ARTISTS REACH OUT: REFLECTIONS IN A TIME OF ISOLATION
Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa dreamed this series of interviews, Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation, out of grief for her work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance.
“In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there’s no distancing around what we still can share with one another—our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I’m glad they’re part of our beautiful community, and I’m eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director
This interview features Ainesh Madan, choreographer, performer, and Gibney Work Up 4.1 artist.
Ainesh Madan is a choreographer and performer, currently based in Bangalore. Madan attended Bard College (USA) on a full-tuition scholarship, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Economics. Madan premiered his first evening-length solo, titled Phantasies, as part of the University Settlement Guest Artist Series program in New York City for which he received the Emergency Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. He is a recipient of the WorkUp Residency at Gibney (NYC), the BAX (NYC) Upstart Residency, and the DanceWEB Scholarship (2016). Madan recently premiered Impressions (Four Solos), and Sketches, as part of The Platform festival (Bangalore), and The Shoonya Ticket (Bangalore), respectively. He was recently selected to receive the BangaloreREsidencey-Expanded for a residency at Weltkunstzimmer, Dusseldorf from August 3 to September 30, 2020. www.aineshmadan.com
Photo by Joshua Sailo
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
Two artist friends (Dayita Nereyeth and Joshua Sailo) and I were working on an evening of solos, Solitude – Solos on Life, Death and Joy. The show was to be premiered at Bangalore International Center (India) on April 24 and was to be lit by another friend (Bharavi). Around the time of the outbreak, I was towards the last stages of choreographing a new work, The Dance Song, which has been inspired by Nietzsche’s writing from his seminal work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Dance Song is supposed to be in residence at Weltkunstzimmer, Düsseldorf (through Max Mueller’s bangaloreREsidency-Expanded) from August 3 to September 30. Time will tell how the work develops, and gets performed, in the future.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I got involved in dance because of my brother. He inspired me to start attending summer classes at the age of fourteen. He noticed my affinity towards performance, and strongly directed me towards pursuing a non-traditional discipline for my college education. It was at Bard College that I really began to kindle a practice and to find myself as an artist.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
If I had to call it one thing, it would be “consciously-directed creativity.” I recently started a four-year course in becoming a certified Alexander Technique Teacher. My day begins with “working on my self” for forty-five minutes. I recently studied a book on Mudras (Indian hand gestures) when a friend, Anishaa Tavag, reminded me that the book was in my collection. This lead me to morph my yoga practice into Mudra meditation sessions three times a day. I frequently set up fifteen to thirty-day phrase work challenges for myself, where I take 15-30 minutes to craft a phrase that I then video-record or put in writing.
I maintain a gratitude journal which I update twice daily. I have also taken to reading a lot this year and make it a point to read for at least an hour every day. And then there are all practices that are involved with living in a household.
The vision is to utilize my relatively more long-term training in becoming a choreographer, and my more recently begun training in Alexander technique, to teach future generations to become better-coordinated creative agents. More tangibly, the idea is to help create a space where artistic disciplines can be taught, and pursued, through skillful, informed use of oneself.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
I am privileged to have been born to parents that are well disposed, and inclined, to help me garner a quality education. They have always been very particular in making sure I don’t commit the same mistakes they made, nor that I am impinged by the same restrictions they had. My practice and vision is aimed at garnering tools that can help future generations make new mistakes so as to delve into the unknown.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
We seem to be living in a time when it takes a crisis for us to finally pause and reflect. Perhaps if we put aside a little bit more time in our schedules to meditate on our existence, we could avert such emergency situations. We have come a long way from fighting malnutrition, plagues, and famines, on a grand scale, but humanity is now posed with a completely new set of problems with regards to the impact it has made (and is making) on the environment.
We, more than ever, need our actions to be mindful and thoughtful. We need to reformulate our foundations and prioritize inaction (“inhibiting,” in Alexander language) over action (direction). My practice is an attempt at ensuring that the actions I commit to are thoughtful, and I attempt to achieve this by, in most cases, not acting at all. Saying “no” is a powerful tool that we can all learn to employ more judiciously.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.
Top photo by Noah Emrich.