Anukriti Kaushik (b. 1998, India) is a multidisciplinary visual artist based in Boston and New Delhi. Predominantly working with drawing, painting, sculpture, video, text and curatorial practices, their practice involves rendering the Queer, femme body to recontextualise it as sacred and sublime.
Artist Statement:As a multidisciplinary visual artist, predominantly working with drawing, painting, sculpture, video, text and curatorial work, my practice involves rendering the Queer-Femme body to recontextualise it as sacred and sublime. Drawing from personal experiences, I generate visual narratives that challenge rigid norms and traditions pertaining to beauty, gender, sexuality and notions of fundamentalism within the Hindu community. Through the creation of gender-bending personas I envision deities that break away from religious constrictions and limitations of the gender binary to envision autonomy and preservation of the Queer body. The dissonance between the existence of non-conforming bodies in real time as compared to their representation within Indian media and culture pigeonholes these bodies into categories of caricature, erasure and misrepresentation. This being an active tool of suppression, creates restrictions around self expression and agency. To disrupt that, I revisit folklore from my childhood. Rephrasing personal and collective narratives helps in creating alternative worlds outside of current coercive ones by emphasising collective resistance for the purpose of radical self assertion.
The whimsical depiction of bodies in my work is influenced by movements like abstract expressionism, surrealism, and experimental film. I am particularly interested in the canon presented by these movements and in finding creative ways of disrupting it while maintaining a lineage towards its values. By incorporating historical Indian iconography into personal definitions of queerness and bodily liberation, I intend to subvert normative limitations that endorse confinement within the gender binary.
Currently, I am interested in producing and inquiring into works that challenge historical amnesia, cultural conformity and religious intolerance, both on a personal, and a collective level. Additionally, I am researching the work of Gayatri Gopinath for a future project (specifically her work in South Asian queer archiving, and her book Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora).
As an avid reader, I gain insight from Bell Hooks’ concept of The Oppositional Gaze, and Glitch Feminism by Legacy Russell. Both of which aid in my understanding of what rejection of womanhood, as defined by heteropatriarchal structures entails, and how one can secure agency over their body. Their writing helps in navigating self advocated visibility and communal liberation devoid of the burden of tokenization. Other written works by authors Arundhati Roy and Meena Kandasamy offer radical perspectives on ways to subvert Hindu hegemony in order to successfully critique it. Artists who I look to as sources of inspiration for their visual mark making, and its intricacies with non normative cultural and historical traditions are Chitra Ganesh, Wangetchi Mutu, Moshtari Hilal and Shazia Sikandar.
My practice involves inquiring into how non conforming bodies are physical sites, and evidence of pain, labour and transformation and how our deviancy perseveres and outlives normative space and time. Having predominantly operated within art and educational institutions for most of my life I am interested in exploring how these particular physical spaces and infrastructures dictate the status of our collective safety (or lack thereof). I intend to use this grant to reimagine institutional spaces through a curated visual and written publication. This book project would act as a tool to aid artists that don't come from inherited wealth and merit, navigate the art institution, identify and resist its hegemonic violence, and develop autonomous modes and operations of collective opportunity. Through a collaboration with fellow artists and peers, this publication arbitrates which components of the institution need to be destroyed and what shall be constructed in its place. In doing so, we effectively critique institutional exploitation directed towards historically underrepresented and emerging artists.
This publication serves as a collection of our liberatory dreams and ideas and their manifestation in physical spaces. It is a collective record of ways we can represent ourselves without financial restraints, misrepresentation and exploitation. It represents an awareness of the power we hold in boosting institutional credibility and a knowledge of what we desire to do with said power. How can our collective voice and our collective silence be used as a weapon in disrupting institutional hegemony?
By engaging artists through interviews, fictional and non-fictional writing, and visual art, my desire is to create a manual of sorts that brings together knowledge on navigating art institutions that function on merit, white supremacy, class, caste oppression, ableism, and misogyny. Additionally it is an engagement between artists on creating a globally inclusive art community that does not view ours and each other's labour and practice through a racialized and/or tokenized lens meant for consumption.
This publication intends to collaborate with, and include works by artists Avni Sethi, Sarah Naqvi, The White Pube, After Party Collective, Aqui Thami, Noriyoshi Needle, Priyanka Paul, Mithsuca Berry, and Sienna Kwami. I am interested in creating a dialogue through an interview between Sethi, an interdisciplinary practitioner working between culture, memory, space and the body, on her project Confictorium: The Museum of Conflict and Naqvi, an interdisciplinary textile artist who recently participated in an artist talk regarding their artwork on institutional critique. Additionally, the publication will include written and print work in collaboration with Sister Library: India’s first community owned feminist library run by indigenous artist Aqui Thami; Nori Needle, an interdisciplinary artist based in Worcester and Tokyo; The White Pube (specifically their writing on Anne Hjort Guttu’s Manifesto); and After Party Collective. The visual aesthetics of the publication will be dictated by visual artists Priyanka Paul, Mithsuca Berry, and Sienna Kwami.
Here is a Moodboard created for design reference.
Prospective collaborators have been considered with great intentionality to produce a collection of ideas and conversations that are inherently radical and anti-caste. Apart from my own devotion to these artists and their personal and communal practices, I believe the cross pollination of their respective expertise and experiences holds incredible value for aspiring artists and thinkers who wish to operate outside of traditional modes of art making. Each artist will be paid an amount of $380 for their labour and skill. In addition to that, I intend to hold a virtual panel talk amongst collaborating artists once the project is complete.
No art exists in a vacuum, it is inherently influenced by our socio-political, economic status, our historical narratives, and lived experiences. Yet, we do not see these perspectives reflected in most dominant art institutions. If and when we do, they lack nuance or are used as a commodity by the institution to distance itself from its historically oppressive roots and therefore, gain social and financial influence. The institution's liberal stance is often shallow, performative and merely a product of social movements becoming co-opted by capitalism for its own gain. We artists cannot rely on murky institutional territory to further our work. These institutions keep colonial and caste memories alive, both in physical material and in their institutional and managerial policies and structures, and therefore abide by supremacist conduct which includes erasure of historical accuracy. These institutions tend to gatekeep knowledge and resources and therefore are enforcers of racism, casteism, misogyny and ableism. They dictate who gets to be included and integrated and who doesn't. Within these institutions, our bodies and our work is not our own. So how do we occupy space within institutions whose priorities and belief systems don't align with ours? How do we combat colonial memory and historical amnesia?
Through my practice I wish to weave together diverse global queer communities. There is unending knowledge within our communities and since our resistance to cultural norms is dictated by our lived experiences, I believe we have a lot to learn from each other. We may be in different lands but we fight for the same liberties. I want this publication to be a segue to start conversations across communities on how we can support each other throughout our struggles. This publication will be an opportunity for artists from across the world to collaborate with each other, find ways to connect and create in the hopes of broadening their networks and practices. I am specifically choosing queer, trans, gender non-conforming, emerging artists whose work boldly reimagines social and cultural structures to overturn institutional hegemony. Moreover having an accessible digital and physical publication is a useful tool for any community to refer to when needed. I want this project to evolve beyond my initial intentions and create a network of like minded artists and organisers that stretches beyond Boston and India.