‘In art, it is conventional to be anti-conventional’

WHO Bengaluru-based Subbaiah creates in many media, from sculpture to text, audio, video, electronics and informatics. He got his Master of Fine Arts (Sculpture) from Royal College of Art, London. He has exhibited at Saffronart and Bose Pacia, New York, Fort Vuren, The Netherlands, The Japan Foundation Forum, Tokyo, Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, and Vadehra Gallery, New Delhi.

Kiran Subbaiah, 41, Artist
Kiran Subbaiah, 41, Artist, Photo: Satish Badiger

What is the one incident that changed or formed your artistic vision?
There is no one great incident that has formed my vision. There have been little things over time. I think I’m still waiting for that big vision to strike. After that happens, I’ll stop making art. I’m waiting to be enlightened.
As an artist, do you subscribe to societal notions of sex and love?
I think this question is neither this way nor that way. Societal norms are something that have survived and evolved over many years, so all of them aren’t necessarily bad. One has to negotiate with them. In art, it has become a convention to be anti-conventional. That is a problem.
What is the one thought or feeling you have never been able to translate into art?
I don’t think I strictly translate ideas into art. It is not necessary that I start out with a specific idea. Many times, while I have been playing around with materials, something has struck me. Sometimes I work to find meaning. That is when I become the medium rather than the author of ideas.
What’s been your greatest moment of distress or exhilaration?
Distress? I don’t think I’ve had such a moment that would cause a mental breakdown. I was distressed when my girlfriend left me. Exhilaration was the opposite of that.
If the shoe fits Sleepwalker Daydream by Kiran Subbaiah
If the shoe fits: Sleepwalker Daydream by Kiran Subbaiah

Biggest influence/mentor?
I’d say these two artists who are not very well known; Robert Filliou and George Brecht.
Why do you think art need not serve any purpose?
When I say purpose I mean it in a functional and utilitarian sense. Most people see art as entertainment, a way of deriving pleasure. It’s not like I’m building a bridge here. So if I make a mistake, there is no great harm in that. It’s just bad art.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.