Några frågor till Cop Shiva, artist in residence

Av Konstepidemin

Cop Shiva (Bangalore, Indien) är gästkonstnär på Konstepidemin 3 april – 20 juni 2017 och även IASPIS stipendiat. Cop Shiva använder fotografi som verktyg i sitt konstnärliga arbete som ofta utforskar frågor kring identitet och roller i ett ruralt och urbant Indien. Under sin tid på Konstepidemin arbetar Cop Shiva med fotoprojektet “Spring is Warmer than the Sea” där utforskar mötet mellan nyanlända och vårens uttryck. Vi ställde några frågor till Cop:

Hello Cop, can you tell us a bit more about what you have been working on during you residency?
Yes, it has already been two months since I reached Gothenburg. It has been exciting days, discovering a new city, meeting interesting people and engaging with the arts community. I want to thank IASPIS and Konstepidemin for this opportunity that it proving very fruitful and enriching for my practice.

I have been working and researching in different areas, but one project in particular has taken a solid shape and becoming an interesting body of work. It hovers around the concept of Spring; the physical Spring as the beginning of a new year cycle, and the metaphysical concept of Spring in the lives of the refugees taking shelter in this country.

Photo: Cop Shiva

It’s not by chance that the recent political events in north Africa and the Middle East was called The Arab Spring. Refugees live in the hope of spring meaning new life; spring brings an opportunity to come out of darkness to a new light, with the hope of finding a new life, and wondering when spring will come to their lives and when their distress will be over.

My intention is to build a dialogue between the Spring in Sweden and the spring in the refugees lives through a series of portraits of refugees of any nation, shot in selected locations where spring season is more obvious. I have contacted several artist, individuals and NGOs, where I have introduced my previous work and my new project and I have already been able to shot several photographs with the subject matters.

Foto: Cop Shiva

Foto: Cop Shiva

What triggered you to explore this issue?
Since I reached Gothenburg, I’ve been mesmerized in the way spring is coming to life in a very progressive way, like a slow-motion blossom process. Where I come from, spring comes all of a sudden, like a burst of flowers overnight. I’m original­ly from a farming community in South India, and very conscious how the changes of seasons and the life cycle of plants influence the lives of my community. Indeed my community’s fate depends on the timing of spring.

I’m familiar also with the traditional progressive approach of Sweden regarding the refugees, and how the country has welcomed people in distress from every corner of the world during the years, offering them a ray of hope in their lives.

What reactions have you gotten from the participants in the project?
I must admit that the reaction of the participants has been 100% positive from the beginning. I was ready to face some kind of scepticism or shyness, but I have been met with an enthusiastic response from all the participants which has only encouraged me more to continue working in this project. There are participants from diverse origins such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or Eritrea, but all have the same excitement to be part of my project. They have been extremely generous to share with me their stories, expectations, dreams, and fears of their uncertain future. I must thank all the individual and organizations that have supported me in the process, and indeed the success of this project is greatly due to them.

How does the work relate to your previous artistic work?
In my practice I have been always very interested in document the complexity of migration and I have focus on people and portraiture as a genre. In one of my recent project, called “Street as Studio” I look into the rural migrant’s relationship with the city as a fragmented one. It’s a series of portraits of migrants against the backdrops of a series of paintings done by the municipality in public spaces to beautify the city landscape.

How have you experienced the residency at Konstepidemin so far?
It is being a wonderful experience, indeed Konstepidemin is a highly professionally run art institution, with a long experience in hosting artist in residency which makes the stay here very easy, and allows me to focus on developing a project. Being in the middle of such an inspiring place, surrounded by loads of creativity and professionalism is the right environment where I find myself I can work most comfortably.

Reaching a new country can bring lots of challenges and a culture shock. Yet Konstepidemin offers any artist the right breeding ground to boost creativity by means of allowing a soft-landing, a clear layout of what to expect from the organization, and the tools to work in a project in the most efficient way. And all that in the most charming environment, and with the support of most friendly and willing people.

After your stay at Konstepidemin you are going on a Studio Residency in Switzerland provided by Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council. You also have experience from working as the coordinator of the alternative art space and residency 1Shanthiroad in Bangalore. What do you think is important for a successful residency?

During the last 10 years, as coordinator of 1Shanthiroad I have had the opportunity to work closely with more than 200 international artists in residency. I have supported them during the development of their art projects, which has given me a strong background on an art residency grant the ins and outs.

I believe engaging with the local community is the name of the game. An artist working in a different country should engage with the local arts community and civil society as much as possible to make the residency meaningful and successful. It involves researching on local conditions and issues before reaching the country, a certain degree of flexibility and dynamism on the ground to deal with constrains, and the ability to incorporate all those new sensations into your own experience.

Also, as the length of an art residency is always time-limited, you must be able to put pressure on yourself and be able to conceptualize and work at the speed of light.

Thank you!