We are excited to start the new year with Shiraz Bayjoo as our next guest for our 10 Minute Interviews. As we transition into our 2022 theme Recovery Through Kinship the interview questions will aim to also respond to our yearly theme.
Shiraz Bayjoo is a contemporary multi-disciplinary artist who works with film, painting, photography, performance, and installation. His research-based practice focuses on personal and public archives addressing cultural memory and postcolonial nationhood in a manner that challenges dominant cultural narratives. Bayjoo has exhibited with the Institute of International Visual Arts, London; New Art Exchange, Nottingham; 5th Edition Dhaka Art Summit; 14th Biennale of Sharjah; 13th Biennale of Dakar; and 21st Biennale of Sydney. Bayjoo is a recipient of the Gasworks Fellowship and the Arts Council of England. He is an artist in residence at the Delfina Foundation and has recently been awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.
You were born in Mauritius and your practice explores the social, political, and historical conditions integral to Mauritian and the wider Indian Ocean region’s cultural identity. How do you interweave these themes into your physical works?
I work across a variety of media with different forms of making allowing for different degrees of proximity and sensitivity towards the subject. In this way, my installations become almost a cosmology of objects that allow for multiple re-readings and connections to be made by the audience. In part acknowledging the complexity of layers that needs to be considered, but ultimately in knowing there can also be no singular narrative. Moving image-based works are often used to describe the broader landscape that allows for other forms of installation to unravel more intimate and nuanced narratives.
Have you found that political events around Black Lives Matter (BLM) have impacted your practice’s consideration of the formation of collective identity, namely the entangled legacies of European colonialism and their relationships to slavery and migration?
I think for many of us the success of the BLM movement has been a moment of relief, it is extraordinary to see this language and understanding enter mainstream thinking. These are conversations that have certainly been pushed by Black artist communities in the UK for a long time. BLM has been a monumental force in highlighting the importance of de-colonial thinking, especially as we re-evaluate our public and cultural institutions.
You were part of Art Night in 2019: a commission that explores notions of migration and displacement through a short 16mm film made with students from Mission Grove primary school, Walthamstow. Is collaboration an important element of your work?
I have worked on a number of collaborative projects, in fact, it is difficult to think of any works that don’t have an element of this. The types of collaboration of course can vary a lot, from work alongside communities and academics in navigating complex histories and language, to other makers, performers, and artists directly producing new series of works.
Where did you spend lockdown and how did it impact your creativity?
I was at my studio in London, it became a productive period with several new series of works coming out of this. But it was hard being unable to see my family in Mauritius. I also have several projects I need to develop back home, some of which I tried to continue within the studio with the materials available to me.
You studied at the University of Wales Institute. Did you manage to connect with the creative/artistic community in the city during your studies?
Cardiff was a great city to study in, there were several artist-led projects and studios at the time, including the Tactile Bosch collective which I was briefly a member. It was a good grounding in what would be needed to survive as an artist in my formative years.