5 minutes excerpt from 8 mins | 2016
Gyre creates a hybrid story world reflecting the infinite labyrinth of human history and trauma coexisting and moving through space, time, and distance. This work brings together digital and 2-d animation.
Anjana Kothamachu is a visual artist based in Bangalore. The primary motivation in her work is to reify the emotional, mental and physical state of desire. This is realized through drawing, object-making, moving images and spoken-word narratives.
This work was created while participating in Pro Helvetia Residency 2016.
Interview with Anjana Kothamchu by Charu Maithani
Charu Maithani [CM]// As an undergraduate student, you have studied psychology. Could you talk about how it feeds into your artistic practice? What concepts from psychology inform your artistic enquiry?
Anjana Kothamachu [AK]// Over the course of four years of my undergraduation, I began to understand psychology as a study of human mind, heart, body and soul. It borders on and draws from various other fields including physiology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, sociology, anthropology as well as philosophy and other components of the humanities. In a sense it is the study of the essence of our life. Also, as a branch of knowledge the field of psychology studies human life and all its intricacies, both the individual and his/her interactions with the community around. The concepts of psychology that I am most drawn to is the study of human motivation – how human needs and desires play out in an individual’s life, and its affects.
In my current practice as a visual artist, I attempt to express the emotional, physical and mental state of ‘desiring’ or ‘wanting’. I view desire as a life force that emerges from visceral needs and wants that are experienced both individually and collectively as a society. Desire is a state that harbors longings and needs; some can be unabashedly pursued and some are furtive. These give rise to universal and personal narratives, often creating the lived reality of our lives and the lives that we wish for.
In attempting to express human relationship with desire, I find myself engaged in decoding and deciphering desire’s workings, how it plays out in our minds, its role in motivating action or inaction, and how it shapes our lives. My process is comprised of breaking-down and re-building of the occurrence and experience of desire. This often results in a sense making process and a visual narrative fabricated from desire’s seemingly disparate elements.
My aim is to create a visual narrative charting the emotional and psychological journey of the human condition by revealing nuances of the multiple realms of our existence; while facilitating aesthetic experiences and personal interpretations.
CM// You are also trained in sculpture. What made you delve into video?
AK// Prior to training in sculpture I did a short stint in animation – more specifically 2-d animation. So working in video or moving image was not stepping away from sculpture, but more of moving back and forth. For me video is a porous medium; making a video involves assimilation and manipulation of space, light, sound and material. It’s these various elements coming together in time to to say something through moving images. Video is an osmosis of the various fine arts allowing for new possibilities in storytelling, and this is what I am interested in exploring.
CM// Do you always imagine the video works as part of an installation? What changes when the video is viewed by itself?
AK// It depends on how the larger body of work is conceived and conceptualised. Showing a video as part of a larger installation in a space is very different from watching the video by itself. The physicality of a space and the material presence of an object are aspects that I am always thinking about. Projecting a video along or within sculptural installations is a confluence of cinematic language and spatial elements. Fusing multiple mediums together becomes a way of staging an environment, and each of them (the video projection, the objects or drawings) adds layers of meaning while serving as different points of entry for the viewer to step in and experience the work.
The environments allow for the boundaries between the real and illusory to fold into one another. Working in this form is allowing me to shift from a strictly real space to a combination of real and virtual space, and moving away from strictly object-based work. Also I am trying to invite the viewer to get immersed in the artifice of a fictionalised world that I create, while speculating the meaning and nature of these worlds.
CM// You use the stop-motion animation technique in your works like The Phantasmagoric Menagerie II and Somewhere, Elsewhere. Stop-motion has a long history in films. It was one of the early techniques used in filmmaking to create fantastical and magical images. The manipulation of space and time that it allows is akin to filmmaking. You use the technique to present surreal and imaginary worlds. Could you elaborate on the use of stop-motion technique in your work?
AK// There is definitely a relationship between early cinema, more specifically stop-motion animation and my current work. I am interested in the methods, pace, and intensity of early cinema. Films by early animators Georges Méliès, Jiří Trnka, Bretislav Pojar, Kihachiro Kawamoto, Yuri Norstein and Jan Svankmajer have an influenced my work. While each of them is constructing their own fictional worlds, there is a certain tension and rawness in their work that I find hard to match and try to build in my work.
CM// The video Gyre shows imagined and real landscapes mixed in some kind of lucid dreams. It is 2d animation, in other words it is purely digital, that is, no objects that were shot for it. The zooming in movement of the images draws the viewer deeper. What other techniques do you use to draw the viewer?
AK// The animation was made by bringing together computer generated 3-d objects with 2-d animation. The 2-d images you see in Gyre are physical paintings and drawings made using oil, ink and graphite. Some of the 2-d animations, like when the painting disintegrates, was made using stop-motion animation where I first made the painting and physically erased the image. All this was shot and then edited and put together using Photoshop, Premier Pro and After Effects. At one level, as a process it was similar to techniques employed in making of The Phantasmagoric Menagerie and Somewhere, Elsewhere, while incorporating new approaches.
In the animation Gyre, my intention was to create a hybrid world, reflecting the infinite labyrinth of human history and trauma coexisting and moving through space, time and distance. But my challenge was to how to do this through the experience of an individual narrator. This is where the music and voice over was crucial. The track is a spin off inspired by minimalist musician La Monte Young. I wrote the narration, which describes an extremely personal experience. So as a viewer you are listening to the inner workings of the narrator’s mind but watching this landscape that seems to be engulfing you. It is the coming together of an individual’s internal landscape with the external world and everything that happens in-between.
Also, the title of the work, Gyre, refers to large oceanic winds or currents that constantly spiral around the world, serves as a clue. The set-up of the video installation was intentional and designed to create an experience of being alone in the midst of a crowd. You listen to the sound on ear phones that cut out all external stimuli, and you are seated on a chair alone, looking up at the projections. This slight imbalance also adds to the experience.
CM// Can you elaborate on the role of sound and texts, as spoken by a narrator in your videos. Most of your videos feature a distinct electronic, constant frequency sound on top of which you layer the voice. What is the deliberation behind this?
AK// In the video pieces I am exploring the schism between the lived and unlived life – the space between the life that we live and the life that we dreamt of or desired for. This gap is the ground for several psychological states – escapism, fixation, anxiety, emptiness, anguish and mania. I aim to explore how fantasy plays out in these various scenarios. Spoken word narratives and texts become a tool to translate this experience into the artwork. Whereas I approach the electronic frequency almost like a noise-narrative, the humdrum sounds that we are almost always surrounded by in our own lives. The constant presence of this sound lends the animations an atmosphere of repetitive weariness that the art work relies on.