Suspended on a Road from Here to There

Pravin Sathe

"Suspended on a Road from Here to There" is a series of sculptures that explores the clash of cultures in the city of my childhood, Bombay, now called Mumbai, through the lens of two languages, Marathi and English.


Classes Art/Science Collisions,Thesis

"Suspended on a Road from Here to There" is a series of sculptures that explores the clash of cultures in the city of my childhood, Bombay, now called Mumbai, through the lens of two languages, Marathi and English. The three sculptures, "Encounter,""Bomबई," and "Cowherd", employed MEL scripts in Maya and were realized with a Z-Corp rapid prototyping printer. I chose rapid prototyping as the method with which to realize these works because of the cost advantage, both in terms of time and price, in creating multiple works and the complexity in form of each piece. The sculptures are intended to be viewed as a triptych, as each informs the other and creates a metaphorical circle, analogous to the "chakra" on the India flag. As a whole, this thesis work creates a physical representation of lessons learned from the past and a hope for a more generous spirit in our descriptions of one another as we move into the future.

Chapter 2
2.1 A Survey of My Artistic Influences
We can trace sculpture as far back Austria, some 25,000 years ago to the Venus of Willendorf. That sculpture to me is a perfect analogy to the primitives used in modern modeling programs such as Maya with the shape and structure of most sculptural works. (REFERENCE) A round head, bulbous breasts and presumably pregnant womb are essentially spheres artistically molded and shaped to represent a whole greater than it's parts. Each of the pieces in "Suspended on a Road from Here to There" began with such primitives.
From a more contemporary perspective, since 1995, many of the large scale works artist Anish Kapoor has created "...have hinged on the viewer's gaze and of the dichotomy between interior and exterior in abstract, monolithic forms." (Harris, Art in America 2002 - http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1248/is_3_90/ai_83794216) Kapoor's forms also speak to the idea of addition by subtraction. Or as Kapoor describes it, "The idea that if I empty out all the content and just make something that is an empty form, I don't empty out the content at all. The content is there in a way that's more surprising than if I tried to make a [sic] content. So, therefore, the idea that subject matter is somehow not the same as content." (qtd in Tate Magazine 2004 - http://www.tate.org.uk/magazine/issue1/descent.htm) A peer of Kapoor's, but one who explores the relationship of the individual to society, Do Ho Suh has realized some of the most powerful works of the last 15 years. In "Seoul Home/L.A. Home..." he evoked the space and tranquility of his home in Korea through a transportable, hanging sculpture made with cloth and thread. A metaphorical copy of the actual structure, Suh described the idea in an interview on Art:21,

I would say the Korean House project started from this need to fulfill a certain desire when I graduated from RISD. I was in New York for a year before I went to grad school. I was living on 113th Street, near Columbia. And my apartment building was right across the street from the fire station. And it was really, really noisy and I couldn’t sleep well. And I was thinking when it was my last time to have a really good sleep. And that was in a small room back in Korea... The experience was about transporting space from one place to the other. A way of dealing with cultural displacement. And I don’t really get homesick, but I’ve noticed that I have this longing for this particular space and I want to recreate that space or bring that space wherever I go. So the choice of the material, which was fabric, was for many reasons. I had to make something that’s light and transportable. So something that you can fold and put in a suitcase and bring with you all the time. (http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/suh/clip1.html)

The driving motivation behind "Suspended on a Road from Here To There" was the idea of "cultural displacement". Mr. Suh's forms were used as a starting point in realizing this thesis research. From that starting point I was then pushed the idea to production techniques that would evoke both the sublime beauty of the object as well as the meaning it hopes to espouse.

I had the good fortune to work with Tony Oursler, a video artist, on numerous projects and in an interview I conducted with him for NY Arts Magazine he spoke about the importance of language in his sculptural video work,

A lot of people forget about the linguistic side of my work and sometimes I would like to forget about it. If you have a linear story, even if it is just a spoken work, you might as well be sitting in a movie theatre, and I am very precise about the difference between an art object and a movie. One of the things I find unique to an art installation is that it is perpetual; it doesn't have a beginning middle and end. So I dispensed with that notion and I worked with different techniques to develop my language. I studied stream of consciousness writing and poetry, and I looked into the surrealist strategies of random text development and statements from the MMPI. From these influences I have cultivated many different methods in which to write text for my work over the past ten years. At the moment, my text sounds like 50s beat poetry. (NY Arts Magazine, Vol.10 No.1/2, January/February, 2005)

Many of his recent drawings have also incorporated text and letterforms. They too have influenced the choice of language as an underpinning for "Suspended on a Road from Here to There.

2.2 Maximum City by Suketu Metha
Perhaps the most significant influence on this work is neither visual nor sculptural but the wonderfully written memoir, Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. Like Mr. Mehta, I have lived away from Mumbai for so long it has become an entirely different city from the one I remember as a child. Many of the larger themes in Mr. Mehta's book run through the veins of first generation immigrants, no matter where they are from. He calls it a sense of "longing"; the connection back to the place of your earliest memories creates a dissonance from your present location. (REFERENCE) And so you remain, never completely connected to your present home, yet never feeling like you belong to the city you left behind.

2.3 Dimensional Typography
The extrusion, rotation, tubing and other methods of creating three dimensionality out of two dimensional typographic forms was beautifully presented in Dimensional Typography by J Abbott Miller. As Miller writes,

We have interpreted historic and contemporary typefaces by transporting their two-dimensionality into volumetric and planar forms....The letters represented here are snapshots of "objects" constructed in three digital environments: each letter could be potentially "output" as a three-dimensional artifact from the information used to describe them digitally. However, their physical manifestation is not a final objective: their exact role in either physical or virtual environments was braketed off from their conceptual and formal development. (Dimensional Typography 8)

"Suspended on a Road from Here to There" looks to build upon this conceptual framework - using similar digital solutions - to realize the typographic letterforms in tangible terms and embed meaning in shape, material, color and spacial arrangement.