Blog / Art & Fashion

A Sequence of Illusions: A Conversation with Anjana Kothamachu

SIMRAT [S]:   Why don’t you begin by introducing yourself and give us a little background about yourself. It can be as long or short as you want.

ANJANA [A]:  My name is Anjana. I am technically from Bombay and now I have been living in Bangalore for the past year. I studied sculpture at Rachna Sansad Academy . Prior to that I did my Bachelor’s in psychology and studied a little bit of animation. These two are important because they really influence my work. And now at this point the work usually takes the form of sculpture and installation, video and drawings. Video is usually an amalgamation of still images, like stop-motion and real life footage.

S:   I know you came with not a very strict idea of what you wanted to do but can you tell us about what you were thinking you might do when you started and what direction you’ve come in.

A:  When I first spoke to you and you told me about fashion, the first thing I thought of was material. I started to think about how material is used by fashion designers to construct objects and not clothing. So I looked at fashion designers working like John Galliano who are using material and space in very different ways. So that’s where I started off. It was also really interesting to meet Kallol,  Reka and Elena since they come from very different backgrounds. Yet they are not fashion designers in the conventional sense. That is when I started to think about ‘what fashion is’. A lot of interaction with the three of them has not directly influenced the work I’ve produced, but has affected the way in which I look at fashion. But, as of right now, the work is an installation. There are two video pieces, both are stop motion animation. Both of them are heavily induced by material, so there is a sense of materiality to both the pieces even though it is video. But, conceptually I really haven’t moved away from what I was doing earlier.

S:   I know we talked about this earlier, but I want to ask you why you feel you are so attracted to stop motion video [as opposed to live video]? Almost all your work is in stop-motion video, right?

A:  I think one of the interests with video actually stems from my sculptural practice. I studied sculpture and drawing was always one of the first steps towards sculpture. I also did 2-D animation. So for me, video is a way of bringing the two together (sculpture and drawing)  with the element of lighting and time and also a sense of ephemerality.  Also with stop motion animation I feel that there is a hands-on- approach and somehow the sense of material still stays, the sense of sculpture still stays.  And then when you take real life objects and you scale them down, they bring their own existing stories with them but they become like play-things. The common notion of stop-motion is always that it’s playful  and enjoyable. Almost like its puppetry.

S:   It is puppetry!

A:  It represents life, in a way a real video would. But just by saying its stop-motion or saying it’s been modelled, makes it lighter in a way.

S:   Yeah, moving picture is images that have been played at a certain rate and its essentially the illusion of motion. So like you said, stop-motion opens up many more possibilities of playing with time. I don’t know how much you’re actively thinking about that when you make these films?

A:  It does play a lot into what I do because when you are editing, you don’t play all the images at the same time. You are really controlling it there. I’m sure they do that with regular editing as well, but here its the whole image and the final product depends on how you control your images. I also like being physically involved with the sets and it brings in my background with animation. I have this childlike love for it. Although you understand technically and conceptually with Disney and what not, but then there is still that fascination.

S:   Now that you’ve brought up Disney.. I know that you’re working with a huge set of references that you are regularly thinking about, even if they’re not actively referenced in your work. Do you want to talk a little bit about the conceptual basis or the art-historical basis of the work that you’re making?

A:  The work is called A Phantasmagoric Menagerie. Phantasmagoria is a term that basically means a set of illusions or sequence of illusions, like a dream. The term by itself has been used in various contexts from Walter Benjamin discussing economy, fashion and how the market works. And that has gone to influence a lot of intellectual discourse on fashion. But also, Phantasmagoria is a poem by Lewis Carroll where the two characters (one from the human world and one from the spirit world) are having this discussion about the parallels of their existence. To add they, Georges Meiles is one of my favourite filmmakers. Basically, he was a magician and when cinema was discovered he started using it as a magic machine. He would do these real life object animations.

S:   You also mentioned that Phatasmagoria  has an essential role in the Disney canon.

A:  Yes, it does. It has all these elements to it that I feel are very interesting, and the term is so loaded in a sense. Also, contemporary writers like David Foster Wallace uses it describe their experience of today’s post-consumerist  world. Looking at all of these I thought it was apt to call it that. Menagerie is a display of exotic animals or objects. The fact  that we are using the space we live in almost- our studios , and we are creating this set-up where we want it to be viewed. So this whole idea of setting up and having it viewed. Because I work with small sets, the display would be very similar to it. I thought the idea would gel well together.

Working on creating Husk

Working on creating Husk

S:   Do you want to speak a little really quickly about the elements in the installation?

A:  Right now the two materials that I played with during the residency- one was something that I had done a little earlier. Which was cotton and glue.

S:   Which forms a kind of skin?

A:  Husk almost. It was titled Husk first. I don’t think this one will have a different name. It looks like this layer of skin that is stretched out, and it is fabric in a sense. It came from the whole idea of clothing being the first architecture of the body. Now because I am creating a little installation, a little set-up, or a little made up world, again using this as an enveloping fabric. So it will be interesting to see how the two will play out. The other thing is silicon, which is transparent. I liked that it has a certain elastic to it, it is very fleshy and has a visceral feeling to it. The way it falls as well. Whether I will use it in the final installation or not I do not know.  It is stretched out and ready, but even if I were to use I wouldn’t want to do too much to it. Just use a basic framework and let the material do what it does.  That might not happen.

 

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Conversation has always been one of the most central outputs of the residency process. Often, artist works and trajectories are deeply influenced and shaped by conversations that residents have with each other, with the Khoj staff and with the many other visitors that stop by Khoj Studios. While it is sadly not possible to reproduce all the informal conversations that happen over tea, during cigarette breaks, across the dinner table and in the resident’s studios,  we still think it valuable to attempt to bring some of the residency discussions out of the Khoj building and into a more public domain. So, I sat down for formal one-on-ones with each artist and will reproduce shortened renderings of some of the things we talked about in a series of blog posts. In doing so, we hope to provide some context for the works you will see on the residency’s Open Day.