Part oft the Klirrrrr-Festival was the work of artist Tejal Shah and their piece „Some Kind of Nature“. In an interview we got to talk to Shah, who is currently based in Goa, India, about the meaning of nature, body and what it means to be a queer feminist artist.
Interview: Valerie-Siba Rousparast
Caring for Conflict: How did you start making art?
I studied commercial and illustrative photography in Australia. There I was first introduced to fine art practice. I started making art when I was eighteen and went to the Art Institute of Chicago as an exchange student. After that I immediately started to work as an artist, but went back to studying at Bard College in upstate New York, because I missed Academia. By that time education in the west was less and less appealing, but I didn’t see any other choices. For a while now, I have been studying the goddess Philosohy and am currently in a part-time Masters of Art, which will take another four years to complete.
Caring for Conflict: You speak of nature and the body. What are they in the context of your work?
I’m interested in the word „nature“ in the question of „what is the nature of things?“ Like this has become a broad category through which I can see a lot of things. I wonder, what is organic in nature and what is synthesized?
Bodies mean politics, they mean representation, they mean relation. What do bodies perform, what do they have to add. Everything is a body. But not all bodies have sentients. Everything is interrelated.
Caring for Conflict: Speaking of body, the individual, reflection. What does self-reflection mean to you?
Self is the functional self or the I, which is attributed to all sentient beings. By functional I mean: In order to exist within the functionality of the world, we have to attribute a selfhood to persons and to other beings, from creatures to so called complex organisms. For me they are just a nominal self and this is what I think of as the „Self“. On ultimate analysis there is no „Self“ that can be found since everything is an interdependent happening. And if it is an interdependent happening, we cannot say there is a Self.
Self-reflection is the ability to have the awareness that the nominal self ist he void of an inherent self. So if all the selfs that we see are interdependent happenings or events, for the sake of communication we must say I or You. So this ability to self-reflect that the nominal Self is selfless is what I would call Self-reflection.
Caring for conflict: Your work seems radical and political in the way it speaks about feminist issues. Do you consider it to be activism?
I would certainly consider my work feminist as well as interested in all forms of politics. Some works are more activist than others and at the moment I would not say that I am an activist, because I have not really seriously engaged with activism. But I feel that my work is very aware and also asking for change. System change, social change, mind change and affective change.
Caring for Conflict: What is your take on marginalization in the art scene?
There are many art scenes. And I work at the intersection of many different art scenes, so it’s hard to say. But I would say that in general all the art scenes are something that are created by human beings and I see all art scenes as a mini-representation of society. When we have people, who have not resolved questions of power and mutuality and relation, anger and sharing, we create art scenes, where we bring all that shit with us. Wherever we go, whatever we create, we bring that with us. So there is a lot of marginalization in different scenes. There are so many complicated layers to this.
Caring for Conflict: You work on body, self and non-duality. Do you consider your work spiritual?
If spiritual means understanding the nature of reality, so that we can align ourselves with things as they are and not misperceive them, because anything that is based on an misperception can only cause pain and violence, then that is how I understand spirituality. I would say that Iam a student of a spiritual tradition and very interested in the question of duality. This process requires mindtransformation, calling different forms of convention into question.
What does your working process look like?
Usually I like to engage with different themes through a long period of time through reading, watching, research, interaction with situations, environments, other beings, who are interested or embody those themes. Reading is a very important part of my process. After a long time of marinating myself in the topics of my interest, which can be one that segways into many different directions, comes a time, where I feel ready to share something. I don’t produce a lot of work and don’t have a formal aesthetic, which is consistantly visible through my work. It changes a lot in different media and techniques. I would basically pickle myself in a topic.
Caring for Conflict: What are your next steps?
My next steps, whoa. I tend to have an ongoing difficulty in integrating myself within the infrastructure of art and art support systems and I see that there are many aspects of myself which don’t fit into these scenes very easily. There aren’t many artists, who work on the intersection of feminism, queer feminism, buddhism, queer ecology or post-pornography. I often question the relevance of my work when it comes to social change. Is this the best use of my life on this planet? So, I am right now deeply engaging in a practice programme of non-duality and interested in how this translates in me as a person and perhaps finds expression in my work. I am more and more interested in education, spend time doing community based work and helping organisations and started a series of workshops on art and non-duality and am interested to offer this to students in different colleges in New-Delhi. Also i’ve just finished an artist residency with two other queer feminist artists.
Thank you for your time.02.07.2018—15:29 h—Saal*Lun