• ‘Unexpected Homes’: An Interview with photographer and film-maker Tatjana Henderieckx | Vietnam and Belgium

    EAS contributor Vivien Ahrens in conversation with Building Bridges participant Tatjana Henderieckx takes a close look into the artist's works and the inspiration behind them..


    Self-portrait #2 | Photo by Tatjana Henderieckx


    Tatjana Henderieckx is a young woman on a quest -- a search that motivates her desire of storytelling through photography and film. Driven by her personal experience of cultural stereotypes, she shows people and places that do not conform to clean-cut identity stencils. Through close-ups into everyday life between cultures, her portraits are intimate, relatable and unexpected.


    “Where do I belong? And how does home feel?” Tatjana asks, herself born in Vietnam and raised in Belgium. Tatjana’s (self-) research and portraits show: the answer is never easy and goes far beyond glossy travel catalogues and sensationalist news images of other places and people.


    I had the chance to skype with Tatjana, and talk about her work, experiences, motivations and plans.


    Mum and Niece | Photo by Tatjana Henderieckx

    What attracted you to photography, Tatjana?

    I started doing photography in high school. At 15, I went from my little town to the big city, Antwerp, to take classes. That was an eye opener for me. I really started getting interested in the diversity in Antwerp. This was at around the same time I started searching for my biological mother. I am adopted, you know. And at 16, I was struggling with my identity and questions like: Where am I from? I wanted to see my mother and my family in Vietnam.

    That was when art got into me. I was like: Yeah, I want to tell my own story through photographs. I want to go to Vietnam and tell my story. From then it started. I went to art school and found my own language in photography. I had the chance to go to China as an exchange student. On the way there, I went to Vietnam to visit my family. From that moment on, my work became really personal.

    How did you experience your time in China?

    Coming to China was not like I had expected. I thought, oh, my roots are Asian, so I will feel more at home in China. I will feel connected with the inhabitants of Asia. And it really hit me, when I got there, that it wouldn’t be like that. It’s not that, because you are going to where your roots lie, you will feel more at home. I expected to feel more at home in Asia than I did in Belgium. But it didn’t happen. Chinese people told me I was too dark.

    Henry and Me | Photo by Tatjana Henderieckx

    I was confronted with many stereotypical images, in China, as well as in Belgium. It was hard for me. That was the trigger for me to make my work around this feeling. Because I didn’t feel at home. And I was like: Where do I belong? I don’t belong in my own country, the place where I came from, but I also don’t belong, where I grew up. When I spoke to other people about these questions, many people didn’t understand me.

    But then, in China, something very interesting happened. In Guangzhou I connected with the African community. I felt more connected with them than with any other community. It was weird, I hadn’t expected this. At the time, it felt good. I made many friends. And met my boyfriend. He’s from Ghana, living in China.

    Most of the Africans in China were there for business or study. They were learning Chinese and trying to adapt on the country. They didn’t feel really accepted. I had that same feeling. I wanted to communicate that feeling through my art. I felt like I had to tell their story. It was really important to me.

    So, my work in China started with my own personal story, with the feeling of not really having a home. But it also helped me connect with other peoples’ stories. Photography was really a way for me to explore the key questions: What does it feel like to be in a different country? Where do you belong? What is home?

    Odobi's Family | Photo by Tatjana Henderieckx

    How did you meet the people in your photographs?

    I would meet people on the street, and if I thought he or she was interesting, I would ask if I could come to their places. I always start by going into people’s places, so they will feel more comfortable. I ask them for a picture first. Then I ask for their story, their background. On some occasions people are confused by my interest or misunderstood my intentions. I have had some crazy experiences by going to people’s places (laughs). I met some great people, and developed very special relationships. I met beautiful interracial families. Those are like the beautiful things that come out of cultures coming together.

    After finishing your Master’s in Photography, you are now doing a Master’s in Film. How did that transition from photography to film come about?

    With photography, I sometimes felt like I couldn’t convey all that I was trying to say. So, when I was in South Africa, I started experimenting with moving images. I just put a camera somewhere and would let it film, a street scene for example.

    A dream of mine is to one day make cultural documentaries. And for that I need to have the background and techniques. So, after graduating from photography, I decided I had to do film also. So I can tell more stories and let the people speak. Then it’s not just about me capturing a story, it’s about someone else and their involvement in the story.

    You started a new project while at the EAS exhibition “Building Bridges” in India. What was this residency like? And what is your current work about?

    Building Bridges was really interesting. It all started online. We had a blog on the Emergent Art Space website, for just 14 artists. Here, we talked about our work, our inspirations. And then we had to make work for the exhibition that was to take place in India. Connecting online was quite difficult at first. Mainly because of the time differences.

    Tatjana at the 'Building Bridges' exhibition, New Delhi

    We had people from the USA, some from Africa, and India. And we all have our schemes. I was going to school, some people were working. But then, coming together and seeing the exhibition and all the pieces in real life was amazing. It can work, but you have to put a lot of work into it. I can only praise Ushmita, the curator, for keeping up with everyone and giving us personal feedback on our work. She managed coordinating so many people so well.

    It was a great residency. Really interesting. A lot of it was about questions of home and identity. It was nice to see that I’m not the only one thinking about these topics. A lot of the work surrounding me at home is much more scientific or visual. To work with 14 artists who are working on that topic was eye opening, like “oh, I’m not alone trying to do what I am doing”.

    And then, being in Delhi for the exhibition was a really refreshing experience. I felt Indians are more open about their work than we are. If I ask people in Belgium “How do you like my work?”, they say “It’s good, it’s good”. Even if they don’t like it. But sometimes you need some feedback, you need critics. If we always keep on saying to each other “it’s good, it’s good”, where will we end? In India, people I had never seen before, came up to me and told me they did not like the way I work. They were really specific. “Because this image doesn’t fit with the other one. So, we would move this and this.” First, I was surprised. But then I really appreciated it. I wish we could be more open and honest about art in Belgium.

    African Pot | Photo by Tatjana Henderieckx

    How did the Building Bridges Project influence your current work?

    My previous work was really all about me. I worked with a lot of self-portraits. So, in India, I decided to do something totally different. When I told people here in Belgium that I was going to a residency in India, I got maybe 80% negative feedback, negative comments. “India is so dirty... You will feel unsafe.” I think that’s the problem with our mentality here in Europe. We’re so judgmental. There’s so much prejudice.

    I was talking to one person on the airplane. I told him what people said to me about India. He said: “Stop right here. The moment the door of this airplane opens, you have to have an open mind. Let everything come to you. You will enjoy it. But if you go with all those prejudices, of course you will see dirt.” And he was right. I saw so many beautiful things. The moment the sun shines into peoples’ faces, and they turn golden. So many things. That’s the project I’m working on: showing the beauty in India, in ways you don’t see in the Belgium media. There’s so much negative news about India.

    How do you hope people react to your work? What have been some key experiences?

    I want to show people images that are different from what they think. Against dominant prejudice and exoticism. We have a lot of images from tourism, and expectations about what to see and what to avoid in certain places. For me it’s really important that we try to understand each other.

    Back from School | Photo by Tatjana Henderieckx

    The biggest compliment for me is when people relate to my stories, to my images. When they connect with me or the people portrayed. If they see themselves in it. If people just say “you give me a different image than what I thought of the whole situation before”, then I'm satisfied.

    Where do you see your work going in the future?

    First of all, I see myself travelling the world. And one day, I want to make a documentary about me and my family in Vietnam, about how I went to meet them. I have been working on that project for three years now. And it’s been quite difficult. I still don't feel like I have one image I can show to anyone. So, I hope I can finish it one day. And I think that will also be the time I can give my adoption a place. And leave a lot of emotions together with the project. So, that’s my main goal.


    Thank you, Tatjana, for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us. We hope to see more of your work on Emergent Art Space soon.



    Dear readers, please share your views with us.

    1) What do you call home? Have you lived in a different country and had similar experiences as Tatjana?

    2) What are your experiences with cross-cultural images? How can we work against prejudice and stereotypes?


  • ‘Healing Arts’: Jessica Lizeth Torres interviews Paola Loomis | San Francisco, California

    In a reversal of roles, a young Bay Area artist interested in Art Therapy, Jessica Lizeth Torres, interviews here Paola Loomis, who worked in the field for many years while living in Italy.


    What is Art Therapy and how does it work?

    Talking about Art Therapy on Emergent Art Space, the online platform for young artists where art plays the role of translating, crossing cultures and building bridges, requires us to take a step back and “look at a wider picture”.

    The Art Therapy panorama is so rich, variegated and complex that definitions - even though inevitable - are as many as the variety of contexts and cares, frameworks of health systems, different theoretical clinical backgrounds, multiplicity of techniques and art disciplines: from music to dance, from visual art to drama, plays and poetry. And an art therapist can shift from one to another to address the clients’ diverse situations and needs.

    An art therapist can work with groups or individuals, in private practice or in teams, in open studios or as the employee (as I was) of a therapy clinic.

    For example, hospitals, schools, recovery centers, mental health services, assisted living for the elderly, special needs children’s services, asylums and prisons are all contexts that influence the practice and the range of artistic techniques. What is good for school children (in school) is not appropriate for cancer patients in hospitals or prison inmates. Every context presents unique challenges that require an art therapist to set very specific goals.

    Art therapy’s methods and activities range from an orientation more toward art or more toward psychotherapy. And the training also is diverse. Someone should create a map so we don’t get lost!

    As you see, the context is rich and complex. To respect the diversity as well as the uniformity in implementing art therapy is not easy.  Art therapy is a flexible methodology of non-oppressive processes open to everybody at any age, from cradle to grave, and addressing situations from wellbeing to illness, from education to health practices, using art within a therapeutic framework.

    Art is indeed a vital agent of communication that enhances and harnesses the process of change. Using creative arts opens doors that reach clients in ways that talk therapy cannot. Art therapists have a significant understanding of art techniques and are skilled in choosing materials to facilitate non verbal communication, to kindle the body intelligence so that the client is enabled to express feelings more easily with images, for example, than with words.

    Can you tell us about some cases or examples from your experience?

    I remember Michela, a corpulent woman in a rehab center. After a group session she decided to stay longer in the studio. She was relaxed and drew a big vase-shaped fountain precisely in a center of the paper. She said that it was a garden of fountains. In the background she had drawn other fountains with spilling water. The big one in the center had no water to sprinkle. Was it blocked? I invited her to help the fountain let the water flow.

    Michela took the blue pencil and drew very gently and pensively some water flowing out of the fountain. I was seated near her quietly. After a few minutes she was able to release the flow of very disturbing memories. She was able to talk about her pain. What made this opening up possible, without acting it out or reenacting it?

    Paola holding an art therapy session at a rehab center (Pistoia, Italy). Photo by www.alessioforconi.com

    A place that felt safe and non-oppressive. The connection with the movement of drawing the water flowing resonated imaginatively with the action of unlocking the clogged fountain, with the important need to tell a story and have her story witnessed.The image guided Michela to a disclosure that held in itself the resilient potentialities of a future positive recovery. The water was flowing again.

    The image by itself cannot say something if there are no eyes to look at it and bear witness. The role of the art therapist is to facilitate those visual encounters safely and respectfully.

    What is really fascinating is the presence of the image between client and therapist: in this triadic relationship, the image is something that is at the same time real and not real. That relationship makes the difference and restores the evolving nature of images and imagination. Images are nearer to action, movement and emotions than they are to ideas or things.

    It begins to be apparent how in art therapy the process is much more important than the art product. Can you tell more about it?

    Art therapy focuses on the process because it works within a psychotherapeutic setting. It is clear from the beginning that clients come to art therapy with a specific concern and art making is used to address that concern, rather than to make art for art’s sake or art for social purposes.

    The relational process in art therapy is incredibly rich. When techniques and art materials are used by the clients, their use kindles memories and elicits imagination through sense perceptions: sight, touch, movement and even smell! This is such an important process to observe from the point of view of the art therapist, but it has nothing to do with the aesthetic purpose of creating works of art. On the contrary, it belongs to the interpersonal and intrapsychic dynamics with the client in the setting.

    How important is training in psychology for an art therapist?

    The variegated modalities of art therapy require a theoretical clinical background such as psychoanalysis, or gestalt, cognitive, behavioral, systemic, or person-centered therapy, as well as a familiarity with the seminal contributions of mindfulness, neuroscientific, and sensory-motor approaches that are really fundamental.

    Having this clinical background is important for these reasons: the “do no harm” principle of medicine and being able to rethink the process and be accountable for what was working (or not), why and how.

    Healthcare professionals are usually asked to demonstrate the effectiveness of their treatments and meet evidence-based practice standards. There are some seminal studies done in the U.K., where art therapy is a regulated and well established profession, and where the role of art and artists in therapy is part of the healthcare system and supported by the government. The U.K. is also a country where physicians can prescribe art as well as medicine! Moreover, libraries and museums are public services with lots of programs related to health and wellbeing.

    But what happens in the rest of the world? In Italy, where I come from, in the eyes of health practitioners  who may decide to use art in their practice, a respected artist is more credible than an art therapist.

    Works created during an art workshop at a rehab center, Pistoia, Italy

    This is in part because of the relative newness of the art therapy profession, which is still a hybrid  between art-making and psychotherapy. Often people misunderstand art therapy as some poorly-designed, vague activity. Even I used to mock art therapy as the Cinderella of psychotherapies.

    Anyway, what is really important in any project involving art in healthcare is to pay attention to the roles and functions of artists vs art therapists: they have to be clear from the beginning. Confusion does more harm than good.

    What is the difference between an art therapist and an artist who decides to work with health issues?

    The first difference is that art therapists work with clients, and artists work with participants. Art therapists usually are part of a team in a long term project, and the team is part of a service in the healthcare system. In the team, an art therapist acts in a serving role,  engaging the support of other professionals and sharing information on the progress of the clients. Artists,  on the contrary, are usually freelance, involved in short term projects for which the primary concern is the art produced within the framework of socially engaged practice.

    A last question: what do you think art and art therapy can give to each other?

    Belonging to the healthcare professions, art therapy has to accept the rules of the healthcare system, whatever they are. Art therapy is thus assimilated into the languages and approaches of healthcare services, and it provides treatments mainly for individuals. What is missing is the social context of wellbeing where art (more than art therapy) can play a fundamental role. Art denounces and works as a catalyst, inspires and aggregates. Socially engaged artists cultivate a larger view to tackle problems. Within this framework, art acts in wider contexts and reaches the individual from a different perspective: reconciling with the collectivity, nurturing the need of connection, belonging to something bigger. I cannot imagine any health problem solution without responding to the basic human need of being connected. I strongly believe in these kinds of artistic interventions and participatory projects. They work within a wider picture and a long distance vision. What art therapy can do for individuals, socially engaged art can do for communities.


    'The Victim's Hair and The Victor's Tongue' self portrait by Jessica Torres




    Jessica Torres is a first generation Latina artist from the Bay Area whose involvement in community ranges from providing art workshops for peer groups to art classes for the youth. Jessica attended UC Berkeley where she obtained her B.A. in Psychology. Her art explores themes such as home, silence, resilience and stereotypes to shed light into our preconscious realities and honor the synesthetic qualities of art in practice and in community.





    Works by art therapy’s students during a workshop on addiction: “Seeing the Darkness”.





    Paola Loomis studied contemporary dance and sculpture while earning  a degree in Philosophy from the University of Florence. Working as an educator in Rehab Centers she trained in family therapy and art therapy. She is an Italian certified art therapist, specialized in the psychoanalytical approach, and worked for 18 years in mental health private services.








    • What a wonderful interview! As an artist, an art therapist and a member here in EAS I find the discussion between the two disciplines to be of great value.

      I wish to strengthen  Jessica's view on her outline of lack of social context in the world of therapy. Most of the focus in the therapeutic world is on the inner self with little view on the social context to which the person is born to and its great impact to one's life.

      I also see much more discussions between the art and art therapy world in the approach to symbolic gestures to create a different state of mind.

      Very interesting interview and happy to meet and hear more from a colleague over seas.

  • A Native American Perspective: Interview with Keith Secola jr. | San Francisco, California

    Join EAS writer Uji Venkat in conversation with Keith Secola, a recent graduate of the California College of the Arts MFA program. His father’s career, as a traveling artist, and his rich Native American background have created a direction for his art. Over years of living and breathing in the voices of artists around him, Keith began to see how he could create a platform to share his message as a Native American today.

    'Wounds Many Exhibit' by Keith Secola

    After seeing his most recent exhibit at the Minnesota Street Project (MSP), and a previous exhibit at last year’s SOMArts show, I had the pleasure of talking to Keith about his journey and influences as an artist. Keith’s work at the MSP exhibition included black line drawings upon stark white walls--illustrating savage misrepresentations of Native Americans--juxtaposed with a vibrant archival collage of family photographs and printed book covers. Keith presents the audience with these stereotypical portrayals assumed by the Western world against his own experience and collection, “questioning the power of text, image, and persuasion.”


    'Wounds Many Exhibit' by Keith Secola

    Keith's Artist Statement:

    The work I produce focuses on both historical and contemporary aspects of Native American life in modern times gathered from the culture and traditions from my Northern Ute and Ojibwe tribal identity. I utilize archival family photographs and frequently gather imagery related to Native American life while listening to oral traditions that can provide stories and knowledge that I apply towards the content in my work. Currently I have screen-printed archival family photographs from my grandmother’s album on reclaimed book covers to reinsert the American Indian identity onto/into printed American propaganda. I rip, tear, and rupture the books and reassemble them to create my surface. So much information and history is lost, forgotten, stolen, or incorrect about the American Indian identity. The portraits fused with the book covers acts as a forgotten/lost narrative or history that can portray Native voices and bodies. This work began with the questioning of the power of text, image, and persuasion in combination and the results it has on indigenous people. In contrast to the Book pieces, I have inserted mythical, or the noble savage representations of Eastern Coastal Indians to compare two representations of native people. Attempting to create a dichotomy between them.

    When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

    I believe it was a combination of things. My Dad is a contemporary Native American musician and growing up my family would sometimes travel with him exposing me to Native American artists around the country. I also love skateboarding and that has many connections to creative types and art. I was always just around it growing up and when I started to see the world through my own eyes being a visual artist was just natural for me to communicate.

    How has the compilation of histories and misconceptions of Native American culture influenced your identity?

    I come from a full blood Northern Ute family with strong connections to our tribe, but I also grew up outside of that community in urban environments as well. So there has always been a duality among my identity. When I’m outside of my community, even at a young age I would face racism and ignorance from non-native people. So finding a way to represent myself was always difficult. Speaking visually through art became a way for me to do this.

    What sparked your interest in the reframing or exposure of Native American history through your art?

    'Wounds Many Exhibit' by Keith Secola

    Having experienced that misconception and ignorance from non-native people all my life, it would consistently reinforce who I am as a Native American living today and that representation is important, because native people are either misrepresented or not represented at all. It became important to question this issue more in my work and projects.

    Do you have a preferred medium (you have a wide range of printmaking, murals, installation and sculpture)? How do you choose your media?

    I think naturally I always start with two-dimensional media. Painting and printmaking have always been my focus, but printmaking is so versatile that it can lend it self to bigger projects using installation and objects. So I like to start my initial experimenting usually with print media and from there it may grow beyond that.

    What do you hope to leave the audience with as they experience your installation?

    Well I hope that people would begin to question representation more seriously around the Native American experience. Question the powers of text, image, and the persuasions around what native people are. Hoping the audience would look past the certain clichés of what Native American art is, should be and how makes it.

    This particular exhibit beautifully contrasts the black and white outlined representations with the pieced together colorful history of printed books and photographs. Are there artists whose style or mission inspires you?

    'Wounds Many Exhibit' by Keith Secola

    There has always been graphic street art influence in my work through skateboarding and its rebellious qualities. As I’ve gotten older I’ve used those earlier influences compared with my art experience and research in other mediums. I think a lot of my dad’s music and creativity influenced me more than I think. A lot of what I owe belongs to having being raised with an indigenous perspective from my mother and looking up to those native artist before me. Artist most recently are people like Cannupa Luger (Mandan/Hidatsa), Jamison Banks (Seneca-Cayuga), and Wendy Redstar (Crow), and Native art collective PostCommodity. Other artist like Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, and Guillermo Gomez-Pena.

    What direction would you like to expand your work into next?

    I would like to continue using my family’s photo archive along with other archival representation of my tribal background. Perhaps expand to larger installs including digital mediums. Further complicate the colonial perception of indigenous people in different art forms.

    As an MFA student and artist who has exhibited work multiple times, what advice do you have for young artists all around the world?

    Always get involved with your art community, show up for events, and just being present was an important lesson I learned. Don’t get discouraged when work is rejected or concepts aren’t realized. Try to learn from every experience and much of the art culture is based on relationships so treat people well too.

    And what advice do you have for Emergent Art Space in its effort to foster understanding through art among artists from different countries and cultures?

    Continue to give other indigenous artist a platform and voice that reaches a global scale. It would be cool to one day connect with other indigenous artists around the world for a project or show.


  • A Wandering Artist: An Interview with Sarasija Subramanian | Baroda, India

    Join EAS writer Uji Venkat in conversation with Sarasija Subramanian, a young artist whose career path has taken her to different natural as well as cultural environments, as she explores growth and belonging through her art. Her work 'Sea Monsters/Breed in Captivity' has been part of the Building Bridges three-city exhibition, and it is still in view at the Gallery Sumukha in Bangalore.


    'You run the risk of weeping a little if you let yourself get tamed' by Sarasija Subramanian

    Sarasija and I began our conversation with a discussion of archives. Her work presents a set of artifacts that are alive in that they are informed by ever-shifting layers of past, present and future contexts and perspectives, co-evolving meaning and stretching understanding.  I had never been so captivated by an archive. What I had thought was “preservation of the inanimate,” she redefined for me as “perspective” and “life.” In her piece “Bred in Captivity” created for Building Bridges— a partnership of Emergent Art Space with curator Ushmita Sahu engaging 13 young artists from around the world in a dialogue that led up to an online and traveling exhibition—Sarasija continues to explore multiple perspectives and illusions of belonging. During her stay at an Irish coral farm with Interface Residency, she compiled images addressing the morality of breeding organisms in captivity if they have no notion of “home” to begin with. Do bred-captives form a new sense of home or have an innate attachment to what should have been home? Sarasija is interested in investigating this question of in vivo versus in vitro contexts as she travels and immerses herself in a diversity of cultures across the globe.

    Where did you grow up and go to school?

    I grew up in Delhi and completed my early education at a free-progress school under the Aurobindo Ashram in Mirambika. For high school, I attended the International Baccalaureate Shri Ram School.

    I’m now based in Baroda, where I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s. For the past two years, I’ve been moving around quite a bit. Having spent an extended period of time in Baroda, where the comforts of the art college and the community there acted as a safety net for my practice to grow, and for me to have grown-up in the large city of Delhi, I think it's important for me to keep moving as much as possible. I’ve been to Europe for a couple of residencies and to various places in India. My projects take me to different cities for a few months at a time which is ideal as I have been in Baroda for six years now, but it's also important for me to have a studio somewhere where it's quiet.

    '(An) Archive' by Sarasija Subramanian

    Do you have a preferred medium? How do you choose your media?

    My media have oscillated between drawings, photographs, alternative photography, printmaking techniques, and objects themselves. Once in a while I have also used sculptural techniques and the media do continue to grow depending on what I’m working on.

    Artists like Gerard Richter have explored the medium of photography as a painting, as a window opening to new worlds. On a partially contradictory note, Barthes’ talks of photography as ‘necessarily referring to a real referent / object, placed in front of the lens’, as opposed to a painting that can ‘feign it’. This statement has led me to look at photography not as a tool at my disposal, but instead as a way of understanding the world, a tool I have gradually employed in various ways. My photographs do not act as paintings or drawings, instead my drawings, objects, text and paintings act as photographs; each attempting to capture a momentous and temporal intangible that required a metaphorical click of the shutter at just the right moment.

    '(An) Archive' by Sarasija Subramanian

    What interested you about archiving as an art practice and breeding in captivity as a theme?

    To be honest, for a very long time I wanted to get into science and math. I think I always did art in one way or another and I studied art from 9th to 12th grade as part of IB [International Baccalaureate Program]. I always had one leg in literature and texts, which is slowly seeping into my work, but I wasn't even sure of my direction even after I joined my Bachelor's. I think it took me a few years after my bachelor's to be sure I wanted to do it.

    Before my Master’s started, I collected objects obsessively, something I had done subconsciously most of my life. First it was natural objects, primarily seeds. As I began to work with them, conversations with mentors moved towards addressing the act of collecting, colonization, and the modes of power used. I grew an understanding of these collections in the context of the India's history. That was when I began to look at archiving, more to understand modes of display rather than actually an area of conceptual interest. Texts like “Archival Impulse” by Derrida and Archive Fever by Okwui Enwezor are what really led that to grow.

    “Bred in Captivity” is a theme I have been looking at only for a few months now.  Working on the Building Bridges project in Ireland, during my residency at a coral farm, led me to try and draw links between my own practice and the constant dialogues in the blog which dealt with ‘home’ and cultural drifts between communities. Looking at “home,” something I hadn’t really addressed before, made me focus on a centre which was stimulating Ireland’s naturally intense environments to create a self-sustaining system, to be able to leave the creatures untouched in their natural environment – and only “grow” on their own.

    'Sea Monsters / Bred in Captivity II' by Sarasija Subramanian

    In your biography, you talk about how your work “incorporates histories and presents.” Do you see a projection of the future in it? Do your views on the paradoxical questions about captivity have an impact on your final product?

    This is a beautifully worded question; I never thought of it that way before! I guess it is inevitable that the future exists in the work, especially since the system of an archive itself, in its purest form, is a desperate act of saving something for the future. The sense of an ‘impending doom’ is very present, but I don’t know how much it projects to the future. It's more to understand what archiving means for me today, and what is ‘urgent’ for an artist today to hold on to or to address.

    How is your artwork a reflection of you? You talk about how even archival work, when the purpose is preservation, is affected by the artist.

    This is a particularly difficult question to answer, especially since it is something I have faced and tackled before but never really resolved. I think in one way or another all artwork is controlled by what an artist ‘reacts’ to, and for me it happens to be nature in a very intense fashion.

    '(An) Archive' by Sarasija Subramanian

    But before I started this trajectory, for personal reasons, I was also tackling the idea of mental abnormality and the ways in which an artist would address this ‘division’ of a society into ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’. The ‘otherization’ which is so prevalent in this discourse is not one that I have managed to address within its own space because it seems too delicate. Yet, it has seeped into my handling of the natural world as the ‘other’ and the violence that exists in handling such a gap.

    What direction would you like to expand your work into next?

    There has always been a narrative tendency in my practice but it is usually very much in the background. The current project, or set of projects, are an attempt to bring that to the fore and truly create narrative trajectories that oscillate between fact and fiction by using science and myth from around the world.

    What was your experience being in dialogue with international artists in the Building Bridges project and how has your work grown since you started?

    While initially the blogs seemed to be running parallel to each other, it was particularly fascinating to see how most people’s themes began to overlap and the conversation brought a lot of insecurities about belonging together to one space. Having a practice that was always a little detached from such debate, but also always being aware of my own hybrid individuality, the way that colonization and stereotypes were discussed from across the globe was both disconcerting and a leveling of the playing field.

    'Sea Monsters / Bred in Captivity' by Sarasija Subramanian

    One of the most interesting, recurring themes in both the blogs and the conversations was the one of home, belonging, cultural drifts, and displacement. These were at the top of my mind, and though it will take time for them to truly seep into my practice, it did drive me to explore the idea of “Bred in Captivity” in relation to the sense of belonging that one may or not feel in a space that may in actuality provide everything ‘essential’.

    In what direction would you like to see the expansion of this project and of EAS in their efforts to foster understanding through art among artists from different countries and cultures?

    I think after talking to Ushmita [curator of the Building Bridges project] about how this project came to be and how it has developed, a few of us who met in Delhi during the show were talking about how these shows seemed like step one to something that is yet to happen. A lot of us have given works that are very much like excerpts, and I think it would be truly fascinating for a multicultural show like this to have a follow up in a few months, a second stage of sorts.

    Thank you for the wonderful conversation and sharing your story, Sarasija.


    Sarasija Subramanian (1992, Chennai, India) lives and works in Baroda and New Delhi. She attained her BFA and MFA in Painting from MSU Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda. She has participated in several shows and residencies including Archival Dialogues, Mumbai; Città dell'Arte, Biella, Italy; the Dumas Art Project, Surat; the Inlaks-UNIDEE Residency, Italy; Space 118 Residency, Mumbai, and the Interface Residency, Ireland.
    She has been an active participant in the Building Bridges project and in the three exhibitions, Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore, that have marked the conclusion of the project.


    You can find more of Sarasija’s work on her website: https://sarasijasubramanian.cargocollective.com/


  • “I’m the luckiest illustrator in history”: Interview with Michael Hirshon | Wisconsin, U.S.

    Join EAS contributor Vivien Ahrens for an interview with Michael Hirshon, a well established young artist whose career path has been as colorful as his artworks!

    'Zany Corner, Amesterdam' by Michael Hirshon
    "I think I’m the luckiest illustrator in history.”

    I giggle when Mike says this. It’s rare for someone to acknowledge their good fortune in such a matter-of-fact fashion. Michael is not showing off, just quietly observing. In his atelier office in Madison, Wisconsin, this new EAS member tells me about the twists and turns of his career. Since drawing dinosaurs and robots as a child, he has developed his own style of digitally layering line drawings, colors and textures. Michael combines sketching on location with photos from his “library of textures” – a collection of photographed walls, mosaics, canvases and murals from around the world.

    Michael with cow sketch (Photo: Ahrens)

    How did you become an illustrator, Michael?

    It was kind of an accident. When I was in high school, I wanted to become a creative writer. I applied to schools, thinking that I was going to do that. As soon as I enrolled, I found out that the school didn't have a creative writing major. They told me they did, but the counselor was referring to the Master’s program. They did have a great art school though. So, as I had always loved art and drawing, I decided to do that. After basic arts classes, in junior year I entered the intensive communication arts program, focused on graphic design and illustration, and ended up liking it a lot.

    Michael's sketch of a Kurdish neighborhood in Istanbul (Photo: Ahrens)


    What inspires your work?

    Drawing on location. As a kid, we moved every 3 or 4 years. Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts. I always complained to my parents that they moved too much, but then as an adult I continued moving: Missouri, New York, Amsterdam for a year. Drawing on location helps me process and understand where I am. As a child, before I was really drawing, each place was just a different place. Now it helps me see how each place has a different look to it.



    Digitalized line drawing (Photo: Hirshon)
    Colored drawing (Photo: Hirshon)










    How do you make an illustration? What does the process look like?

    I draw on my tablet or in my sketchbook, and then I scan it. I always use the computer for color. Paint is expensive, and I like to change my decisions every five minutes about what color I use. The computer makes that a lot easier. Over the years I have learned how to make it look like it isn’t made with the computer. Adding texture, making the linework not so clean, lets the image look hand-drawn. Without texture everything looks flat. I take pictures everywhere I go.

    Background texture for 'Kurdish Neighborhood' (Photo: Hirshon)
    Final illustration 'Kurdish Neighborhood' by Michael Hirshon









    I take pictures of walls. Just grungy walls. Walls from California, India, Colombia, Thailand… and colors. I have this whole library of textures. I then overlap them on top of my drawing. So it doesn’t just look like a collage of pieces, I tint the colors to unify the palette. I make it look vibrant or subdued, based on how loud and fun and exciting the place was.

    A wall in Hyderabad, India (Photo: Hirshon)
    But now my tendency is to just make the pattern sit in the background and not say too much. It's less distracting. I think most of my work is functional now. It's supposed to tell a story and be clear. So, I don’t want to overload it with detail.


    What were major breakthroughs for you as an illustrator? How has your style developed since you started drawing?

    I think traveling to India was the major leap. That was where I started using texture. I was inspired by how textured the walls and surfaces were. When I got back from India everything looked like it was just bathed in milk. Everything here is just so smooth. So that was the biggest eye opener I think. Using texture. And then, yeah, when I started drawing on location more and more. One professor in particular made me stop drawing anything that wasn't on location for a month. After that month I was way better at drawing.

    What were challenges or difficult moments in your career?

    There were months, or stretches of months, especially when I first moved to Madison, where work really dried up. That's the hard part of being a free-lancer. It’s a roller coaster. So sometimes you'll go months without really having any major jobs, and you just have to have faith that they come back.

    A wall in Bogotá, Colombia (Photo: Hirshon)
    A canvas, painted over and scanned (Photo: Hirshon)

    How did you get your first job?

    I think I’m the luckiest illustrator in history. I got my first job right before I graduated. And to date it was one of my biggest jobs ever. It was just totally random. They found my student website, and they really liked it. I think they were just looking for a student to do it on the cheap. But then I talked to my professor and he told me how much I should ask for. That was ten times more than I would have asked for. They didn't end up getting it cheap, but I ended up being able to pay my rent for a year. By the time the money from that ran out, I had already been able to self-market and get other jobs. So, yeah, really lucky.

    'The Art Dealer' by Michael Hirshon

    What are some of the self-marketing strategies you used as a student?

    I sent out postcards – I think I have a bunch of them somewhere. I put my name, phone number and email address on them, and sent it to hundreds of people. To find the addresses I just went through Barnes and Noble. I looked for every magazine I found with illustrations, looked in their masthead, wrote down the name of the art director and the address. They have databases you can subscribe to for that information, but I didn’t know that then. I’m sure most of my postcards never got opened and are just in a landfill somewhere. The first time, I sent it to like 120 people, I think, and I got two responses. St. Louis Magazine and AARP. Today I do the same thing by email but spend less money and reach more people. And I don’t have to lick hundreds of envelopes.

    What’s your advice for young artists starting a career as an illustrator?  

    Go for it! Even if you don't get lucky like I did. I think it’s definitely a great career path. And if you do need to supplement it with another job – mine was graphic design and web design – I would try to find something relevant. Or something that will keep you interested, and that you can gain skills with that will help your art.

    'At the Stacks' by Michael Hirshon
    And: Don't be afraid of the computer. It's not the enemy. Even if your paintings are on canvas, there's so much you can use the computer for. In your sketch process you can take a picture of your line work and digitally color it to see what colors you like and use that as reference for when you do the final art work. You can revise your sketches and compositions with the lasso tool. You can move around elements. It doesn't have to be part of your final art. It can just be a tool, to help you compose and create.


    Thank you for the great conversation and sharing your work, Michael.

    We invite the EAS community to comment and connect regarding this interview. How does your own work and path as an artist relate to Michael’s? What are your thoughts on some of the topics addressed? Have you had similar experiences with textures, drawing on location, or digital graphic tools? What self-marketing strategies do you use?



    • What a wonderful view into the journey of a young artist, Vivien! Michael, thank you for sharing your story and inspiration. Your voice encourages young people from different backgrounds (I come from STEM) to pursue a career in art, play to their strengths, and find their niche.

      I love that you created your own path, starting by drawing on location and photographing textures. Sketching on-site and travel have influenced my recent works as well. However, I find myself depicting my associations with my surroundings more often than the reality of my current environment. Where do you see your work expanding next?

    • Hi Uji,

      Thanks for the kind words. I actually see my work expanding in the same direction that you just described - using associations and imagination to enhance and jump off of my on-location work. I think the combination of reality and the random junk in my brain will lead to some exciting results.

    • Thank you for your response, Michael. Alternatively, I'm working on reigning in my focus when I sketch on-site. I'm excited to see what you have in store for us!

    • Thank you for this interview Michael! It is very inspiring to read about your art process and your story! I am in a situation where I am 'going for it' too haha slowly but surely it is working out, but I have a long way to go. This is definitely motivation to keep pushing, and thank you for the recommendation about using the computer for experimenting and editing, I am usually super against it but I think you have convinced me hahaha cheers!

  • In conversation with the artists of ‘Building Bridges’

    Introducing again the artists who were part of the Building Bridge Project, we have asked them some questions, both about their work and the experience of interacting online with fellow artists from around the world...


    Alejandro Zertuche
    Alejandro (1989, Monterrey, Mexico) graduated with a BFA from UANL 
    and co-directs Venus Project. His work has been in exhibitions and 
    festivals in more than 15 countries. His artistic practice often deals 
    with autobiographical references that he links with an independent study 
    of occultism and mysticism, exploring ritual through performance art, also 
    experimenting with video, sound and installation.

    How do you think that artists and art can build the will or strength, within societies and themselves, to recreate and bend reality from the chaotic nature that it has fallen into?

    'Rise and Fall of Paradigm: Plano 6' | Blueprints and GIF Video

    Contemporary artistic practices often become, and come from, other interests than just "creating art”. The intentions of each creator comes into play--social practices, architectural and even autobiographical works come close to "getting results" as if artistic research could become a science. In that sense I think Art can create change within the self and others. For a short answer: Yes.

    How did the work you have created for the Building Bridges exhibition draws on, influences and/or challenges your thinking and practice as an artist?

    Generally my practice is action-based. For the distance I had to think how to do something that could become an action without it being so. I came up with a manual, inspired by the performance instructions of the fluxus movement. In some way, this made me realize the potential of other kinds of works to still trigger "action" without me being in the mix.



    Ashok Vish
    Ashok Vish is an artist whose practice includes work in film, video, 
    and photography. In both his filmmaking and his photography, Vish 
    analyzes the world through the lens of personal politics. His 
    overriding objective for all of his projects has been to create 
    narratives, whether linear or abstract. 

    What are the themes that you have found most interesting in your exploration of the two ancient Indian epic poems? And what themes do you think they might have in common with mythological narratives from other cultures?

    'A Retelling' | Video

    The exquisite tension between Karma and Dharma lies at the very heart of the epic Indian poems Ramayana and Mahabharata. This tension really strikes a chord within me. The  balancing act of what is the right thing to do is the essential dilemma of being human. In the epics, it is the gods who negotiate these fundamental human confusions like the dilemma of choice. In my work, the idea of gender transformation, or just questioning your gender identity, is very much at the heart of the aforementioned tension and dilemmas.

    How did collaborating and being in dialogue with artists from other parts of the world inspire you?

    The most exciting aspect about the Building Bridges project was taking part in it with thirteen other artists, from other parts of the world, while all communication took place virtually. This possibility in itself is inspiring. Interacting and exchanging ideas with so many diverse artists was eye-opening, because we really had the opportunity to discuss and even argue or disagree with one another. The premises of the project, respect and cross-cultural connections, are quite essential and very needed in present times, and I appreciate having been part of it.



    Bhargav Barla
    Bhargav (1992 Visakhapatnam, India) received a Master’s in painting at 
    Visva-Bharati University, and is currently pursuing a Master’s  in Art 
    Design and Performing Arts at Shiv Nadar University, Delhi. He uses 
    photography as his primary tool, creating works that connect 
    with his surroundings, thoughts and emotions. He has participated in 
    exhibitions in Kolkata and Visakhapatnam.
    'Windows' | Photographs

    Your photos evoking landscapes of roads, pathways and unknown terrains, raise questions of where one is headed and why.  How are you as an artist navigating your way?  What questions and interests drive your work?

    I believe few settings evoke a response or a mood in me. Certain settings inspire me to draw parallels with situations in my life or things I strongly resonate with. That inspiration makes me want to pursue something further.

    Human behavior and responses to different situations also inspire me. I try to interpret how it relates to me, how I would respond to them, and how my interpretation generates curiosity. In a multicultural setup like India, the big and small differences are also inspiring.

    How did collaborating and being in dialogue with artists from other parts of the world inspire you?

    Interacting with them greatly influenced my thinking and how I will work form now on. This experience broadened my spectrum of how art is perceived and conceived. The way some of the artists are using the digital tools is inspiring. Each of their themes and how they correlate is very interesting. It makes me explore and ponder parallel themes resonating with me. The cultural difference between us also captured my interest. One of the things that I found most curious and inspiring is how different situations influence and affect us.



    Dengke Chen
    Dengke is an Assistant Professor of Digital Arts at Stetson University. 
    He received his MFA in New Media from Pennsylvania State University 
    and his BA in Animation from China Central Academy of Fine Arts. His 
    practice concentrates on new media art, 3D animation, computer games, 
    illustration, and comic art.

The imagery at play in your work evokes disturbing issues of our times, and uses metaphor and altered realities to provoke. What inspires your work and what research and aesthetic strategies do you employ?

    'Humanimal Kingdom: The Christmas Feast' | Augmented Reality

    Inspired by historical photographs and paintings but within a contemporary and global context, I first created the illustrations with anthropomorphic characters. I then used BBC/CNN news as the visual reference to construct the game that tells the story from the animal’s point of view. Once I realized that my illustrations and games use different subjects as metaphors but address similar issues, I thought it would be great to connect them together via augmented reality, and the result looks profound.

    How did the issues or themes brought up by the other artists affect your work? 

    In discussing environmental issues with other artists I came up with the idea of creating a new augmented reality piece 'Humanimal Kingdom'. Compare to my past works, that sorely reflected on issues concerning human society (what humans do to other humans), Humanimal Kingdom explores the byproducts of human presence (what humans do to the earth and all living beings on it). This idea is based on the global context of increasing infrastructure building in vital areas, altering the landscape and causing the disappearance of once-reliable wild game.



    Jasmina Runevska
    Jasmina Runevska (1988), from Macedonia, is currently pursuing her Master's 
    in Gender Studies, and has received her BA in Visual Arts and Comparative 
    Literature. Her works move between gender issues, identity and memory 
    through objects, sounds and words. She has been part of several workshops, 
    exhibitions and residencies in Hungary, France, Turkey and Serbia.
    'Memory Bridges: Portrait 2 - Autoportrait' | Audio and Photographs

    Your work takes into account memory inscribed in and upon objects, opening opportunities to invent and reframe histories and identity.  What are your strategies for moving beyond novelty in mining these associations?

    Whether discovering a new place for old objects, or putting them in other visual contexts, coloring with a particular filter, or editing the conversation we are listening every day in different loops, those stories are becoming reframed and open to multilayered reading. The mining of these associations is left to the audience. Depending on their own experience, every object and every sound or word have a different referent, that everyone is re-reading with another memory, identity or expression.

    How did collaborating and being in dialogue with artists from other parts of the world inspire you?

    Being born in a somewhat limited artistic environment, due to the size of my country, I was pleased, relieved and encouraged to encounter the same issues facing other artists in my field. Meeting them re-enforced my ways and gave me a clear focus for the work at hand. Through the Building Bridges artists and their work, I managed to flourish and enrich the dialogue within me.



    Kate McElroy
    Kate is an artist from Ireland, where she has participated in shows 
    extensively, including her recent solo show ‘Effusion’. Her work examines 
    the evolving states of the individual. The relationship between body 
    and mind, and the self and the outer world, is embedded in McElroy's 

    Thinking on today’s fast-paced societies and high-stress lifestyles that have become the ‘norm’ for many people, how do you think art can effectively promote introspection and tolerance towards others, to build a better, more empathetic society?

    'Connect?' | Photographs

    Art offers us an alternative way of seeing the world.  We are presented with ideas we can either skim over or delve into more deeply. If we choose the latter, which most great art requires, it slows us down and provokes us to question. When viewing art,  it is important to try and be in a very open and conscious state and not to judge too early – much like the attitude we should approach other people with.

    How has the Building Bridges project influenced, extended, or changed your thinking and/or your art making?

    From the beginning I saw the value of sharing ideas and showing the process of your thinking. Having a platform, for support and feedback to the fluid sharing of ideas between the participants, was invaluable, and very apt in relation to the theme.  I would love to work in this manner again in the future. Working on this theme has opened up a lot of questions for me and I feel I have sprouted a wealth of new thinking that will continue into my practice.



    Nathi Khumalo
    Nathi is a Photographer, his work deals most with different social 
    issues, from how families are constructed, to the different effects of 
    globalization through consumerism. Khumalo's has exhibited in a number of 
    group shows: Swedish Innovation 2015; Africa Art fair 2017. In 2017 he won 
    the Brainstorm magazine Calendar competition hosted by ITweb, & was 
    sponsored by an American open software company RedHAt.

    As an artist that is aware of the role that colonialism has played in many societies around the world, how do you think art can encourage viewers to challenge and effectively change the skewed perspectives that are a legacy of colonial times?

    'Anomalies: Untitled 4' | Photographs

    The most important element for me is research. Once we understand our history, and how it currently affects us, we will become a better society. We, as artists, can challenge colonialism by bringing the themes of resistance to its legacy. Art education is important and we need to keep sharing our stories to create a dialogue on where we are now.

    How did collaborating and being in dialogue with artists from other parts of the world inspire you?

    I think the word collaboration is always linked to certain perspectives. I was hugely inspired by the discussion we had. Just reading other artists’ posts and viewpoints has created a mind shift for me; the way I view my immediate surroundings and environment has changed.

    This project has shown me what a fruitful collaboration is, and the power of art as a medium to break the social boundaries.



    Pranay Dutta
    Pranay Dutta (Born 1993) is pursuing a Master's of Visual Arts at the 
    University of Baroda, India. He works at the intersection of gaming, 
    digital environments, found footage, sound and computer-generated imagery. 
    Dutta has participated "Horizon against Nature", Gallery OED (collateral 
    event of Kochi Biennale, 2016) and the 2017 KHOJ International Workshop and 
    residency in Corjeum, Goa. 

    Inserting urban structures in pristine, natural landscapes, you have created images that arise an eerie feeling in the viewer, stronger than the recognition of the contrast between the two. Was this intentional?

    'Seige of Shangri-la' | Mixed Media Photgraphs

    My primary concern was to vision 'Shangri-la'  (a site that would probably be the last to be encroached upon) being breached by urban structures and construction. My intent was to create a sense of turmoil on viewing such pristine landscapes being sabotaged. There was a conscious attempt to create a contrast between the organic mountains and the geometric construction setups. Although it wasn't the primary focus. I think working with isolated, desolate landscapes, something that I've always been interested in, is what brings out the eerie in the work.

    How has the Building Bridges project influenced, extended, or changed your thinking and/or your art making?

    The Building Bridges project was quite interesting. It is probably one of the first projects in India that brought together a batch of artists who are geographically set apart, and gave them a common virtual platform where they could share and learn from each other’s ideas. It acknowledged the impact of technological development in the field of Visual Arts, not only by creating a virtual interactive space, but also by bringing together a wide range of artists who are quite multidisciplinary.



    Sarasija Subramanian
    Sarasija (1992, Chennai, India) lives and works in Baroda and 
    New Delhi. She attained her BFA and MFA in Painting from MSU Faculty of 
    Fine Arts, Baroda. She has participated in several shows and residencies 
    including Archival Dialogues, Mumbai; Città dell'Arte, Biella, Italy; 
    the Dumas Art Project, Surat; the Inlaks-UNIDEE Residency, Italy; 
    Space 118 Residency, Mumbai, and the Interface Residency, Ireland.

    Your enigmatic work, decontextualizing and reframing objects with inventive connections, makes one curious. Is your aim to create new entry points?  What layered bodies of knowledge and inquiry propel your art practice?

    'Sea Monsters / Bred in Captivity' | Digital Prints and Digitized Drawings

    Yes, the primary aim is to invite the viewer to perceive the work at different levels and points of entry. Since the works themselves in one way or another address the rifts and connections between, science, myth and  histories, and present the images that weave through, each of these propels my practice – often one taking precedence over the other. In this work, done at the Coral Hatchery (Ireland), for example, the visual triggers do in some ways become most important.

    How did the issues or themes brought up by the other artists affect your work?

    One of the most interesting themes that was recurrent in both the blogs and the conversations was the one of home, belonging, cultural drift and displacement. These were top of mind, and though it will take time for them to truly seep into my practice, they did drive me to explore the idea of Bred in Captivity in relation to the sense of belonging that one may or may not feel in a space that may in actuality provide everything essential.



    Sonam Chaturvedi
    Sonam Chaturvedi (1991, India), a visual artist living and working in 
    Delhi, India. I've actively participated in various group shows and 
    residencies within India, including residencies at What About Art?, 
    Mumbai, and Utsha Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Bhubaneswar, and 
    group shows including a curated show by Meera Menezes at Bikaner House, 

    Has your work on sound and silence, and in particular their role in the generation of meaning, opened up new interesting perspectives for you?

    'Time, Thoughts...... Incoherent' | Sound and Artist Book

    The sound installation made me think and conceptualize an idea in terms of sound, which changed my perspective towards what and how we listen to our surroundings, how memory is built through the sounds of a place, and how meanings can be molded without visual signifiers. While experimenting with silence and intimacy, I tried creating varied meanings to confuse the memory of the listener. The book becomes another impediment within the already fragmented threads of meanings.

    How did the work you have created for the Building Bridges exhibition draw on, influence and/or challenge your thinking and practice as an artist?

    This was the first time I worked with sound as the primary medium, thus it was exciting and simultaneously challenging. The biggest challenge was to use sound in a group show where other works were closely knit and I had to maintain the porosity of sound without bleeding into other artists’ works. Visual art is confined to the space it occupies, while sound is difficult to harness. This was overcome with the intimacy of the corner and the small photobook. It changed my approach towards exhibiting.



    Souvik Majumdar
    Souvik (1996) is earning his BFA at the Indian College of Arts and 
    Draftsmanship, Kolkata. He participated in a group project at 
    Kochi-Muziris Students’ Biennale 2016. Souvik’s work is 
    personal, based on old memories, family, body obsessions, 
    complexes, and sexuality. His work ranges from photography and video 
    to painting and drawing.

    You mentioned that sometimes you have the desire to tell people things but feel that you are not able to. From your experience, in which ways can art influence your ability to be more open and comfortable with a public?

    'Untitled' | Negative Photographs and Audio

    I feel I am not that good at communicating with people using words. Art is a language that I can use to express more in my work.  While working I can manipulate, transform, reform, etc. Art is a space where I am free to do anything, and it helps me to be open and more comfortable with myself.  I think that through art I can realize certain things and it helps me to know myself more. It sometimes influences my ability to be more open and comfortable with the public.

    How did the work you have created for the Building Bridges exhibition draw on, influence and/or challenge your thinking and practice as an artist?

    Honestly, this whole journey with Building Bridges has helped me and I learned many new things. The whole process, from the blog post to the show, has changed many things. I started new works because of this project.  Somehow they didn’t go with the concepts, or there were many problems, but it has given me different channels or roads where I could experiment. Talking with other artists and with the curator has boosted a confidence that was lacking before. The whole journey challenged my way of thinking.



    Tatjana Henderieckx
    Tatjana (1995, Ha Bac, Vietnam) living/working in Antwerp, Belgium. 
    Tatjana graduated as a Master photography at the Royal Academy 
    of Fine Arts in Antwerp (B). By living in between different cultures 
    (born in Vietnam, growing up in Belgium) she reflects on the topics of 
    belonging and home in her work. Tatjana had several group exhibitions in 
    China and Belgium.

    You seem preoccupied with the dominance of stereotypes and the lack of understanding when dealing with people from different cultures. Do you think that art could help foster cross-cultural understanding, in which ways?

    'Envision' | Artist Book

    Yes, I see art as a sort of language that does what words can’t communicate because there are different native languages. Often, due to ignorance, we are not aware of misunderstandings. Art is a way to communicate those misunderstandings, because art is something universal. At this point racial stereotypes sadly enough are still going on, and I feel it is my job as an artist living in between cultures to point out the importance of understanding one another.

    How did collaborating and being in dialogue with artists from other parts of the world inspire you?

    By listening to other opinions, I started to look at art differently. In the West we don’t always appreciate art that comes from the East, and I realized there is, in fact, no reason for it. It is very interesting and inspiring to get to know other cultures by just having a conversation and looking at each other’s work. Those cross cultural art interactions should be done more often to start understanding the world and the persons next to us!



    Vishal Kumaraswamy
    Vishal Kumaraswamy is a multi-disciplinary artist and filmmaker from 
    Bangalore, India. His works have been shown at various exhibitions 
    including The Venice Biennale. More recently, he was an Artist in 
    Residence at the Arcs of a Circle Artist Residency in association 
    with the U.S. Consulate General, Mumbai in Dec 2017.

    Strategies of immersion, disorientation and subversion are at play in your imagery and I’ve read about your interest in engaging chaos.  How do these countervailing forces combine to inform your work and propel your art practice?

    'Man Up' | Video

    My work draws strands from the tensions that exist when these forces are combined with their resultant propensity to create chaos. This disorder allows me to identify strands that resonate with my current state of being, along with letting my intuition guide those choices. I finally try to detach myself before I can deem a piece of work has satisfied my internal logic. The desire to repeatedly engage with this process is what propels my practice.

    How did the issues or themes brought up by the other artists affect your work?

    The discourse in itself was extremely enriching. It was very encouraging for our practices to find points of intersection, as well as parallels. The earnestness with which we engaged in dialogue is something that I paid more attention to than the various issues and themes the works address. The need for an open dialogue between emerging artists has never been greater and the generosity of thought is something that has definitely made a mark on my practice.


    Many thanks to each and every one of you for sharing your thoughts once again on this platform!

    It has been a privilege for Emergent Art Space to be part of this project, which we hope will continue to live on in new and innovative forms...


    To know more about the 'Building Bridges' project, click here.

    To read the interactive blog with the online conversation that took place last October among the participants, click here.