Mene Mene Tekel Parsin @ Wysing Arts Center
Emoji summary: ❓👀💧
When i was in my 2nd year of uni i was literally ob s e s ed. my work was so preoccupied with making and configuring in different ways the same idea: nation state what does it mean, motherland y do we call it that, why do i feel this uncomfortable, why am i so fascinated by the BJP, Indian nationalism & w hy did Modi come to Wembley Stadium why did my aunts sound excited about it, why do indians personify India as a woman, as hindu. I would make the same work in different ways; use tried n tested tropes, use vulnerability, use my fear and my humour, i used Tagore & academia, i used Bollywood (guns and thighs) (not diaspora woes, but it was bad art nonetheless);;; all the same thing in different flavours.
I remember getting a feedback form from my beloved tutor (she watered me like a plant n like a plant i grew and flourished under her tender care, i am thankful for her generosity w my nonsense) she said; “ur trying on all these different flavours n that’s gr8, ur doing a thing that feels unstable. Somewhere outside of the shadow of the didactic, the polemic ur playing with a form that feels different in ur hands. ur never standing on even ground and neither am i while watching u” (i’m paraphrasing badly, sorry sorry) she also said “i wonder how knowing this is, how well ur able to identify it n commit to it proper”. Nothing has stuck w me quite like that feedback form. It has seeped into everything i thought i knew about art u kno//// what do those words even actually mean in that series of sentences;;; the idea i was being sly w didacticism was like a hot flush in my stomach like when u drink tea in the morning n u feel it rippling down inside ur body down ur throat. kinda chuffed, kinda scared. I never quite know what i’m doing, writing making moving;;;;; i am stumbling thru life post-rationalising as i go along n a clever woman made me feel clever. Like stage-fright, it felt like stage-fright.
Looking back, the work was bad n i am glad i moved on to my new Anish Kapoor phase where i am sly; don’t talk about race except to other ppl of colour;; leave a white audience like that stroke the chin emoji face (i can’t insert bc my macbook hasn’t updated emojis ffs) or that woman doing algebra meme.,.,,. but still but still to this day outside my bubble i feel the way u can force work u don’t understand into a nice neat numbered shelf. I regret kinda submitting to new contemps. I did it as a kinda half-joke, like: “lol imagine if this dumb irreverent video was in a gallery that’d be so funny haha the american tourists will send me hate on twitter“. n they took it and while i was laughing, a white journalist at the Sunday Times called it “heavy with wit and courage”. I wanted to tweet so bad about how this was rly out of order;;;; that i was doing something different, not brave, not witty, not fucking propaganda 4 the west /// that he read it as more didactic that i mean it, that that felt like a kind of violence n i felt small bc of it. That in calling it witty n courageous he diminished the attempts i’d made at delivering something polysemic (idk what that really means but i had to fight him in his language) that he’d sat on half my fucking sandwich n expected me to eat the other half n feel full. but also i didn’t wana sound ungrateful and angry. Bc i wasn’t angry, i was just kinda disgruntled. his words didn’t surprise me bc i knew where they came from.
This show made me feel ok after all of that. It felt like when Clunie told me i was doing something clever without realising n i felt like a shy kinda curdle in my stomach. bc I didn’t get it, i walked around like:::: what is going on, i felt like a sore thumb in the room,,, i felt like i was interrupting a conversation. I think that could be a good thing, maybe maybe. Maybe not also. Bc we say a lot, don’t we, how radical is it if ppl don’t understand it? i took my mum n she was so baffled. Truly vexed. but also when i told her i don’t think she was meant to understand it, that none of us where, that it’s baffling art about being baffling, she also didn’t get that. So i am unsure.
This show felt like crouch down low get in close and whisper “fuck off don’t look at me”. It felt like when ur brushing ur hair and u find a weird wiry hair at the back n u try and pull it out but ur fingers miss it and u can’t find it again. But like u felt it and when u had it in ur grasp only briefly u were like “whoaah wtf was that what is this yo this is weird omg”. I felt happy sad shy knowing other ppl had kinda been doing a similar thing standing outside the shadow of things that can and could would should be named and categorised outside our smoll bubble. I felt only sad bc i’ve been talking around it now. I wish i’d kept making work that felt Not Didactic, Not Polemic, But Something Else Something Different Without A Name Or An Address Or A Letterbox, instead of talking through Craig David or hiding like the Wizard of Oz, talking to u from behind my own twitter bot.
Like it made me feel sad that my reaction was so through myself and my own experiences of making work n having other ppl talk about it like ur not there (or worse, like u r). I hope if anyone in the show is reading this, they don’t feel that same violence i felt when someone got it so so wrong. I hope I’ve not done the same thing, assigned something so off beat without rly thinking bout it properly. Someone once told me those weird wiry hairs r actually like benign cancerous hairs. They’re not dangerous, but that’s why they’re wiry:::;;;;;::: bc the hair follicle has gone rogue. This show felt like that maybe, it felt like it went rogue a lil bit.
Mene Mene Tekel Parsin was on @ Wysing Arts Center, but it closed on 9th July; sorry friends. (I recommend also having a read of Hannah Gregory's review in Art Monthly (a pdf of it is on the Wysing page linked above ^^^ <3)