On 5 May, Asia Society launched “Rendezvous with the Artist”, a quarterly series that will present leading artists in their studios for an intimate conversation about their work. Sponsored by auction house Christie’s, Rendezvous will focus on artists active in Mumbai and provide groups special access to them. “In these contexts, in the comfort and control of their own working environments,” says Asia Society executive director Bunty Chand, “we believe artists will speak with a degree of candour and immediacy that is unusual and refreshing for art enthusiasts.”
International artist Shilpa Gupta, the first in the series, has used interactive videos and public performances to examine themes like desire and notions of security. She has exhibited at institutions such as the Tate Modern in London, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and Centre Pompidou, Paris. Upcoming venues include Gallery Chemould, Mumbai, and Darling Foundry, Montreal. Edited excerpts from an email interview before an Asia Society studio visit:
What is the meaning of the studio to an artist, who in today’s world often creates on the go?
While one is travelling and showing all over and work can be conceptualized on the move, the studio becomes primarily a place to actually make work. It is a workshop/lab/store to experiment with materials: collect them, choose, discard, finalize.
There is a wall in my studio, full of little holes, which is witness to several trials. There are days when tables are put aside to make a light work on the floor; then they are brought back in to convert the space into a sound-editing room. Cupboards are packed with books (never enough space for that!), tools, soap moulds, soaps, motors, speakers, microphones, photos, etc.
As an artist, what is the value of having your audience visit your studio?
A visit is a time for sharing work and practice in an intimate working environment. I have had studio visits earlier through New Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and other museums in the US and Europe. The experience has always been interesting, and it is enriching to have visitors from different backgrounds respond to work in this space.
Your work features interactive videos—would a studio visit ever become part of that?
Until two months ago, Speaking Wall was installed in the studio and just left for a show at ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Frankfurt. For the moment, I do not have any electronic interactive work installed in my studio. But this Asia Society studio visit features video documentation of interactive works such as Shadow (www.flyinthe.net/07sh3.html) and Threat (www.flyinthe.net/09threat.htm).
Can you tell us how your work explores the idea of security, specifically?
One example: The visit featured Heat Book (www.flyinthe.net/09heatbook.htm), which is an unidentified book made of mild steel containing a heating mechanism which is not immediately visible upfront. It sits on a plinth resembling those intended for religious scriptures. The work signifies history of any belief which at one hand is driving people to violence but on the other is contested. In There Is No Explosive in This (www.flyinthe.net/07noexpl_street.htm), visitors were invited to carry a bag on which was printed “There Is No Explosive in This”.
How does a book—I’ve seen a book showcasing your work recently—curate an artist’s work differently from a live show of one’s work?
There are always multiple ways of looking and a book, like a gallery, becomes a space to share work with a particular perspective at a particular time. It is a documentation of works within the perspective of the writer/editor.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just back from designing sets for Nixon in China (a new production of an opera composed by John Adams and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng at the Chatelet theatre, Paris). This was back-to-back with my solo at Chemould in Mumbai. Work has been non-stop. Now, I’m finishing a work for the Basel art fair and creating some experiments for a group show at Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.
This ticketed series will take place on a quarterly basis. Purchase tickets in advance: Rs 750 for Asia Society members and Rs 1,000 for others, including refreshments and round-trip transportation to the studio. Seats are limited.
For details, contact Susan Hapgood, consultant, arts and culture programming, Asia Society India Centre, at email@example.com.