Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Collections & Peregrinations

Peregrination is becoming a rather fun journey. I’m learning so much about myself and more so about others, especially about the stuff people will collect. Human nature is defined by the need to hoard and store. I’m not going to go into an analysis on human nature and the need to collect. You can search for the same online and there is enough said about it. Much of these go into the dark psychology of human nature and yada yada yada.....(yah I really think Freud was screwed up and has left behind so many more of his kind for us to deal with). I am merely trying to share my excitement at knowing that my need to create a work of art brought me searching for collectors and  what I thought would be a “weird collection to have”, turns out to be quite a norm for many.
Interestingly enough this is the crux of Peregrinations. Life differs for each one of us. How we view it and chose to go through it, how we want to remember it, also, varies for each. By now some of you have already opened the online dictionary to read the meaning of Peregrination. What!!?!! Not yet!! Well in that case take a pause and do so.
Now that you have, let’s continue. Yes! So like I was saying, collecting and often, the collections people have, make me marvel. There are all those marble, stamps, butterfly, napkins, air sickness bags, match boxes, bar coasters and the list goes on. Long back my husband used to collect. His collection was bus tickets. For many of you who did not actually know Singapore used to actually give you paper tickets for each commute of yours. So these were his bachelor days when he left to study, his mom did a major cleaning of his room. Yah in case you are wondering it’s a usual Asian thing to live with your parents and here in Singapore you could put your name down for a HDB only after your ROM was done. Singles at that point were not entitled to subsidised living. Things have changed now and all for the better.
To come back to the story, my m-i-l, conducted a major surgery of her sons room and found over 1000 bus tickets. Yes, I kid you not, 1000. That’s almost over three years worth of bus rides at the least. I guess he thought that under the bed, was the best place, to keep his collection tucked away. What did she do, she did what any sane Mom would do. She threw them and made the room all liveable again. After marriage he did try to collect them again, only thing I have an issue with bits of paper; they always make it to the dustbin. I know right! What a crazy habit. Someday must visit a shrink for the same. :P Nowadays he collects bills in the wallet!
“What does all this have to do with Peregrination”, you ask. Like I said I was making a new art work and I needed a travel related item. To my good fortune many promised, a few delivered and some others left me with my mouth open wide. They had boxes of this item stacked in their homes from years of travel. So I come back to my learning. Journeys yes they have an effect on us. And we want to remind ourselves that we had taken one, while forgetting that we are constantly living on a tourist visa, stamped invisibly, on our breaths.
Why do we collect, what do we hope to achieve, will anyone ever see it, who the dash knows! Yet we “do”, for “do”, we “must”. Now to go back to my creative process, for “I must”! As that is what is my journey and my emblem. Aha, your curios monkey mind, wants to know, what is the article, I was looking for. Na, it wasn’t a puke bag from a flight or a sugar sachet, from cafes. To know what it was check out Peregrinations, coming soon to your very own Tigerland, Lioncity. Enuf clues arready. Got to go. Have a good holiday you all and yah collect what you must, postcards, stamps, chocolates, crates, bottles, wine corks, and the list goes on.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Face That Talks Back

Recently while in India, we were driving from Pondicherry back to Chennai, we spent an afternoon at Dakshin Chitra. It was a nice cultural treat for us. The highlight however was catching an exhibition on “The Tale of the Talking Face” the book Illustrated and narrated by the great K. G. Subramanyam. An illustrated story, probing deep into a democracy gone all wrong and totally webbed in satire, this book makes you sit up and wonder at the genius behind those lines, whether etched or written. 
K. G. Subramanyam was born in Kerala in 1924, and in his youth he was actively involved in the Gandhian ideology and movement. He was always interested in art, but during the freedom struggle he was imprisoned and later banned from the govt colleges during the British Raj. Art was his calling and he went and realised this dream in Vishwabharati jumping straight from the Gandhian principles to the philosophy and understanding of Rabindranath Tagore. Under the tutelage like artists & art stalwarts like Nandalal Bose, Benod Behari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij, he completed his art education by 1948. In 1951 he moved onto teach at Baroda at the Faculty of Fine Arts in M.S. University in Baroda. In between being an academic, in the arts he did some learning in London and a stint at Rock Fellar, U.S. He came back to Vishwabharati this time to teach in the year, in 1980 and he continued till, 1989 when he retired. At 89 and still an active contemporary artist he has had a versatile career spanning in painting, murals, various craft traditions of India, toy-making, pottery, illustration & design, terracotta and  sculpture. His paintings are noted for their inherent wit, ironies, satire and critical social commentaries. 

The best example of his satire and wit, one can find in The “Tale of the Talking Face”. An entire democratic regime it takes on, with illustrations and ruthless, truthful black humour, it cuts the illusion one had, of the longest “democratic regime”. It analyzes the psychology of a young girl trying to fit into her father’s big shoes. Caught between cruel shrewd politicians, who push her into a role, she was not ready for. Compelled to be something she was not cut out for she had to become ruthless to control them. What ensues is the growth the illusion of “doing good” and the “green” washing of eyes that chose to wear green glasses, which she “generously” distributes. Be it the slicing of the touting the “third world syndrome” or the useless “five year plans” or the eye wash of “festivals” these lines just force you to sit up and read through the psyche of this young princess and her ego gone all wrong.
“You planned things in the first year
You fanned your hopes in the next
You discussed them in the third
You detailed them in the fourth
Then canned the whole thing in the fifth”.
Its lines like these and many more that present to us, the not so silent oppressed observer of an artist’s mind, who is the ultimate recorder and also a decoder of his times. On a more personal note I was hugely attracted to this book as a political observer and a sceptic of the entire myth of democracy. Also the illustrations and the strong use of black, white and red probably just caught my attention more so. (I have hugely been stuck in a phase of painting and etching in these colour's for the past two years). 

The bold lines speak of the courage of an uninhibited mind. While I have not had the opportunity to meet this amazing “mind” I have got a glimpse through this book. Treat yourself to this amazing book by clicking on the links below and getting yourself a copy. Meanwhile I shall once again go back and remove the cloth that draped on the “talking face”.

Book details online

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Peregrination has begun. It began the day we were born......yes this journey, this route to the unknown, the destination ....still evolving.
We have started our work, yes all our multi-layered, multi-technique, multi-textured, merging creative process has begun. In a sense it began when we met years ago in a gallery in 2008. Maya Bhalla, the artist I am proud to be collaborating with for Peregrination. Since then we kept in touch. 2011 rolled in, we started doing many a group shows together here in Singapore and overseas. A bonding over process, technique and thoughts evolved. So apparently different otherwise, we amazed ourselves, at how alike we could think. Yet we expressed it so differently, in our own technical abilities and sensibilities. It made perfect sense to collaborate.
Collaboration is something I have tried earlier. This one is different though, as the idea of this entire process was born together. A casual coffee and a sketch on the beach, a few other meetings and we started discussing and fantasizing creating this project that is now called, Peregrination.
A journey, which can be from the womb, to where we stand today, as adult individuals, part of a social scenario, observers, experiencing a collective psyche and yet, growing differently. We are all on our very own orbits, spinning on our own axis and making a collective memory in the process. A journey is that of an insect from the pupa to full grown form, of a foetus to a grown individual standing an experiencing an exhibition. A journey is that holiday we carry with a room full of memories, pasted now in frames on the wall. A journey whether metaphorical or physical in some way we carry with us always, physically or psychologically. A journey born and raised and educated in Mumbai, we find ourselves in Singapore making a space and carving a memory in the collective psyche of Singapore. We came with impressions and memories as baggage and we travel the world today as Singapore emblems. This morphing and blending and unpredictability of journeys has brought us here and even placed us beside each other to think and create. To symbolize this merging and coming together of our journeys we have a surprise for you on the opening night of the exhibition. Intrigued? Stay that way....... we will keep teasing you with information every now and again.
For some reading on Maya and her thought process do check out her blog.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Understanding Spoken

A creative process is varied for varied varied as their tools to express. A few constants though in this process...The creator, the creation, the need to express, the need to connect and hence whom to connect with, so also an audience for the same. Recently there has been an interest to curate shows online be it through Seeme or other such portals. The response to these curated shows on pubic domains creates a wider response and visibility and breaks from the traditional notion of art, writing and the entire concept of curation becomes fused.

When I first heard of “Spoken” it sounded alien. On exploring it I felt involved and even curious to explore this unique art of curation. Exactly what team Steve and Eugene had intended. So who are they and why am I talking about them.

Here Steve speaks in his own words, “First, my background is full of experiences with photographic art, video art, writing and television production. I came to Singapore in 2002 to work as creative director for a company that was doing pioneering work in 3D gamemaking and user-generated content. In other words, we were doing something like Second Life and Youtube before they existed. Our focus was on allowing children (or anyone, really) to create their own worlds. We worked with the Ministry of Education and did tests in schools. The software was called the Creative Development Kit (CDK) and things were going well. We premiered the software publicly at an exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre in October 2004. The morning of the premiere, however, the CEO and driving force behind the CDK died of a heart attack. He'd been working on the CDK for ten years. Things became "interesting" after that, to put a positive spin on it.

So, to get back to SPOKEN, I have a strong connection to virtual reality. I met Eugene in 2006, when we were both involved in a hacker's 24 hour game competition. I think Eugene's team won a prize for game artwork. Eugene and I kept in touch. He kindly included an ebook version of my book entitled I Ate Tiong Bahru in his Web Art show.(Which is worth a story by itself.) Encouraged by that, I asked Eugene if we could collaborate, and the result is SPOKEN. On top of all this, virtual reality is a brand new art form and SPOKEN is a way to learn more about it.”

On speaking to Steve I understood more about his motivation about Spoken, a curative experiment which is not just any other online gallery. It is an interactive gallery which gets you involved in the process of reaction and creating, engaging through linked thoughts and expressions. The primary motivation behind SPOKEN is to create a stimulating and informative gallery environment where it is possible (but not necessary) to text or speak with others, especially strangers, about the artworks. The second goal is to learn from all of this so as to plan and create a software or platform which unifies and simplifies all of the positive aspects of SPOKEN. 

When asked about the curatorial theme of Spoken, Steve’s witty response, I say "Helium curated the show", that had me intrigued. He went on that SPOKEN, references to the fact that the curator have spoken to the artists involved. Perhaps this seems like something obvious. However, he says he tried unsuccessfully to get works from Robert Rauschenberg, William Wegman, Ansel Adams and a few other artists that they had spoken to. 
“Of course I have to mention Jacques Derrida and his observation that the voice is the only true expressive medium. It really is a profound idea. I tried to make a list of all of the artists I have spoken to. Who was the first? Who was the most influential? Could a conversation with an artist be a representation of my life? The result of all of this is that the show can be read as a self-portrait of the curator. As Eugene unexpectedly became very busy, I curated everything” thus explaining the helium element setting aside his ego.

When I told Steve what intrigued me most was the wine throwing in the gallery space, and the obvious question of it being a jibe on the current art scene, Steve responded saying, Eugene hacked a game software to make a gallery. The software, called Unity, is designed to make first person shooting games. So, somehow we ended up with wine glasses that can shoot. So, yes it is fun to pour wine on a Jeff Koons piece; much easier than Monty Cantsin's blood art performance at the Whitney.

Where is Spoken headed from here and will the gallery expand further. Well Steve concludes “putting as much energy into SPOKEN as we can, meaning publicizing it so that we can get people inside. The gallery experience is so much more interesting when you go in with someone. The idea of using a plug in to see art is still new to people and we have to work to over come that.
“SPOKEN is actually in the "space" of, which is exclusively Eugene's. And Eugene is both busy and full of surprises. For the moment SPOKEN seems to be a "one off" project. I am, however, hoping to build on this, As I see a great potential to create a new online art platform, something that could complement or compete with existing sites like behance or deviantart.” 

Follow the links below to create your own "spoken" experiences.