thotseat : rohini devasher
3 december 2017
Deep Time, image credit Anil Rane, courtesy of Bhau Daji Lad Museum
S: Could you talk about the treatment of women as artists in India?
RD: I think it’s very different now actually. I remember 20 years ago especially with older female artists the stigma of getting married or having kids meant that that was pretty much it. There would be no more practice.
I think it’s changed so much because with my generation of artists there are so many of us who have kids. There are so many of us who have continued to make work while pregnant. This is a huge change in comparison to the two generations of artists ahead of us.
I do have to say, I do make a choice not to do women-only shows. I don’t feel like that helps in any respect. Unless there’s a really interesting conceptual reason tying us together what is the point? I’d rather it be about the work and not about the fact that we all happen to not be men.
Some of the strongest work I’ve seen comes from women and India is a much more supportive place than it used to be. Obviously, it could always be better but at least that which used to get asked of [young] artists isn’t asked anymore.
I also feel that my gender doesn’t play a part in the work, for me. My gender in the work is irrelevant, it is who I am. Of course, you can’t take that apart - I am a woman. I make work.
S: You’re quite right. You can’t really separate the two states of being but at the same time it’s inevitably quite integral to whatever you do.
RD: Indeed. It's important to me to be true to what I need to make. I really trust my gut and the older I get the more I know exactly what I want to do with the work. The work also has it’s own momentum of course and each project goes in it’s own direction.
Sometimes I feel like when I’m making the work I am genderless. Because my work isn’t performance or about the body or locating those subjects I really feel like all of that gets switched off. It’s just about that thing, whatever that thing is.
S: What I’m particularly interested in is not how gender plays a role in the work itself but how you as a woman navigate around a space like India, where things are progressing but still not where we want them to be.
RD: Absolutely. I think it’s also important to say no more often. It’s about realising that you only have that much energy and that much time to do something and you really want to be doing the things you want to be doing. You can’t do everything, and actually if it’s not taking you along the journey you want to go on it’s not worth the digression sometimes.
Part of being a woman in the Indian art world means surrounding yourself with amazing other kick-ass women. And there are so many. We also have to be vary of tokenism, and work with people who are actually interested in the work.
S: What’s next for you?
RD: I was in the Moscow Biennale in October this year - that work is going to the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai in January. Apart from that I’m working on another solo show which will open in Mumbai in December and then I will be in the US very briefly in March - showing my work and giving a talk at the Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas.