Any teen internet dweller who spent most of their hours scrolling through Tumblr reblogging melancholy love poems and grainy pictures with quotes slapped on top might be familiar, unknowingly, with India K’s work. In all of her mediums, India seeks to evoke a sense of reminiscent intimacy. Her banners, displaying blatantly candid sentiments hung in starkly public places, are a juxtaposition of sorts. The materialization of deeply personal sentiments prompts a communal exhale, a reassurance for the spectator that their feelings are shared. We talked to India about her journey, current music favorites, and the importance of strong female communities.
For those of us who are new to your work, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re involved in?
IK – My name is India K. I’m a multimedia artist working primarily in text based installations and photography. Much of my work deals with the central theme of vulnerability, but I also explore memory, remorse, and the female experience.
Tell us about your journey as an artist – what got you started, your undergrad work, and how your vision has developed since then.
IK – I was born a photographer. I never had the skills to draw or paint. They say every kid thinks they can draw, but even at age five, I knew I was terrible. But I had this insatiable need to create and to interpret and represent the world around me in some way. My first camera was a disposable camera my dad bought for me on a road trip when I was twelve and I immediately fell in love. Later in high school, he gave me an old Canon camera from the nineties and that was when I began photographing daily. I still use that camera today. I went into college knowing I wanted to pursue photography, but I came out of it much less devoted to one sole medium. I owe most of who I am today to my undergrad experience. I was given the freedom to explore and test and create without rules and without having to constantly explain myself or adhere to academic theories of aesthetics. It was during my undergrad that I first started making signs out of words I wrote. Initially this idea was about interrupting public space and documenting it through photo, but as I’ve grown and the practice has grown with me, it’s become a very personal project that is more about the way we share feelings, emotions and thoughts.
What themes do you explore with your banner work and why did you choose this medium?
IK – The medium of banners came to when I was struggling with a way to physically represent a specific feeling in my photos. I love the idea of putting very private thoughts or feelings that we may not typically share out into public space in a way that makes them impossible to ignore, hence, the banner. This touches on the theme of vulnerability and what it means to be vulnerable, which I see as a sign of strength and also as a powerful tool. Additionally, many of the things I write for the banners are intimate feelings and thoughts I have, but there is a universal quality to them that emerges when I put them out in the world. Many people feel the same emotions and have shared experiences, however we may not often speak about them publicly because we feel that we are alone. But being confronted with a banner that spells one of these sentiments out brings the conversation into the room, in a literal and abstract sense.
Your photos have a gorgeous sense of softness and solitude about them. Can you tell us a bit about your photography, what you prefer to shoot on, what subjects you’re drawn to, etc.?
IK – I touched on this above a bit, but I still use the same 35mm Canon SLR from the nineties that my dad gave me in high school. It’s probably worth about forty bucks at this point. My lenses change, but typically I stick to a 50mm. I love 35mm film and I love the lens because they both help to bring out the things that are important to me in my photographic practice, namely memory, time, and reminiscence. I want my photographs to feel and look like how we remember things – maybe a bit fuzzy, hazy, maybe like a dream. It’s not perfectly clear, we only remember snippets and not the full picture – I am fascinated by how we choose to remember things and what we choose to discard from our past. I’ll pretty much photograph anything – everything intrigues me because everything has the capacity to be precious to someone.
You’re based in Queens, NY — does living there influence your art in any way? What’s your favorite part about the city?
IK – I think it does influence me in that the community I’ve found here is really accepting and nurturing and I’ve been able to create and show work a lot. New York is expensive, but living in Queens allows me to spend a bit less and focus more on my art.
Describe your ideal workspace – what music is playing? What environmental factors optimize your creative process?
IK – I listen to a lot of music while I work, and it varies depending on my mood. Right now I have been listening to Sampha’s Process and the new Future Islands singles. Also Chanel by Frank Ocean is incredible. I think I may also be an anomaly in that I need my space to be somewhat tidy – there can be a lot of different things and a lot of physical stuff in the space itself, but if it’s messy or things are just all over the place, I feel like I can’t focus. Clutter drives me nuts. I’m always giving things away.
A good amount of your work can be found installed in female-focused spaces with powerful missions. What’s the importance of empowerment in your life and creation of art, especially in our current political climate?
IK – It is imperative that I have a strong female community, or I can’t create my work. I owe so much to other women I have met in the art world, I wouldn’t be where I am without them. Being white, I’ve already been afforded so much privilege, so the more I gain a platform for my own voice, the more I hope to pass it along to others to use as a platform as well. The funny thing that I notice the most is that it is mainly women who really makes these spaces and create opportunities for other women. Of course there are men in our communities who are supportive, and I have male friends who are strong and stand up for us – but mostly I am surrounded by women supporting other women. On one hand, that excites me. It’s exciting to be in a room and realize you are surrounded by other female identifying individuals who lift you up. On the other hand, I am frustrated at the lack of action from the majority of men in the various communities I inhabit. It’s not about just being a “good guy”, it’s about speaking up when you see a woman being undermined. It’s putting female bands on your bill. It’s making sure your shows have female artists. It’s taking it upon yourself to be inclusive because you have been afforded opportunities other people haven’t. And that goes for so many other demographics beyond women too.
What can we look forward to from you next?
IK – Currently, I’m working on an apparel line based off of my work, which will be launching soon. I’m also working on some larger scale, more complicated installations for a few upcoming shows around the country.