I’m going to start with playing a song as I’m a singer and musician, and this is a Cuatro, it’s from Venezuela. This is sort of my main instrument and the song is called Three Flies’.
Yeah, so that’s the first song that I wrote about five years ago.
– Ever, ever, ever?
-(Me) Ever ever, yep.
And umm, yes, so I’m gonna start by kind of presenting who I am and how I got interested in art and then eventually come to what I’m interested in right now. So um, so I grew up in England France and India and so that’s kind of central to how .. I guess to my world and how I see things and my art as well and I guess I work in different mediums. I see myself as a singer-songwriter, visual artist, musician and then I guess after doing the BA last year more of an academic and sociologist and then I’ve been a gardener for the last year and I’ve worked a lot on organic farms and I like to travel. So I started getting interested in art when I was at high school in India. I kinda failed most of my schooling cause it was in French so when I was 16 I switched to an English education system, but I still didn’t understand what my teachers were saying or what we were supposed to be learning so I spent most of my time drawing my classmates in school.
This is one example, um and then so when I was half way through that school I got invited to participate in Anthony Gormley’s one and other piece in Trafalgar square. So I had a.. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his piece? Yeah, so basically he invited an artist to come for one hour for 100 days so every hour was full of people so I got a slot from 5-6 in the morning so there weren’t many people around but my family were there. It was a beautiful time cause the sun, it was sun rise and I just painted to Trafalgar square I guess cause at that time art for me was just about expressing myself and making paintings and drawing people so that how I decided to use my hour on the plinth.
And then after that um piece I .. So once I finished that school I went to Wimbledon and did a fine art foundation course and I did this piece where I did a performance in a lift. So I spent three days in three different art universities and um sat there with my typewriter and wrote everything that happened, I tried to.. I documented it by time so like each minute there was something written cause… and I wrote everything on a receipt roll cause at that time I was working at a supermarket at the time on the checkout for nine months and I felt it was kind of relevant. So that was.. I guess when I went to Wimbledon my art became a lot more conceptual and I was questioning institutions and norms and stuff
And then so then I applied to goldsmiths to do Fine Art but got rejected and I really wanted to come here. I got into other places but I decided to take a year out and that’s when I started working on farms and playing music as well. That’s when I wrote this song. Um and so during this year out I managed to organise an artist residency in Canada where I spent four months in a school, in a secondary school. I guess I had like a little office space I made into a studio and one of the pieces was this book that I published called cultural perception. And I think I have the book.. um so I basically asked each student to write about something that was.. an aspect of another culture that they thought was kinda of interesting or different um and to illustrate it as well, and I gave the example of when I went to India for the first time, well seat belts in cars didn’t really exist and that that was really strange for me cause I guess they drive really fast and so dangerously. That’s how I experienced it. And I thought that was an interesting thing to draw on.
I hadn’t like studied sociology or education or anything so this is just a very like naive and exploratory… so yeah about this time I got together an album which is being mixed at the moment. It should be out in the next few months. And then, so then I started my degree at Goldsmiths in Education which I’ve been doing for the last three years and I wrote my dissertation about education in Burkina Faso, so I spent there doing an ethnography.
And I spent a month in this rural village kind of just as contextual research which gave me an insight into how the education system worked. And then I followed it up with an in depth interview with one graduate from Burkina Faso who had been really successful in the system and just was kind of wondering what makes someone successful in a post colonial education system. Um and also on my degree here I had a.. so in the last year I was always thinking about this dream. I’ve always worked with dreams, well since the last couple of year through my art and I had this dream of buying a camper van travelling around Europe and using it as a platform to travel around Europe and sing and to collaborate. And so I wanted to make this dream visual somehow so I recorded, I got someone to record me and a friend busking in different places in London and then I projected this video onto a paper cutout of a camper van, so you only really saw the camper van when the projection was on it so that’s how I sort of made visual this future project I had. And I called in possible universes because I liked this idea of kind of, you can create your own world. I guess it’s in Bouriard’s ‘Relational Aesthetic’ where it’s a kind of DIY artist approach, yeah.
So that’s how the piece looked.. And then a couple of weeks ago I went back to India for the first time since I left so like 5 years ago before this trip and I kind of just went for a holiday to visit family and friends but two of my friends are doing teach for India, which I guess is a bit like Teach First here, and they working in schools and asked me if I would do an art workshop there. So I did two workshops in their schools, and it was really interesting cause kids don’t have art in school in India, they just have English and Maths. And they were, yeah really excited about that and I did nature printing with them which is this really simple technique which you can get really like nice results from very quickly and you don’t need any particular skills.
I thought it would be a kinda nice workshop to offer the kids. So this is, like one example of the leaf printing they did. And then I went back to my high school as well and shared with the students there what I did when I was there and what I’ve done since. And that was really nice to kinda connect with them and I guess it was such a unique and intense experience, I felt like we both lived the same things so it was really nice to encourage them to pursue what they’re really interested in.
So that’s kinda what I’ve been doing up until now. And what I’m interested in at the moment what I’m interested in is, I’ve got loads of different things that I’m interested in but I kinda broke it down into these three elements which is:
I want to bring all my practises together somehow, like singing and performing and making art and doing research in education. I don’t know how that’s possible but I’m sure it is and I kinda of.. The theme that I’m interested in right now is identity. Um I guess it’s specifically since I went to India and kinda discovered this.. So my mum is Parsi and she’s from this from this sort of ethnic group that were persecuted from Persia like a thousand years ago and now there’s only like one hundred thousand of them left. And it’s quite exclusive in that you have to be born.. both your parents have to be parsi for you to be parsi and you can’t practise the religion unless you’re biologically part of the group but some people especially recently recognise half parsi’s who mother as parsi as valid parsi to practise and be part of the community. So I’m interested in exploring that more and I’d also just like to learn about that side of me and also how i experience it and how other people see me and what it means to be part of that group. Kind of appearing to be white middle class and English/ European you know I feel like I have a lot of institutional power but at the same time I’m also part of this other group so I want to see how I live this and what it means to actually live this. and at the same time I want to continue to continue pursuing the camper van project cause I still want to keep travelling and that’s what inspires me a lot of art and it would be great it I could kind of develop a something that sustains me. It would be nice maybe to have the van full of materials and go to a school or community and offer that so those were the two kinda things. So this is at the fire temple in India.
These are two progressive parsis, well he’s a priest and that’s his mother and they showed me around the temple. And I guess what inspired me to do the camper van project is a few years ago I went to Italy for a couple of months to work on farms and I met this guy who had a van full of books and I travelled around Sicily and went to small villages where they didn’t have libraries and made a pop up book stand where invited people to read and we read the books and people could buy the books. I guess that’s inspired me in a way to do this but with art and I guess in this kinda camper van project I’d like to offer something that’s really critical and somehow I guess, my motivation to do this is because I really suffered in school and felt like art was a great way to get through it and I feel like if I can inspire people to continue to explore their interests through art or education and provide the tools to kinda communicate that that would be great. So I kind of really want to create a unique kinda of workshop, not something.. like a really want to thing about this a lot. And somehow get this all funded
-I like that!
-(Me) Yeah I guess I’m very idealistic but I think I’m sure I could find funding somehow, yeah. That’s something I kinda want to work on this year as well, getting a business plan together and getting funding and finding out how to apply to all that kinda stuff so, I think that’s it. Yeah.
– Well I’m really interested in the books, the making and I saw that there’s a lot of places that you’ve visited. Well there is one particular page I’m interested in.. The page where you write about ‘Is happiness too far?’
– (Me) So this is actually, the content is from students so..
– The students you worked with?
– (Me) Yes
– So where was it? Was it in Korea or something?
– (Me) That was on Vancouver Island
– Oh, I saw a lot of Koreans’ writing.
– (Me) Yeah there was some I guess they probably had an international exchange but it was interesting because a lot of the kids hadn’t travelled outside Canada and if they had it had been to the States or Mexico and for them the States was a really different culture which was really interesting cause from my perception the States and Canada were quite similar.
– Canada has a lot of south east Asian immigrants on the west coast of Canada. You can get direct flights from Vancouver to …
– Um when you first started talking it seemed to me that you were kind of trying to use all of these different practises to discover and find out, and some of these were about finding about about yourself personally and some of those things were about finding about your surroundings, and it felt like you were purposefully putting yourself into different situations to in order to, almost like an ethnographer going in to experience, to draw out not only from that situation but also from yourself. And um… sorry I put lots of different things down… And I found it really interesting, like you’ve done all these performative works, but then you started talking about visualising your practise and visualising a future for your practise when actually I felt like a lot of your practises are performative and that…
-They’re already there
– … there already there in my opinion. Maybe not in yours but in my opinion you’re already doing those things, carrying on doing what you’re already doing is probably exactly what you should be doing. Rather than thinking oh I need to do this thing now because that what I feel like I should be doing. When actually you’re already doing all of these things. And it led me to think about what you’re saying about your mother being Parsi, and you kind of experiencing this new falsified identity and what that kinda of meant in terms of researching about you’re own identity. And it led me to an artist that I, you probably know, who I was really interested in when I did my undergraduate, her name’s Linday’s Seers. And she did a project with Mats Gallery and as she works a lot with false identities and how she can interact with a false identity based on a story or a time line or a thread of truth that runs through things and there’s a book that was produced on the back of that. And the book was called ‘It Has to be This Way’. And it was a really kind of lovely link between the video aspect of her work and the performative aspect of her everyday life and also this kind of publication that went right along as a free handout at the gallery. I’ve got a copy at home, I’m gonna bring it along for you next week. But she’s a really really interesting artist.
– (Me) That would be great!
-What’s her name again?
-Cause you know you kinda like you said you wanted to fuse your practises into one, but why?
-(Me) I guess because they’re all separate and it would be interesting to..
-Cause you say separate..
-(Me) … I mean cause like when I actually write a song, or I perform or a make a piece of art, like visual art.. I do them at different times and they’re not really connected, so like..
-But cause I was thinking like this… I’m just saying from you said, I don’t know you said that you mix the mediums but you’re deeply interested in identity as well and since you’re talking about all your background your talking about cultural perception you know the music, the drawings. I think in some ways, without realising it, while you’re exploring that you’re like giving reflections of your identity and it’s a way of reflecting or maybe, the words might sound horrible.. ‘branding’ your identity, when you mix all the mediums, it’s like giving your brand, giving your take. Cause of course you know many people explore different mediums, but yours is unique and we cannot deny that, it has your seel. And maybe that’s your way of acknowledging and exploring that seal. And it’s valid as well, maybe that’s what you enjoy, maybe you don’t feel stable in one medium and that need of exploring yourself or the defining yourself and then.. India, France, UK.. I didn’t rephrase that question exactly.. (laughs)
– (Me) Was that a question?
– Kinda of like do you think the use of mix medias is trying to define or explore that identity.. no?
-(Me) ummm, I don’t think I understand the question.
-Ok… like ahhh..
-I’d probably say.. it’s sort of like.. cause they are all you, so in a sense they are one practise cause they’re all coming from you. I would have said conceptually there’s a thread that’s running through all those ways of manifesting that practise. There’s nothing wrong with playing with all those. Cause some ways of being and meanings or materials, or who you’re working with or if you’re by yourself .. you’re still sort of exploring that one thread. Rather than abiding to the sort of western canon of struggling on a painting for two years and that’s all that you do cause there are sort of, there’s so many possibilities out there so why not play with it, and what you get out of it is bound to be different in terms the learning of the practise or who you’re learning with is already there. Cause when you said you do them at different times. I would have said I hope so! Can’t imagine you doing a printing workshop at the same time as you singing and writing a song…
– I’d love to see that!
-You could be like that one man band where they’ve got everything attached to them.
-But then in a way you’ve already, you do have everything attached to you cause when you are teaching a.. when you’re doing printing making a print making project you don’t stop being a musician in any way. That’s still a part of you. Just the same as when you were sitting there playing that wonderful song, it didn’t make you any less of a print artist, it didn’t make you any less of the other. So you are doing all those things at the same time, it’s just your body is physically manifesting a different thing at that time.
-(Me) Maybe it’s the creative process.. like when I write a song, I write it very differently to how I make a piece of visual art. For me like when I make visual art I like research a topic, there’s lots of different stages to a visual art work. But with a song, it’s like very like in the moment that i write it. And I don’t write it about anything in particular, it’s just like whatever comes, so.. I guess I was interested in maybe yeah, blurring the boundaries between those two things and maybe writing a song about identity, but like but conceptual I guess.
-They will surely be inform each other, the more and more that you see each one as a kind of meandering between, I would think.
-Maybe it’s already happening.
– I mean you want to blur those boundaries and maybe there somehow starting to.. You say you have different processes when making music, song writing is different from visual arts but that, it’s, you have… you’re Anna, and Anna’s memory keeps stuff and things connect and um yeah.. yesterday Anna gave a presentation also, to John and the others and I remember you started differently from today, you said ‘My dream is to become a singer.’ To become a singer. Aren’t you already a singer?
-(Me) I guess I am to some extent, but I guess it’s not my career, I’m not gigging.
–If you don’t have an exhibition does that make you less of an artist? If you’re not having a gig does that make you any less of a singer?
-It’s not all about selling records
-(Me) I guess yeah, it’s about maybe it’s about performing..
-It doesn’t have to be
-(Me) I guess for me..
-But you just did!
-(Me) Yeah.. I do a song every here and there but um..
-Cause it’s interesting we’re all constructing you in one way, and when we’re offering stuff it’s like your replying ‘no I’m not’ and it’s really interesting that we can see that thread but you’re not seeing that thread.
-(Me) I guess maybe I’m like projecting into the future..
–Yeah but it’s OK to play
-And isn’t it exciting what we’re doing now? I don’t know I just get way too excited about this stuff!
–I was just thinking that it’s very interesting cause the way you’re exploring like yourself, your identity, your practise.. at the same time you’re exploring the one of others. Like when you’re doing the workshop like that book you’re giving the kids their page and saying look this belongs to you. It’s really interesting cause you’re giving all this ‘oh this is me, this is Anna’ but and the same time you’re you know, you’re employing that critical pedagogy that they were mentioning so i think… You’ve already done it, no matter what you say, even like I could never sit there with the cuatro and sing out loud, you know.. Just enjoy it and do it. Even if maybe you’re not singing live, maybe you can upload it, make a video, get some media people from goldsmiths..
-I think we all have these ideas of what it means to be something, what it means to be a singer and what it means to be an artist and what it means to be a teacher. It’s all in there and it’s very easy to say no I’m not those things. Just as much as I can’t detach myself from the fact that I can’t say no there is not an institutional pedagogy that I do act within and I cannot detach myself from that. And it’s very difficult as a, I can imagine, it’s very difficult as a singer, as a songwriter to say OK I can still be a singer and not sell any tickets, I can still be a singer if I’m standing up in front of lots of people, or I can still be an artist if I’m not exhibiting in a gallery as much as I can still be a teacher if I don’t have a piece of paper that says I’m a teacher. We’re all kind of contructing ourselves under these labels but no body’s actually has a lot of confidence to say: you know I can be what I want to be as long as I am enjoying and working through those experiences and not hurting anyone.
–Which I think you do really well. You know I would love to be that talented. It’s like you’re playing a game of twister but you’re just not gonna fall down.
-Oh I like that!
-Yeah she’s just got her feet in.. and she’s OK, she’s secure.
-I’d be flat on my face! (class laughs)
-It’s interesting cause there’s lots.. I’ve been to many a concert where the people or the person up on stage, they’ve sold the tickets, what’s coming out of their mouth, I’m not gonna call singing, is something… and I wouldn’t call them a singer, but they might call themselves a singer.. because like you said they’re on the stage, they sold tickets, they got albums.. and I’m like this ain’t singing for me. We all have those certain construction like all those things that fit in that box..
–What would be the difference between singer and Anna who sings?
-(Me) I guess I am, I’ve always dreamed of being a singer. Like it’s like my first strongest memory, and I don’t know the first time I saw someone sing but initially I wanted to be like a pop star when I was like a kid, you know? And I guess I’m still really attached to this dream, so I have like this, I guess that’s like my dream..
–So when you were smaller, you obviously saw someone performing..
-(Me) Could have been on the TV, I don’t know..
-Yeah, so that’s formed sort of an impression of what that thing is, which is then, you’re comparing what you’re doing and how you’re being to that.
-Me) Yeah, and then I guess, I’ve had really incredible experiences performing, like in the article we read about eye contact and that you kind of go into a mystical zone where everything just stops and in a few performances I’ve had that and um I guess like that’s like the most bliss feeling I’ve experienced, and so I guess I also want to continue to explore that and that’s what I kind of I’m in search of.
-Do you want us to leave you alone now?
-(Me).. You can keep going…