The word “process” necessarily implies transformation: a change from one form to another, typically in a forward moving direction (to proceed). The words “transformation” and “direction” indicate Time, that this change involves a certain time period in order to metamorphose from caterpillar to butterfly.
This piece chronicles a process about instinct, intuition, gut. There was no time to edit, change, cut, redo. The aesthetic in mind was popular, kitsch, colorful, humorous.
I received a call Tuesday at 4pm from a curator of Mirart Fine Arts, wanting to showcase a solo exhibition of my photographs at The Wills India Fashion Week.
“Yey,” I said.
“We have one day to curate the entire show,” she said.
5pm: I wade through traffic to the Olive Beach restaurant at The Diplomat Hotel. The curator and I go through about 60 photographs to narrow them down to 34.
7pm: I wade through traffic to go to my printing studio and get the preliminaries of my colors, sizes, test prints in order. We have decided on a few tiny pictures, some mediums and one really large ‘show-stopper’.
10pm: I drink a beer and create size lists, name tags, an artist bio, a price list.
12am: I go to sleep, restlessly dreaming of hanging my photographs, then a few cracking, some change color, others are crumpled, or greased. One even had a fly stuck in it.
4am: I am now dreaming of my technologically inept self trying to remove the frame and extract the fly from the keyhole of the door on my photograph.
6am: I wake up hastily, and begin sorting out logistics. I eat fruit for breakfast, a fly hovers over my apple, and I swat it hard, releasing my dream-world aggression.
9am: I wade through traffic to the studio, and begin resizing, printing and drying.
1.30pm: I show up at my framer's doorstep. It is a Tuesday, which in India is normally a holiday, a prayer day, a day of vegetarianism, or general ascetism. I beg him to frame 24 prints for me by the evening. He obliges, already looking bleary-eyed.
3pm: I wade through traffic and have cards made with a photograph on the front, and my name and contact on the back. The cards are 1 inch by 2 inches. I love miniature things.
5pm: I wade through traffic back to the framer's, who is thankful I have arrived. Despite my having marked arrows as to the direction of the pegs at the back of the frame, my framer, weary and delirious, is in splits of laughter.
I simply cannot figure out which way your photos go. They are too abstract. What is this, a water pipe? And this: a railing? Which way are the mangoes, and the this...uh.. window...frame...reflection...?
7pm: My frames are ready. I help bubble wrap them, but alas, I notice that none of them have wires!
“I thought they would be hung on nails,” said the framer.
“I need the wires,” I squealed.
7.30pm: We have rounded up any and all of the young boys of the village and they all come in to help us twist in the wires. Bubble wrapped, right direction, wires in. Done.
8pm: We reach a white, misty, fumigated hall in which the restaurant Olive had created a temporary space. The show begins the next day at 10, but nothing is ready! The walls are still being plastered; tables and chairs are nowhere to be seen. How will they be prepared by tomorrow, I think, alarmed.
This is India, after all, and anything is possible.
8.30pm: The wall is 40 ft by 12 ft! There is sawdust and plaster everywhere, we cannot unwrap the artworks, lay them out, and decidedly hang them up. So we begin randomly nailing into the wall. We hang a few, to see how each would look in relation to the other, but the hammering into the thin plywood walls (the facade is one of an uneven Greek island house) causes the photographs to shake and almost fall off. We continue hammering randomly.
The cluster, once it is all up, combines pinks, oranges, blues, yellows and reds to a startling effect, such that the entire wall is a burst of color and quirkiness amidst the setting of white floors, white walls, white chairs, tables, flowers, waiters, ceilings...
11pm: Thoughts on the importance of 'not-knowing,’ of ‘randomness’, of 'order' and of 'whiteness.’
12am: The fluorescent lighting of midnight reflects in each of our eyes. We stare at the wall for a few minutes, and home it is, in anticipation of tomorrow.
THE NEXT DAY
12pm: Olive calls me and the curator saying everyone is talking about the show. Thrilling! I start to get dressed, hoping to chat with some that are interested in seeing the works.
1pm: Fashion Week has been cancelled for a delay! The organizers don’t have a fire safety license! How can this be possible? I think.
This is India after all, anything is possible.
2pm: Absolutely no one who is not already in the hall can enter.
THE NEXT DAY
Fashion week is back! I go to see the wall, it is bright and colorful and full of cement and liquid and peeling pipes and juicy mangoes.
The process was totally one of inflation and deflation, of nothing and everything, of light and dark, black and white, like the photographs and their negatives. The ups and downs of this process permeate into my photos, and I begin to see the stark dualities present in them.
The photographs present the trivial, the innocuous, the overseen. But their color, their composition, the weight and textures of iron and metal in contact with the soft juiciness of tomatoes and mangoes is funny to me. The roundness of eggs, the similar colors of food and garbage bags, the grime of walls and the beauty of ugliness, these contrasts that exist so invisibly in our everyday lives were the triggers for me to create what I did.
And the process itself, with its constant to and fro, certainty and uncertainty, calm and chaos, beauty and bewilderment, became, almost poetically, an intrinsic part of what today hangs up as a kind of product. You ask, how can so many entities, of such opposites, hang together?
It’s India, everything is possible.
-- Himali Singh Soin