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Satadru Sovan Banduri: A Body of Experiencing Phenomenal Art

Satadru Sovan Banduri is a multi-disciplinary artist who was born in Howrah, West Bengal, and currently resides in New Delhi. A recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship at the University of California, he majored in Digital and New Media at Santa Cruz and learned light-based and video art. After completing his Master’s in painting from Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan, in 2000, he moved to New Delhi.

Satadru is the recipient of several awards and residencies and his work is in private collections as well as museums. His international exhibitions include the Lincoln Center in New York, The Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, Schema Art Museum, South Korea, Cheongju Contemporary Art Museum, Malaysia; he has also done shows in Hong Kong, South Africa, Vietnam, Iran and Germany. He has participated in Biennales in Iran, the Cheongju International Craft Biennale, the Bodhgaya Biennale, THAT Art Fair, Cape Town, the Cheongju International Art Fair in South Korea, Johannesburg Art Fair, United Art Fair in Delhi, Art Expo in Malaysia, and the Indian Art Summit in New Delhi. His performances and workshops include those he held in China, Vietnam, South Korea, South Africa, Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Satadru’s art revolves around the ideas of concepts of desire, fantasy, body, mind, global and social justice. Equally adept with studio painting of large canvases and creating his own performance art or light installations, he is actively involved with phenomenology in his work. As his conceptual stance is based on gender, each medium he works with is thoroughly researched within the thematic of South Asian gender and sexuality. The cognitive and sensory projections upon life form and human experience are the actual material aspects which produce his sensitive art.

1. When did you decide and what prompted you to become an artist? Please give a brief account of your challenges and struggles in your journey as an artist. Any role models?

SSB: As a human being, I was born an “art freak”, a crazy soul. If my memory serves me right, throughout my childhood, I’d draw all over the walls. I'm unable to recall when my walls became my canvas or “life-medium”. I believe that no one determines to become something or take up something as a profession. To become an artist or some other professional has to come from the inner soul. My body and mind evolved as an artistic diaspora in themselves. I will never know whether or not “diaspora” has become my central discourse. All I know that when I slept in childhood, I dreamed of illusion, of imagery, of the emotion and and desires that I now enact or paint or make artwork.

I believe that the route of my expression remains my body itself and my intention is as well to relocate the focus upon the conceptual – the mind, emotions and senses. I do believe that this is I what produce the enactment of art and the by-product is merely a remnant of the actual process. Art for me is time-based action.

Without any challenge or struggle, life is quite empty. My early stage of life was full of physical and mental challenges, including a congenital heart disease and puberphonia.

A role model is a person whose behaviour as example or success is or can be emulated from time to time; not static as a stone, a model such as this undergoes change with the knowledge that there is always a “flow”. Names are unimportant but their association has proved to be quite important. This applies to my period of education at Santinaketan and the University of California, where I received great sources of both amalgamation and mentorship.

2. What art project(s) are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?

SSB: Since my birth, I’ve always felt that I’m just human: that my religion, class and caste are only that of an artist. My medium is life – my experience is indulgence with my work. I feel visceral narratives through my physical body. In my practice, the recognition of all my senses occurs and translates into projections in the form of live art. I don’t judge whether it is good or bad but whatever I have achieved through life is what I’ve come to express. It is but a revelation of what is hidden in my heart. Very much personalized, psychology is at play in my artwork; all my artworks are all in the grain of behavioural or performance art. It is a state of consciousness, a way to move towards the future. My artwork/performance is an entelechy, and yet at the same time, it delivers knowledge in a multifocal way. I always think of its ancestry, ie whether the future will hold it as an old practice.

Video recording of performance art UN-STAR-SEED ON A TOUR OF UN-PLANET EARTH

for Body in perform ISTA Life performance (60 minute performance), 25 September 2020

Creation happens when the artist’s own body, their presence, becomes part of the artwork. I have applied an identical and uniform concept of offering my body to “everybody” at two different places in time and space, area, country, and zone. I was rewarded two distinctions, for action and social criticism and political responses against social dogma. This intercourse engendered a new condition of diaspora. I believe performance art creates a planet of a 360-degree dimension around the diminishing space for art.

Body and heart with its voluptuous vehemence, Acrylic on paper, 10 inches x 10 inches

Free and aimless I glance frolic from joy to joy, PSD file

Crystals spin the light, looms new rainbows in the air, Acrylic on paper, 10 inches x 10 inches

Frozen rainbows capture all our eyes. Acrylic on paper, 12 inches x 12 inches

Fade and kisser in peeping Mughal jali, 11.7 inches x 8.3 inches x 1 inches,

Acrylic on paper and Sakura Gelly Roll Classic gel pen, synthetic frame with fibre glass

Legacy on reflection into the Indo-Mughal domain, 11.7 inches x 8.3 inches x 1 inches,

Acrylic on paper and Sakura GellyRoll Classic, gel pen, synthetic frame with fibre glass

Eternal flames have thou set me on, Beloved, Acrylic on paper,

Triptych, variable size: 6 inches x 6 inches , 12 inches x 12 inches, 6 inches x 6 inches

Thou stay'eth awake and I lay asleep, Acrylic on paper,

Triptych variable size: 6 inches x 6 inches , 12 inches x 12 inches, 6 inches x 6 inches

My skin is now sediment,the skies now clothe me, Acrylic on canvas, variable size: 31 inches x 46 inches

Tresses listen to the client's human zephyr, Acrylic on paper, 10 inches x 10 inches

3. Contemporary art has become very diverse and multidisciplinary in the last few decades. Do you welcome this trend? Is this trend part of your art practice?

SSB: Multidisciplinary art encompasses professional artistic activities that combine different art forms in new and unusual ways. Viewing it in this way, multidisciplinary art is often experimental, seeking new forms of expression and existing between established and indeterminate art forms. It is a new way to open out your heart, not follow any rules; it is a mix of different practices as well as an amalgamation of new logistics which fabricate an aesthetic experience.

Photographs from offline and online performances by Satadru for festivals over last couple of years

(Please swipe to see the different screenshots)

A lot of my works deal with the self as a matrix of identities and myths – questioning societal norms, fixed beliefs, and categorizations. I experiment with new-media technologies and interactive narratives that prompt public engagement, behaviour-art (performance) dialogue, video, sound animation, verse composition and visual reflection, and employ electronic replica, robotic or virtual-media-based art practices.

4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?

SSB: Yes, I do believe it has a social purpose. Specifically, in my case, is a socially inclined project called “HAXXYDUXXY box” – a collective as catalyst assembly for head-to-head interactions, collaborations and creative discourses, with the spirit of a gathering amid our community of a metropolitan city. We like to play with nonsensical forms of verbal expression of artwork as performance against social injustice. We bring into play social mockery as gibberish, also called jibber-jabber or gobbledy-gook, as speech that is (or appears to be) nonsensical. It is also used as an imprecation to denigrate or tarnish ideas or opinions the user disagrees with or finds irksome, a rough equivalent of "nonsense", "folderol", or "claptrap". The implication is that the criticized expression or proposition lacks substance or congruence, as opposed to simply being a differing view. We are in cross-collaboration an exchange platform about gender, which converts “gender-bender”.

However, my interest in the non-hierarchical or anarchic use of language, which is often seen as the source of poetic creativity, is somewhat complex owing to a parallel interest I have at heart that is both radically opposite yet complementary: “poetic authorize”. An artist may take poetic license to be anarchic, to disrupt order. Yet, the very presence of the word “sanction” introduces a regime of legality, without which artistic anarchy may not effectively self-articulate. It is for this reason that my ongoing performative action extends my primary art practice, and rather as being based upon the creation of legal, semi-legal artist contracts, agreements and certifications, present my art as mere by-products.

5. Where do you create your art (workplace / studio)? What is your process?

SSB: There is no specific space where I create and enact my art; my work and performative narration comes from the global cyberspace, social networking, psychedelic and phantasmagorical visions of race and gender. My work integrates various means of communication and artistic production using the physical environment, new-media technologies, and interactive narratives that prompt public engagement, dialogue, verse composition and reflection.

Detail of above work

Based on notions of geography, identity, gender roles, image appropriation and the politics of body migration, I explore issues that affect diverse urban communities and showcase a segment of our society that refuses generalization. Consumerism devours people’s individuality and turns them into larger-than-life entities. This visual culture would confound and even overwhelm someone who is not part of the urban milieu or has just recently come to be a part of it. Yet, closer observation and a certain amount of empathy from the viewer to my humorous insights into the human psyche would reward them.

India's history and culture is dynamic, spanning back to the beginning of human civilization, which has brought us many cultures and religions and, unexpectedly, has left us a glorious legacy which I carry within my time-based behavioural/performance art using body movement. Without doubt, art is one of the best tools to cope with and communicate with the “disease of nothingness”, neither trendy nor traditional. Although I know it's not the only way, for me there is no other alternative. I’ve somehow managed to design my own "therapeutic strategies" through art, but it is not a space of relaxation and disposition where one can forget for a moment one’s reality; rather it is an intense process: risky, difficult and often painful, but at the same time revealing and cathartic. It is more similar to the effects caused by a purge than an analgesic.

Performance is a weird, temporal and ephemeral thing that doesn't fit neatly into theatre, dance, music, or visual art. It's a thing that utilizes the body as a medium to convey some sort of message. I have a tumultuous love-hate relationship with performance art that I don't have with other mediums I work with. If for a sculptor the clay is the raw material, my raw material is my own life. It's about sculpting with human relationships, rethinking the fact of being alive and what that means. In art I have faced, by my own will, the worst scenarios I’ve ever imagined in relation to disease and death, and somehow this has given me more strength than I thought I’d have to face situations, whether limiting or traumatic.

Art can heal, but not in the way medicine heals. It is healing on an intangible plane that is just as important as healing on a material plane; one is not possible without the other. Like shamanism, art works with the invisible and it's mechanisms operate similarly. I once believed that art and magic were the same, but the difference is that magic that brings you closer to art is the magic of life itself. Contrary to what might be thought, alchemy happens in front of our eyes all the time even though we do not see it, we are unaware of it. Art helps you to see.

6. To what extent will the world of art change in the post-Covid period – both in terms of what is created as also the business of art?

SSB: This epidemic has altered the confidence of history in our lifetime. I take it as my binoculars to review its history. I examine it, feel it discard my vanity and pain, and forecast my works’ creative process. I write many poems and create many artworks. As we see the ongoing destruction of many aspects of our social elements, now is the time for society to make a revanche owing to the epidemic.

Has this epidemic varied our expectations of the society or future? Is there a single event or moment that has made a big difference in our perspective? Do we view events differently because of our artistry? If so, can you tell me one specific thing?

We are a civilization with a history of Buddhist culture, where there exists a process of improper rotation. Today, civilization has become so busy that we have come to recall Yoga and a marathon as belonging to the same class; simultaneously, we are busy establishing social networks. We’ve become overcrowded with all the various networks – jammed into a metropolitan lifestyle. I feel distance matters in multiple ways; I feel it. Perhaps actual distance makes for the closeness of other ways.

“Relationship” is a big word; its meaning depends on various interpretations and varies from person to person. What about the Platonic dialogue, the contemplation of life, the nature of love or eros. It is to Socrates, or more precisely to a priestess named Diatom, that Plato gives the honour of explaining his own theory of love.

The soul wishes to reunite itself with the realm of essences, through beauty or good and the sensory world can only be properly enjoyed within its’ own domain. The nature of the human being is unstable binary composition of body and soul, each governed by contrary impulses. The body allows carnal temptations to drag it down to the mire of sensuality, while the soul wants to move upward towards its home among the eternal forms. Yet human nature finds it easier to follow the lure of the flesh, beyond the search for virtue. True love is non-binary: not madness of the latter kind. When the enlightened spirit finally wrenches itself from the pervasive influence of the body, it seems to lose all sense of equilibrium; however, actually, it only regains freedom and the true sanity of humankind.

I feel the outbreak is a good change for all society in that people may come to better think and re-create. Prior to the outbreak, we were much more functional and mechanical. This outbreak has affected me as an artist: both my mind as well the arrangement of my work. I feel it is a good time to deepen an understanding of our own self. We would be too selfish, to think only of I, Me or Us.

7. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice. Does it get reflected

in your art?

SSB: My journey is like a “Pilgrim's Progress” of the allegorical, spiritual kind. My dreams whisper to me within the alleys’ cocoon. Mystery, with the entirety of history, will soon be out or within a short time. My greatest life-idea lies with enquiry and merger with the concepts of desire, fantasy, body and mind. I love to play a satirical role in the face of today’s “globalized” society, which might also be known as a “technological jungle”, within which, desire, fantasy, body and mind co-exist.

The figure frames the physical – prototypical as well representative – of the structures of everyday experience. Gender is not a reading of a biological grain or vein. It is the producer of dreams, the transmitter and receiver of cultural messages, a creature of habit, a desiring machine, a repository of memories, an actor in the behaviour of power, a tissue of affection and feeling. Understanding the body beneath a permanent construction allows us to grow up and create ourselves, build ones’ own creature.

I feel the idea of love and the need for companionship is to start a new embrace including the state of an individual’s progress with that is known; not only in relation to gender, but an opportunity for all colours of the rainbow to amalgamate with passion and pride. The bizarre idea of a society of gender and masculinity traps us all, creating a vocabulary that we all are beyond – beyond toxic gender “norms”. What is “straight”? A line can be straight, or street, but the human heart? Oh no, it’s curved like an alley, a passage, a mountain highway, with height, elevation, eminence and prominence.

Performance art happens when an artist's own body, their presence, becomes part of the work. I encouraged myself to create new innovative ideas with light. My work revolves around South Asian gender and sensuality. I feel light technology is the best way to express my own time of Rapchik life. Metro cities like Delhi and all its conceivable aspects from mobile SMS jargon to pubbing and clubbing are inspiration and subject matter for my work: discotheque and strobe lights, DJs and blaring music, chiselled bodies and pierced body parts, and much more. All these come in my performance with light, not only as glimpses of Frances, but as attempted encounters with that is seductive, hedonistic, epicurean, sybaritic.

Photographs from offline and online performances by Satadru for festivals over last couple of years

(Please swipe to see the different screenshots)

I often talk garbage or as my gender would say it un-languages my self-produced language. I am a poet and a thinker. I create words and I do use it in my performance. I play with the double meaning of the word which is related to gender. My first identity is human and then my religion is that of an artist who does not believe in gender inequality. My latest work is based on social Injustice of gender inequality called Hexxy Dexxy Guy, Hetro-Haxy, wherein I play the role of a self-created word (high breed). I offer my Body, Hexa-Cutter, Under the Stars, HIV is not transmitted, HIV is Stigma and Tebbed in Indian, #culture, Sperm Bank, Sperm Mythology, Rumour of Male Infertility, Sleep is not a democracy...oh baby oh baby last time, Technology removing the sensuality form metro. There is an upcoming performance art at Shico-Fobia PUBG based on the effect of demonetization.

A major part of my time is devoted to the practice of digital editing and new media technologies. I have also developed an obsession and understanding of light across creative bodily forms – from painting to animation, movies, sound and video art, as also the composition of verse.

Also read the Part 2 of the three part review of Performance Art Project Asia which includes a review by Aakshat Sinha of Satadru Sovan Banduri's performance during the festival organised by HEXXYDUXXY BOX (India) and Rah Art Residency (Iran) in October 2020

(All images and video are courtesy of the artist, Satadru Sovan Banduri.)


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