What did you do before the art? Why did you become an artist?
- I studied Medicine and worked as a doctor for some years before I decided to move on to Filmmaking in 1995. The transition from Filmmaking to Arts happened slowly overtime through some of my video works. The idea to fit a film / video into specifc time slots or genres etc., was contrary to my way of thinking. And, while I still struggle to understand what an ‚Art Video‘ really is, I find it liberating not to have to worry about the lenght, style etc. I got interested in Performance Arts too, for more or less the same reasons. Being free to figure out ‚what‘ and ‚how‘ allows me to explore better.
Can you describe what a good performance is for you? What interests you about it?
- When a work consumes the artist it is the best possible thing to experience as a viewer. In other words, when an artist is absolutely convinced about doing a work, even if the reasons may not be logically clear to him / her, but something inside continues to force him / her to realize it, then it is an honest work. Such works arise from one’s intrinsic need to articulate something, from within and should not be in anyway influenced by a desire to suceed, sell, impress someone or rise up the ladder etc. etc. in anyway. And when it is so, I feel, the intensity of such a performance will sweep anyone experiencing or watching it, even if one doesn’t understand the language, context or its meaning.
What is difficult about the work of an artist?
- It depends on where one lives, what resources one has (to survive) and the networks one has access to by virtue of one’s birth and socio-economic-cultural location. An artist who has none of the above supports has to be suicidal in the worst case or at least mad. This madness, even if the person is not a successful artist, offers a lot of food for thought. It should make us think both about Art and the romanticisation of the ‚difficult lives‘ that some artists are born into – just like millions of non-artists who are born into poverty and other difficult circumstances. The moment the romanticisation is stripped off, the only thing that will remain is the ugly face of an unequal and discriminatory society, that we have come to accept as normal.
How does a Performance arise for you? How should I imagine your work process?
- Almost everything worth questioning and thinking about, is a result of a delusional social system that wants us to believe, and live as if, everything is fine. The context of my work lies mostly in the routine, daily things that are all around us and the ‚status quo‘. ‚Identity‘ is another major focus of my work – Identity of a thing, being, situation, location, happening. In a world where one is expected to assert a clear identity to fit the system – because the idea of classification and fitting everything (from Lands to trees and people to chocolates) into tiny boxes has been made into an unquestionable and an almost moral responsibility. Everything is indexed and that index, and its understanding, seems to define what happens and / or what is perceived. I prefer to work in the realm of the fuzzy, the unclear, the non-beautiful, rough edged and the unprecise.
How is the ‘body’ perceived in Public space?
- A body in public space is largely perceived as the cloths, the shape (that is formed mostly due to the cloths and other accessories on the body), parts of the body – face, eyes, ears, nose, legs, hands, breasts etc. etc. and of course, the color of the skin. Our minds are tuned to interpret these parts and then slot the ‚persona‘ of a body (which it actually does not see in its physicality) across socio-economic-racial-gender etc. slots, that we are socially conditioned to perceive and believe in. The real body, in its totality, has long been lost somewhere on the road of the so-called ‚progress‘ that the human civilization claims to be on. I feel that the real challenge for us is, to first bring back the body in its ‚entirety‘ into the public space. One way to acknowledge the existence of the bodys to bring it in public spaces, without any accessories or clothes. The other is to exaggerate the accessories to the extent that they begin to hit at one‘s consciousness. I work mostly with the later.
How did you feel during your performance in Stadtpark on the occasion of the 1st Performance Open-Air? How did you feel that?
- The Stadt-Park is an excellent Public space for Performance Artists. It allowed me the possibility of enaging with the public without directly imposing anything on anyone. While I had the space to do what I wanted, the audience also had the space to join in actively, watch closely or from a distance. It was of course a pleasure to notice that both the regular art audience and the park goers joined in and followed the Performance, even as I changed my location during the Performance. I developed the idea for my performance ‚Libertad 2.0‘ after having seen the location as I felt it will allow me to explore a foreign body breaking free from one public space, finding another space and to claim as a personal space within a public space, quite easily.
Parvez you come from India and have been living in Basel for only three years …How does it work in different cultures? How is this ‚pendulum‘ of cultures for you and how is your work influenced by it? In what way? How does that manifest?
- Uprooting and rooting is never an easy process – be it a tree or an animal. Cultural grounding of course gives a context to one’s work and thinking. I had a short phase of feeling completely lost and uncomfortable, specially due to my limitations with the language (Deutsch). However, that also helped me reboot my own thinking about my approaches. For example, I became very conscious of the use of verbal and non-verbal communications, and tilt more towards the later now. ‘Food’ is another thing that caught my attention. I now see the political, economic and the personal contexts in food and food material, quite acutely. Similarly, I was also quite taken aback by the cultural difference in understanding time. And, since I anyway deal with the routine and commonplace, all these things easily found their way into my works and manifest in different ways. All in all, while it is also tough to ground oneself, I am happy that I could develop new insights due to my situation.
Basel, November 2018
©performance open-air st. gallen