10 Minutes with Salik Ansari

Salik Ansari (b. 1991, India) has a practice that revolves around the idea of displacement across the land, water and in the digital. Having trained in Visual Arts and Communication Design, he uses different methods and mediums in approaching specific subjects and problems. Salik works across mediums including installation, designed objects, video, drawings, and performance. Salik holds MDes in visual communication from the IDC school of design, IIT Bombay, India (2017). He also holds a BFA in Painting from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai (2014). 

Salik has exhibited projects in a solo and group exhibition in India, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK. He has been a recipient of international art and design residencies at Delfina Foundation (London 2019), Fabrica Communication Research Center (Italy 2018-2019), G39 (Cardiff 2018), and Futur Foundation (Switzerland 2014). He has been nominated for the Hublot design award, Switzerland 2017. During his master’s program Salik was a Tata Fellow for grassroots innovation and design at TCTD IIT Bombay (2015-2017).

For the fourth edition of “10 Minute Interviews”, Kabakcı interviews Ansari on his practice, artistic interests, his challenges, influences and more.

How has your practice evolved based on where you come from and where you are now?

My practice has evolved from being personal to more socio-political and technological. It’s a fascinating journey to look back and reflect on how things have progressed, coming from a context of followers (not thinkers), I was always rebellious (I still am) and upfront to respond to the slightest possibilities, which would spark my imagination and make me curious. It’s actually a journey from Jugaad to choosing Jugaad consciously. I started as a Painter but became more multidisciplinary in nature by combining art and design approaches in my larger practice.

General view of exhibition, No lines in the sea (2018)
Solo exhibition, Fabrica space, Venice
Image Credit: Salik Ansari, courtesy of Fabrica Communication Research Center

How would you describe your work and your artistic interests?

In the past few years I’ve realised my work has been inspired by ideas around displacement related to land, water, and in the digital. Each of these mediums has their specific affordances permitting specific humanly actions, and this makes me interested in walking, hiding, floating, dissolving, and with digital it’s the perception of new realities altogether. The research process often renders into an installation, sculptures, designed objects, performance, and videos.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I haven’t stopped challenging myself, and every next challenge at first comes with a “What the fuck!” moment but after that comes “Bring it on!”-  I love the latter. One of the early biggest challenges I faced was choosing art as a profession, but not for me, for the people around me. Now that I have passed that stage long ago, I can see how people feel so threatened about the things they can’t comprehend and control. 

What influenced your practice?

The 2002 make of Spiderman (sadly they don’t produce any more good films), sculptures of Bernini (more than Michelangelo), David Hockney (everything about him), poverty (at the beginning of career), philosophy of Dada, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Rumi) – “Destroy your reputation, live where you fear to live”. Robert Rauchenberg, Allama Iqbal (Urdu poet), Mary Oliver, my encounters with death a few times, technology, politics, and of course the current government.

What does diversity mean to you?

It’s an acceptance of multiplicity, of understanding, knowing, thinking, listening, speaking and looking. It’s also something that the mass brainwashed mentality is terrified of, but I hope this is changing.

We Carry Each Other, Performance video duration 3 min 11 sec and a wearable object (2018)
Collaboration between Artists Salik Ansari and Lauren Heckler.
Presented in the exhibition The Rejoinders (India and Wales collaboration) at G39, Cardiff
Image Credit: Salik Ansari

If you could collaborate with anyone living or deceased, who would it be?

Dadaist and Surrealists, they really worked to set their thinking free from old rhetoric and traditions, and took the courage to do so. With the living, I’d love to collaborate more with non art people.

We met at Delfina during your residency, what have you been up to since then?

Like everyone else, I have been in lockdown. The project I initiated researching during my time at Delfina is on a pause due to the current situation, but I started two projects in this period. One is the series titled Home Barricades in collaboration with an architect and another project looks at the idea of unlearning time. It’s a slow process but I like how it’s evolving.

Do both local and global politics have an effect on your artistic practice and work?

Actually it’s all three, the personal, local and the global.

Home Barricades series #5, video, 3d digital model and animation (2020)
Collaboration between artist Salik Ansari and architect Adnan Kazmi
Image credit: Salik Ansari and Adnan Kazmi

What are the Home Barricades series? How did it come about?

Over the past many months I have been looking at the barricades used to block paths, isolate, divide, and differentiate the public and the power especially in the times of protest, and how it was used initially to block the journey of migrant workers in reaching their homes. Home Barricades is inspired by layers of experiences and stories, it’s both personal and social, it’s a barricade to a home and also a home a barricade to oneself.

I am collaborating with an architect friend on this project and together we are exploring and designing objects in relation to construction and deconstruction of power. Inclusive vs divisive, play vs politics, public vs authority, all through the lense of objects and spatial design.