Abhika Pahwa

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City where you live:

Statement : 

I am a project based, research based artist. The central ‘problems’ my practice addresses aren’t unilateral; I’m moved by what directs me to re-navigate my lived experiences through new perspectives. A habitual practice of brewing myself a cup of tea in a small corner of my studio was once misconstrued as a performance work that enamored my teachers enough to grade me on it. My entire practice, moving forward, has contested the fetishization of southeast-asian narratives through the western art lens.

I often joke about how my interest for the rich, abundant archives for Indian art history peaked once I left India for the US. I remember walking into Bushwick’s most “edgy” thrift store, and seeing the familiar Banarasi tiger print from my grandmother’s sarees labeled “Oriental Organza Sarong” - re-sold for 300x its market-price back home. Therein started an inquiry into how southeast-Asian genealogies of motifs, patterns - and larger notions of spirituality and community-labour these symbols embodied - come to be repurposed as fleeting “trends” and tokens in a hyper-capitalist consumer culture.  New York’s influx of multicultural and cross-generational identities structured the crux of my practice. How does a floral (resistance) motif from British-raj Pakistan end up as a wallpaper in a Target near Queens? How does a Pilates instructor on Gramercy so confidently mislead millennials into paying exorbitant prices for “Lakshmi Yoga”? How does the “Om” symbol land up inked on the backs of multiple atheists in my studio classes? Over six months in constructing my thesis, I visited over a hundred psychic-shops over Brooklyn, paid for over twenty tarot readings in from folks who  mistranslated Sanskrit in the LES, collected “made in Bangladesh” items from thirty overpriced pop-ups in Midtown, and created work centering the information and feedback I’d received from it all. 

There’s ample left for me to explore. How do I make my work more interactive? Is my audience a singular community? What personal “consensus” am I reaching, or global reality am I prefacing through this conversation?  My practice sees me trying to balance my proclivities towards comedic commentaries on culture with the extensive histories behind culture’s global reconfigurations. 

“Tiger Freckles”, Broadway.
40 x 40 inches. Acrylic on Canvas.
“Oriental Organza” at L-Train Vintage.
30 x 40 inches. Acrylic on Canvas.
Bio: 

New Delhi bred. New York based. I work with my hands, and eat with them too.

(Materials are a toy shop and I am a toddler with reckless abandon). 

 

My mother is a classically trained Mohiniyattam (മോഹിനിയാട്ടം) dancer. She speaks the languages of mythology and movement. My father is a culinary entrepreneur. Through food as a catalyst, he activates service as an essential tenet of culture. My sister and I were raised by individuals who fought (and hard) to help us explore our own foundations in what it means to embody the ‘feminine’, ‘feminist’, ‘indian’, ‘intersectional’; what it means to uphold strength and vulnerability as synonymous virtue; what it means to find our rhythms passing rotis around the dinner table. 

 

 Abhika (अभिका) translates to ‘fearless’. I am intrigued by cultural fetishisation as pertaining to Southeast-Asian genealogy, and my practice often investigates the romanticisation of the heavyweight realities of tradition. Labour rituals as meditative practices, Western consumer culture as it rebrands religious motifs, and the intersections of these phenomena find a home in my work.

United Kingdom
Plymouth
Belgium
Hasselt
United Kingdom
london
United Kingdom
Wokingham
Germany
Dresden

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