TRANSITION BETWEEN TRADITION AND CONTEMPORARY:
Interviews by Huang Du (November, 2005)
It's very nice to meet Jeon Joonho and Tallur.L.N in Beijing Arario Gallery. I am very shocked by the concept which has been showed in their works after presentation. Not only serious political criticism but also humorous social irony have embodied in your works, so I try to define Jeon Joonho's works as "Post Politicalization Art" and Tallur.L.N's works as "Hybrid Art". However, I have to understand your culture background, contextual feature and aesthetic strategy if I try to interpret concept of their works. The following is my questions.
Huang Du: In your earlier installations, I can find many traditional Indian symbols. I'd like to know, how you translate these traditional symbols in to contemporary concepts?
Tallur. L.N.: Strengths of a civilization are its wide open ears, eyes and mind. Look at our history. We were under various rulers till 50 odd years ago. Moguls ruled us, we were a British colony... etc. UNITY IN DIVERSITY and DIVERSITY IN UNITY has been the hallmark of our strength. No culture has been as open as Indian culture to critical evaluations. I play the role of a curator in my works - bringing in the context for a discourse - and personally, I enjoy absurdity a lot. For example, you can see many bronze idols in India have hallows fixed to the small rod protruding from the head. So, head holds the "hallow." I did a work called "Man carrying hallow," where a man has congenital hallow. Believe me, even today in the market, you can buy a hallow made of Styrofoam!
H.D.: What's the difference between your works in India and your works in UK?
T.L.N.: I am from rural India, which is altogether different from its urban counterpart in terms of culture, economy, geography... etc. You buy a toy in India and another in UK. Both are machine made. But, I call Indian toy "hand-machine made." Because, you can see a shift in the mould or change in the color... etc. After my first show in New York, I realized this in my work, now I deliberately use this in my language. During my brief stay in UK, I had an opportunity to look at India from outside. Many have done this in various fields, in various contexts and time frames. I did two works there. One, thinking about British audiences (Preaching table) and another for home India. The later looks like a product which Western designer designed for Indian need. I was very conscious in establishing the context. Whenever I had to refer something from the other culture, my museum training helped me. Sometimes, to the extent of being too verbal to communicate better.
H.D.: In your work entitled "India Mushrooms," It seems to me that your concept is closely related to population and reproduction in India. Let me know how you treat the relationship among Indian cultural experience, materials and concept?
T.L.N.: As I have told you earlier, India is very diverse. People who think "children are God's gift" live here, along with "live-in relationship" mongers. 'Cynicism' and 'rationalism' can live together here. 'Witchcraft' and 'spacecrafts' are digested equally in our culture. Absurdities that are present, because of these diversities and disparity provide me with a lot of fodder for my works. While working for "India mushrooms", I collected many newspaper photographs of people gatherings for two months. Election rallies or a festival or a cricket match -I just looked for heads... so many heads. I collected them and printed them on a huge vinyl, which looks like a carpet design in the gallery space. When viewer inflates this slowly, it transforms into a huge pillow, bigger and bigger and printed crowd comes close to the viewer. After reaching a peek, it slowly deflates and collapses. On the peek, it has an inflatable "Lingam". We worship "Lingam" as a "symbol of fertility." I felt, inflatable is an apt medium to explain this issue. In the peek of air pressure, it looks like, it will "blast." But, I want my work for many other viewers -So I have designed it in such a way that the excess air goes out to save my work.
Or when the self-portrait of the artist, along with her doppelganger, is shown climbing a ladder that goes through the heart of the clouds, this could be interpreted as a rite of individuation. Upadhyay attempts to strip away the consumerist insecurities that are programmed into mass culture imagery, and to uncover the archetypal possibilities of transformation that lie concealed beneath them. I would argue that consumerist aspiration is a kitsch avatar of true individuation. What Upadhyay does is to deliver herself from these kitsch avatars and to re-birth herself.
H.D.: Traditional Indian religion plays a very important role in your work entitled "Made in England ;A temple design for India." So, how do you interpret philosophy in a series of your inflated installations?
T.L.N.: Our adaptability to situations, openness to critical evaluations, withstanding the extremities within cultural setup are our strengths. From being an over crowded third world country, we have transformed ourselves as an emerging market for the global village along with China. In the present global perspective, our population is no more a burden. It has transformed into a huge potential market with ample human resource. My work "Made in England..." tries to explore the absurdities that are sneaking in, with this metamorphosis.
I have done 5 inflatable works during different periods. Each one carried its own philosophical or conceptual demand to use the inflatable.
Let me explain this in the context of "made in India..." The temple building controversies lead me towards this work. We already have so many temples and this number is ever increasing. So, I got the idea of solving this using the population control devise, a Condom. I designed a Temple made of rubber (PVA coated fabric), which can protect us from fighting for it. The temple is bright in color, It is mobile, inflatable, cheep and easy to carry. People can go inside this temple to search for the God with a torch. Whenever they are bored with their God, they can fold it up and preserve it in their store room.
H.D.: In post colonial era, Homi K Bhabha, in his book "Location of culture" mentions the idea of 'Hybrid Culture." Do you think your work has certain relationship with this Hybrid culture? And to what extent?
T.L.N.: I have not read the book you are referring to. The range of diversity that India can present is unimaginable. My works try to explore the imminent absurdities present with this multi-layered, structurally complex diversity. Fortunately, I could establish a logical relationship (!) between these absurdities separately and along with the diversities. This, I believe, can withstand the global perspective as one can always compare the diversity we have in India, with the diversity that exist in this globe.
Until 99 Dec, I had never been abroad. I want to call this as a "period of imaginary knowledge." You watch great masters in history books, in small size images to imagine the whole art and art scene or see New York in Hollywood movies or glossy photographs, which interestingly mislead. After my first visit to New York, I was stunned. My look at the masters gave me cretin amount of confidence to express my thoughts with certain amount of courage. But still, I have to call this "a period of tourist imaginary knowledge."