with the object or space in front of me which is at the same time a creation and a dissolution of such a binary. The lens separates me from the object, at the same time allowing me to in that moment know it in a way that is instantaneously ‘true’. I don’t know how to really understand it though, it’s a thought I have been toying it with some time – the function of a lens in the creation and/or dissolution of binaries.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Words are the gaps between silence

This post is related to few of my previous works,which has its links to the ideas I'm currently contemplating about. 
 
 

This book was made as part of a site-specific project during my post-graduation from Shiv Nadar University. The site was the university’s library where the book was incorporated, and presently rests on its shelf. There are seven sentences extracted from my diary to ground the book upon. Each sentence is a chapter woven together with images of objects collected through time, drawings and sculptures, photographs of my body, of eye veins, of wall seepages, of seeing and gathering.

Words have a form just like images, a constructed space beyond their meaning. We tend to read words and absorb their meaning, ignoring them as visuals, and the subtle sense they give when placed next to other words/images. The emphasis here is on what the words and images do and how they behave at the center of the page, what is their relation to the other words/ images, and their relation to the mind perceiving them. A single word/image is placed at the center of each recto, defining a single frame for the eyes to adjust to and to play with the memory. Each word/image becomes isolated at the particular moment of confronting it which accentuates its tangibility, and yet it is related to the other words/images. 

I've been working with blank spaces through my Artist's books. Text, visuals and the blank spaces around them work together to create different meanings for each viewer. The blank space here not only means visual blankness but also a blankness in time: silence.
 
 
When one flips from one page to another in order to join the fragmented words and images into a single sentence in their memory, the movement of flipping creates another gap, another silence in time which plays with the already fragmented memory of the reader.
In another work I've used the absence of silence to create an experience and again functioning on the same aspect of having different meanings for each viewer. 
 
 
Where the viewer only catches glimpses of the fast scrolling words and the sense and meaning derived from whatever the viewer has been able to read, is the meaning they take away with the work. here is the link to the work:
 
 
Presently, I'm getting interested in how sound operates in the context of meaning generation. How sound fills the void around us and how the silence in contrast with the sound, is equally heavy and has its own meaning in terms of the thoughts which constantly occupy our mind even when we are sitting amidst complete silence. The blank spaces between our thoughts are as filling as the thoughts, and I find they are more important and compelling, while the words are actually fragmenting this silence. I'm prospecting on creating a sound installation or a soundscape where a sentence is spoken but is fragmented through space. A word is spoken from a corner while the next word of the text may be spoken from somewhere else, and the listener will form meaning depending on where s/he is positioned in the space and in which direction s/he is moving, how much time s/he is spending in a given location and the speed with which s/he is moving. All these factors combine to create a meaning for her/him. 
Hence, each listener will absorb different fragments of the spoken text which will be very different from someone else moving through a different path within the soundscape. The aspects of time, space and perception are the primary elements leading to this process of creating meanings.

 

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Liminal

 

Here are some past works in which I explored similar ideas on the limality of one's inner and outer worlds and our sense of connection. The first is ink on paper and the second is sewn on fabric with ink. 

 

I am also finding myself drawing quite a lot of circular shapes expanding. These are a common motif in my work that often seems to bubble out of my subconscious. I see them as a type of expanding self/universe. Almost like a mandala but much more energetic – they are not ordered or symmetrical, they convey a blurring and a bleeding of boundaries.

 

Aspects about mandalas  resonate with me in the fact that they refer to both the macrocosm and the microcosm. The self and the universe. Jung used to draw mandalas incessantly and for him the centre point was the self to which all paths led back to. For me the self is like the universe, constantly evolving.

Here is something I have been experimenting with ink and clear string.

I explored ideas like this in my 'Dissolve' series also it explores times of change or flux where one feels like one's reality is dissipating.

The figure blends in in parts to the background evoking the feeling of oneness that be can felt in states of heightened awareness.

 

'A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.'

Albert Einstein

 

This work was printed on transparent paper. I am drawn to semi transparent materials as a way of expressing the illusion of our perceptions or our capability of being able to see through our current reality.

I have been experimenting with my idea ‘We are all connected by Invisible Threads’. I have been trying out different types of semi transparent papers and plastics and sewing into them with clear thread of which I will post images and a video in the next couple of days.

 

 

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The intertwined journey to the known to unknown

we are all travellers on a quest that is unique to each of us, on some path to somewhere that is sometimes familiar and sometimes unknown. A destination which could be both tangible and intangible. No matter where it is, we are all on the journey to somewhere on some path.

Each of us is on a path to fulfil a journey where we meet different people along the way. Some a lot longer than the others. Some who leave a lasting impression in the briefest path that they have shared with us. They go out the same way they have come in, no matter how much we like to hold on.

Some path is difficult filled with hardship and difficulty, While the difficult paths teach valuable lessons in life and help to better oneself. The easy ones give us the reprieve that one needs in life and look back to for a positive vibe to carry on. There are different motivations as to why we take a certain path and why we continue on it.

The bends, the curves and the corners all add up to our experiences and takes us somewhere better. We all wonder how different or easy out life had been if we hadn't taken a different path. Or glad we did take some path anyway.

All of this has made me curious of paths and is the theme for my current project.

I am really excited for this project and look forward to collaborating w2ith the creative minds and have really good fun along.

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Becoming Bamboo

More often than not, we think of change as something to plan for. Or something that just occurs when we least expect it. Consider these examples that seem to be dichotomies.

 

Growing up in India, living and travelling within the country, I am, as are most of the citizens of the country used to constant change. From roads that disappear overnight to the continued kindness of strangers. The sudden gesture of empathy from the state versus the closure of your favourite tea stall. As a member of an incredibly large country, you get used to change. Almost as if change becomes a constant. A pre requisite. A fact of life etc.,

 

I’ve recently returned from completing an MA in London. A change of pace? Sure. However, my propensity for change and chaos, either put me at an advantage or a severe disadvantage. Suddenly I was creating binaries where there were none. Every morning, I half expected a road outside my house to be dug up, for a bus to be late or broken down. Or even to suddenly told to leave the country. Change, it seems, eluded me.

 

While it is futile to debate over which of these is a better environment to engage in artistic discourse, I did however learn one surprising thing. That my environment allowed for constant learning irrespective of the geographical location.

 

Prior to studying art, I freelanced as a photographer, filmmaker and a motorcycle entrepreneur. And even before that, I was a banker. All of these roles were the result of conscious decisions to be those things. But it seemed, I was missing the point entirely while searching for the thing I wanted to do most. I was entrenched in the knowledge systems regarding each of those roles I was playing, yet had no idea how to find the lines that connected them. Any street wisdom I picked up from being a long distance motorcycle traveller, I tended to separate it from the other things I was trying to be.

 

By isolating my experiences, I was unable to see what was the one important factor connecting all of them – me. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I will elaborate. While studying the works of continental philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari, Lacan, Foucault etc., I found that I was pre-disposed to a binary form of thinking. Either this or that. The conviction in my beliefs often led me to ignore/disregard any other points of view or stream of knowledge that was “other” than mine.

 

 

As someone who had never read a word of art history or critical theory or even have a basic set of drawing skills, I tried to find ways to improvise. Diving deep into the works of Deleuze and Guattari, especially “A Thousand Plateaus” within which I discovered their interpretation of the Rhizome. The Rhizome offered me a way out of my binary thinking processes. By allowing for multiple connotations of a thought to exist at the same time and at different times, i.e – multiple points of view regarding the same subject, arising from the same place or multiple places at various times, knowledge can then seep in without constraint. Knowledge as a term is subjective. To achieve any sort of true dissemination, we must first free it from its perceived hierarchies.

 

 

By allowing for chaos to enter our systems of knowledge, we enable it to welcome the unexpected. To embrace it and continue to propagate itself.

 

Here's an audio piece from a work I made last November that might help to grasp the text a little better - https://soundcloud.com/vishalkswamy/state-of-affairs_introspection_violence

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& I EXPERIENCED PINK

 

This post is not particularly on any topic given, it is one of my experience I want to share, I don’t know if it is relevant to this, but I want to share about a colour which I never liked before but somehow I  started liking it after an incident.

I never liked pink as a colour , I don’t know why but somehow I feel  in school friends used to say its a girl s colour , and I used to believe that, girls love pink I used to believe, that thinking about a colour was very deep that  I was afraid of  using pink  in my works, if I used the pink colour I only used it in any girl dress  or bags . somehow I had that thinking till I experienced pink.

 

One day I was just playing with my camera, I was on my terrace I saw one of my mother pink sari (dress) was there to dry. I went close to the sari and I  have seen outside through that pink sari , I was covered by pink ,camera was there  I clicked many pictures , did two videos , what  a pretty colour, I realised later that the pink filter on my eye was  essential  to see something else which  I was believing wasn’t true .  a colour cannot be specified to any gender, my old thinking about colour was changed due to this . after that I started using pink, I still cannot wear pink dress I don’t know why but somehow I am not totally over of that  thinking of” pink as a girls colour “ but I use pink in my works because first of all, I like pink now, and somehow pink reminds me of that old thinking about colour which my family told, friends told and I believed .  I don’t think it is a big deal for anybody, but for me, this change in me was very important to me I learn from my experience. there are only some colours I like to use, pink is one of them now.The colour was not that important to me before, gradually there are some colours which are becoming important to me. These are some images of that day.

                                                 

 

these are some of my works after I started using pink in my works. first one is in watercolour and pen on paper, second work is in mixed media.

 

             

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ME, the OTHER

My own identity crucially depends on

my dialogical relations with others.

-Taylor

I am seeing myself in the eyes of the Other. With comparing my similarities and differences between “I” and “You” I can write about my identity. I am different from You and, in the same time, similar to You. I’m seeing the things what I have or I don’t have through You. So, every identity depends on the other’s identity. It is impossible to separate only one “clear” identity for itself. My words are the words of the others. How they showed me. Or how they seas me. And at the same time, how I see them.

Identity is flowing everywhere at the same time.

Identity doesn’t have borders. 

Identity is multilayered.

All these layers of identity are written and remembered in the objects around me. My memory is “printed” on every object I am using. Objects are keepers of the memory which is written by mine subjective identity. 

 

* I am writing from the ‘subjective identity’ point of view. I’m using the first person, singular because I can’t speak in the name of the others.

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WAAR IS MY KOP

"What brings us together, even when coming from different walks of life, backgrounds, experiences, and cultures?

This is a very intriguing question for me as it has made me want to start a new project entirely. I have created a project that deals with the dynamics of family and household, and another one which is currently on the EAS called AGES which deals with how capitalism and globalisation work hand in hand, and how that here in South Africa talk about power as to who is owning what.

But the question above reminded me how art can be used as a social tool to talk about our similarities rather than difference, i remember the edge and passion i had before i was even viewed as a photographer.

That enthusiasm and positive energy that helped me to want to be an artist and to purse a career which i felt was going t0 have an opportunity to collaborate with a lot of people and have reactions

This brought to me a chance to let go of my ego and expectations,  because when working with people, we have to have common understanding and strength in order to be able to create a project which reflect both parties level of creativity and intention.

I feel that this is a challenge which i am ready to take on and have a more in depth response to my life and experience and also known someone else background and culture, which i believe has a lot of similarities as well as differences, but have a common thread to them.

Looking forward to collaborations.

These are some images form my project on home.

which also was talking about my background, identity  and my culture in a family context.  But also raising question on the construct on home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LANDSCAPES IN CONSTANT FLUX

Landscapes are alive and in constant flux. Some lucky ones are still untouched while a large portion is infiltrated and is hostage to the ever growing demands of mankind. The whole ideology of man coexisting with nature is taken for granted and forgotten. We’ve been taking hold of landscapes as if they belong to serve our needs. Villages are expanding to become towns, towns to become cities, Cities to urban sprawls. In the process, there is complete disregard for loss of the inherent quality of a landscape. Thus, going through a transformation that completely changes the orientation of the landscape. A horizontal sweep of land experiences a sudden uprising. Geometric structures contradicting and negating the organic forms creates a divide. This divide comes up so gradually that we turn a blind eye to it in helplessness.

Sikkim (a mountainous region in North East India) is a place that I’ve frequented ever since childhood. In the later times there was a conscious observation of how the landscape there has transformed due to the boom in the tourism economy. An ironical situation really. The very landscapes which the tourism industry feeds on, has been eaten out by the industry itself. Once a serene uninhabited landscape has now been flooded with hotels, shopping complexes, food joints and other establishments. A land rich in its flora and fauna, mountainous terrain, and its ability to create a sense of solitude is gradually losing its charm.

I further associate Sikkim to the idea of Shangri la, a mythical kingdom, considered as a mountainous paradise devoid of any troubles associated with civilization. This series of works envisions a Himalayan utopia eventually turning into an urban utopia. Juxtaposed in such a way that it almost looks dystopic. A region, supposed to stay hidden/aloof from civilization has been infiltrated and taken over by urban structures which is creeping its way into the originally solitary landscape. The dystopic visuals suggest the presence of human beings in their absence.

 

All the original photographs are documentations of Sikkim which I’ve further manipulated by hand to put forward the idea mentioned above.

I want to delve deeper into the idea of transformation of landscapes and see what possibilities it can open up for me.  Feel free to critique and comment.

 

Below is the link to my vimeo page where  you can find out a little about what I've worked on previously:-

https://vimeo.com/user57072690

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CAN WE PUT THE INFINITE IN THE FINITE? FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON THE INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN PERSONAL & CULTURAL IDENTITIES AND WESTERN & NON-WESTERN ART

Determining who we are is a lifelong project, for we create a new self with every decision we make and every turn we take. As Marina Abramović once said, “I really think I lose my identity more and more.” Such a thought strikes a major chord within me as it triggers the need for deeper reflection about my own life, and especially about my life as an artist. 

Born to my Indian parents who migrated to the United States in the seventies, I was brought up in the USA for the first six years of my life. At the age of six, I moved to India where I spent my formative childhood years till I moved back to the USA at age eighteen. Now, I find myself back in India after spending most of my adult years state-side. This constant back and forth between two countries - two different worlds really - inevitably makes one ponder over their identity. I don’t remember much of my life during the first six years of my life in the USA so when I think of my childhood and upbringing, I remember always feeling more Indian than American. However, very early on after moving to India, even at that young age, I was coined as the “American kid” despite me being of Indian origin. This “American kid” tag continued through the rest of my years in India, albeit in a lesser amount. In no way was this upsetting to me or traumatizing but it played a big factor as to the way people saw me, and in-turn the way I perceived myself. Furthermore, when I was back in America for college, being a person of color, I was a minority and therefore, even in the country that I was born in, I was constantly questioned and reminded of my identity. To sum it up, when in India I am regularly reminded of my American-ness and not being “completely” Indian, and vice-versa when in USA.  

This constant reminder of not belonging wholly in both places that I consider home has raised significant enquiries into my own personal identity - an identity mixed up in two different cultures. How important, then, is culture when it comes to influencing personal identities? Culture, as defined by the Webster’s dictionary, is “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief and behavior that depends upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations. It is also the customary beliefs, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious or social group.” It is my firm belief that it is within and from this social network that we shape our personal qualities and characteristics, and it is this network that gives meaning to our personal identity. Thus, culture has a major role in shaping our identity.

Now, when it comes to art, and art in this globalized world with biennales springing up left and right, and easy connectivity between artists across the world, are we able to translate the artist's intentions (perhaps influenced by their inherent personal & cultural identity) and the meaning of art works from all these different cultures? Is there indeed an international language developing within the niche of contemporary art that does cross cultural barriers? With my cross-cultural biography, I would sure hope so. Defining my identity then becomes more open-ended, more infinite. Am I a western artist? Am I a non-western artist? Am I more Indian or more American? If I work on an Indian theme is it truly authentic since I am American born? Do the answers to these questions vary?

Johan Pijnappel, the editor of the book “Crossing Currents’, talks about the growing number of western artists making ‘non-western’ works, and that people in Asia have criticized this ‘claiming process’ as ‘neo-colonialism through the arts’. Similarly, one could argue that mediums such as video art, performance and digital photography from Asia have taken a form that is more identified as ‘western’. The whole question ‘who or what comes from where’ has become more and more complicated in the last decade. And with it comes how could or should we interpret these works? If there is one thing that is clear, it’s that many of these artists have one thing in common: a cross-cultural biography, brimming with questions of immigration, colonization, dislocation, ethnic identity and language considerations. Therefore, I have no choice but to embrace my cross-cultural background and be okay with the fact that my personal identity is constantly changing. I’ll do everything in my power to reflect this through my art.

 

“Cultures will influence each other so much that interest in each other will be natural” – Dorine Mignot

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