I am still trying to digest the events of the past week – a week that I can now only just make sense of now that I can look back on it. I have been feeling slightly disgruntled with the art world as a whole and my place within it, so I went into this fellowship carrying a small (if that’s possible) existential crisis on my back. At a juncture in my practice, unsure of my next move. It is a place that has paralysed me for a while – full of endings and blurred beginnings. So with eyes wide open and with no expectations, I went to India.
After a bumpy exit from England we landed in Mumbai. Hot and humid. Having been there in April I knew what to expect of the city, but I felt out of my comfort zone this time. Us five fellows had each invited a plus-one – some I knew, others I didn’t. On arrival at Vishwa and Goto’s beautiful apartment we bonded over hot curries, snatched sleep and walks through the city.
A mix of artists, architects, academics and writers, the group was an eclectic union of interesting people. We listened intently to each others’ presentations; the smell of tiger balm a constant. Then it was my turn, and despite being terrified of speaking in public I enjoyed talking about my practice. Somehow when you discuss your work openly it is easier to understand yourself, and getting feedback from others is always useful – as is seeing how others approach their work.
Setting up in the studio space, I realised how much I missed working in the presence of others. Being an artist can be isolating and lonely at times so it was nice to sit next to someone tapping away at the typewriter and watch others jump up and pin things to the wall. But I found the situation challenging nonetheless. There was lots to be getting on with but the lack of structure unsettled me. I am not very good at flailing and find a plan helps me feel secure. Unsure of what to do in the studio I wandered around the city breathing everything in, taking polaroids and photos with my phone. These walks continued daily and I became deft at navigating the Mumbai traffic. I walked the streets with my invitee Gustavo and we found ourselves noticing the same strange things.
I continued existing photography projects and found new ones (Mumbai taxi drivers have eclectic taste in upholstery). I brought polaroids back to the studio and found myself deconstructing them in order to make new collages. I hadn’t had a studio practice for a while, instead preferring to take a more site-specific route, but I enjoyed working with my hands again. Sometimes I struggle with pigeonholing myself – am I a photographer, a painter or a conceptual artist? Somehow this all became irellevant and I just got down to it.
During the week we had wonderful conversations and I discovered new ways of working. Collaboration has always been important to me. I learnt that I missed making stuff with my hands and will continue to do so at home. I do not have a studio in the traditional sense but I have a space to think and make and that is enough. I am looking forward to the play projects. Art has never left me, despite the fact I ignored it for a while.