de Kiran Subbaiah
recueillis par Philippe Pratx
pour La Nouvelle
Revue de l'Inde et
En ce printemps
et cet été 2011, la France fait la part belle à la scène artistique indienne
contemporaine, avec notamment une imposante manifestation à Paris
(Beaubourg), mais aussi avec Indian Highway IV, que nous propose le
Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon. C'est dans le cadre de ces deux
expositions que l'on peut découvrir des créations du jeune artiste Kiran Subbaiah. Il a bien voulu répondre à nos questions...
KS: Generally when people who don’t know about me ask me what I do I like to
tell them that I am a philosopher. This is partly true. But maybe I am a
rogue philosopher, because I don’t really have any genuine philosophy of
my own. I chance upon it in everyday occurrences, things and other peoples’
conversations. I kind of rescue these transient philosophic moments by
taking notes and package them into works of Contemporary Art.
KS: The first step was taken with the intent of escape from work. Because
till high school art was a hobby, not study. It wasn’t compulsory and
therefore closer to play than work. The possibility to enter university to
‘study’ art seemed like a good escape route from a lifetime of work.
KS: I spent 7 years in art schools in India, and 5
years in art schools and residencies in Europe. I would go back to art
school again if I get a chance. Although art-schools in India in my time
were stuck with dated syllabi and were generally hostile to less
conventional contemporary practices, we were given a thorough tour through
the history of art, both in theory and in practice. Departments for the
History of Art in India are in Art schools. Students of art history practice
art and those wanting to be artists also study art history and its
philosophies. Art schools in Europe lack this exchange because Art history
in universities is mostly part of the Humanities department. Although the
zeitgeist made its presence felt more in Europe and conferred my work its
contemporary spirit, much from history still remains deep in there. More
recent influences like Robert Fillou may be obvious in something I’ve made
but the very same work could resonate lines from the Vedas or a Chinese poem
from the 3rd century BC.
You express yourself in a wide variety of art forms: photography, texts,
video, net art... what do they have in common in the way you create, and why
do you like to go from a form to another one ?
KS: My authorship makes itself evident in attitude rather than form or
choice of medium. I don’t try to maintain anything common in
different works, but it cannot be avoided…. Upon retrospect I can see a host
of common characteristics like tautology, inversion, prank, deadpan humor,
irreverence… probably all these in every work. But I always look forward to
surprising myself with every new work I undertake. I get bored of doing
things as soon as I begin to master them. That’s more the reason why I
explore different forms rather than for any specific artistic need. It also
has a lot to do with what the time has to offer. Choices are taken
intuitively rather than by analysis. When the video camera became affordable
making movies was the most exciting thing I could imagine doing. Another
time it was sheer euphoria to make art for the Internet.
KS: Aesthetics is not my main concern, its appearance in my work is
incidental. To be specific, it is typical to the ‘tradition’ of the
Avant-Garde within Contemporary Art. There does indeed exist a wide range of
contemporary practices from painting to film making, where the concern is
purely aesthetic. As a viewer that’s the kind of art that interests me the
most, especially abstract painting, like those by Raoul de Keyser. The kind
that most people don’t appreciate because ‘any child can do’. I know,
because I’ve tried and I’m hopeless at it.
Because I don’t deal with aesthetics par se my understanding of the term
is basic: Aesthetics is about beauty and ugliness. I rely on the Bauhaus
principle to achieve beauty: ‘anything designed to do its job well is bound
to look beautiful’.
One can find in your works a message about humans, objects, and relations
between them... Is it a social message about consumer society? Something to
do with the message we can find in Arte Povera?
Something very different?
KS: There is indeed an affinity to Arte Povera
because of the attitude of making do with what is immediately at hand. There
is indeed something like a message, but not exactly - because it is
not clear to me as to what exactly I mean to mean. I am only certain of the
form the work of art takes and maybe its title, but I have no fixed meaning
for it. I’m not specifically addressing the present socio-political context
either. I like to fantasize my art being dug up by an archeologist from the
future for whom it retains some kind of a meaning…. Barthes’ explains this
quasi-message with eloquence in his writings on post-meaning.
KS: Humor is something I take seriously. As a spectator of other peoples
work I am very picky with the kind of humor in it. Lenny Bruce is exemplary
for my taste in humor because in the end the consequences weren’t funny at
all. The standup comedian began being taken for a philosopher and the
circumstances of reality he got entangled in came through as utterly absurd
and consumed him. My situation is fortunately not so serious or tragic...
Although the absurd is a pasture ground that arouses my appetite for
imagination, the making of work some how always involves logic and calculation.
The nonsense gets engineered. The play between random-ness and order is quite
similar to that of meaning and elusiveness.
KS: Pessimistic Humor? Ionesco has explained the not-so-obvious optimism of
confronting the absurd. But it is indeed no more than a game between art and
reality, where each aspires to bring about a change in the other. I’m not just
hopeful but absolutely optimistic about this game. The brief history of human
culture has surely influenced the evolution of the human genome.
There’s a Bengali writer called Shibram Chakraborty who’s written many short
stories about death that show the subject in a convincingly optimistic light. I
badly wanted to be influenced by his work so I made ‘Suicide Note’ to invoke his
spirit. I was also being accused of narcissism in my previous videos because its
always I, myself and me in them; so I decided to plead guilty and indulge in
myself more deeply in this video. As you might have noticed in the piece, a
relationship with oneself doesn’t mean that it is going to be less difficult.
KS: That depends on what you wish to represent: what Indian art needs to
be - or wants to be.
was brought up in India. My accent is recognizably South Indian. I speak 5
Indian languages and can read three Indian scripts. My passport is Indian. I
also live there and don’t plan on relocating anywhere abroad in the near future.
But I’m not so patriotic, and I think the kind of art I practice - the one that
has swindled the term ‘Contemporary’ with the capital ‘C’ for itself, that
is definitely an European invention, and I’m proud of it.
KS: My wife is expecting our first baby.
Kiran Subbaiah's Gallery on Indes réunionnaises - Galerie d'oeuvres de
Kiran Subbaiah sur Indes réunionnaises.
La Revue de l'Inde
et Indes réunionnaises - 2011