From multi-colored metallic party signs and installations, to dreamy 35mm photographs, New York-based artist India K seems to do it all.
We talked a lot about how she expresses herself differently in different mediums, what it’s like to share your work online, and caring for your creativity.
How did you first begin sharing your artwork? How do you think your ideas have developed since then?
I first starting sharing artwork on Tumblr actually, that was really where I started to get the feedback loop that I think artists fall into when they start putting work on the internet. I’ve been thinking about how it is kind of dangerous be in that place, where you always have instantaneous feedback. It’s challenging as an artist because you don’t really have time to live with something if you put it out there.
In college, being in critiques and classes, that was an amazing thing I got to do because it was nice to have a community where I could discuss my work and get feedback. The internet feels like that, but on a much larger scale.
“I think generally [think sharing my work on the internet] is a good thing because it has allowed me to create this online community where I feel really taken care of and very safe there.”
I think generally [sharing my work on the internet] is a good thing because it has allowed me to create this online community where I feel really taken care of and very safe. It’s hard for me sometimes to not think about work as what it’s going to look on the internet and just kinda making something for the sake of making something, not just because I can imagine it being online afterwards.
It’s kinda funny, you don’t really get the opportunity to take a break from other people’s thoughts.
Yeah, I think that’s why I’ll just make things that I never actually put online, because I want there to be things that are just personal or only mine, or I make my friends signs, like for a friend’s wedding. In the end, it’s really something I want to be more of an exercise for myself and try out different things. I don’t want to always have to share everything that I make.
You mentioned you want to focus on your photography more. Do you think there’s a relationship between your photography and your banners?
That’s something I think about a lot and I always wonder if there needs to be a relationship. Coming from a more academic world, having learned to create art in a school setting it can feel really necessary to marry your whole body work and have this cohesive thesis statement. But I think that more I make work and the more I meet other artists, the more I find that unnecessary and not as important to the art making process. In the end, everyone is going to take what they want from your work and it’s not so much about the intent you created it with, but really how it affects other people when they are looking at it. I don’t know if they really make sense to together or if they need to live together.
“I like that when I look at a photo it’s like this one specific moment, and it’s the moment that no longer exists, but you can really feel it in that photo.”
One thing I do think about a lot when I make my work, is how I really love photography because—I mean there are so many different functions for photography, this is just one of them—but I like that when I look at a photo it’s this one specific moment. It’s this moment that no longer exists, but you can really feel it in that photo. That’s why I use 35mm, really soft focus, and 50mm lenses, because I love that kind of dreamy quality it [creates]. That feels like what the memory feels like to me, more than a perfectly polished digital photo. I like that they feel like little moments in time, and then the banners that I make feel similarly in that way. It’s just like this one thought that I had randomly one day and now it’s preserved forever in this party sign I made.
Yeah, it feels like there’s so much pressure to make things fit in your “personal brand”. But really as a multi-faceted creative person you can make all sorts of shit.
Yeah, you can kinda do whatever you want. As long as you’re making stuff.
Do you have different ideas that you channel in your photography vs your banners?
It’s funny because for the banners, the way I make them is, I’m usually sitting on the subway and then I have this thought and I’m like that’s really weird, I should make that into a banner. Or I’m listening to a song and use a song lyric and [then I make] an actual party sign, but if it’s an original thing I wrote, then it’s a black text, script one.
They are really random and they come to me quickly, in bursts. I don’t really have a method to how I use them, but I wanted to do them because I love writing and I sometimes I feel like more of a writer than an artist. But then I think, why does there really have to be a difference? I could just put writing in my work. But I always found that difficult because I’ve always loved photography, but I didn’t see an easy way to marry photography and writing because it can be really difficult to not make it read as just a caption to the photo. That’s not what I wanted, so I thought making these photos and banners was a way to bring photography and writing together.
“I love writing and I sometimes I feel like more of a writer than an artist. But then I think, why does there really have to be a difference? I could just put writing in my work.”
What does it feel like when you’re switching between photography and creating banners?
I think the moments in which I most feel like I’m switching gears or switching projects, usually happens when I’m just alone and thinking. I try to carve out time to be on my own, because I’m a really outgoing person and I kinda crave being around other people to get my energy because I’m so extroverted. I think it’s really important for me to sit alone. Those are the moments when I can really think of new ideas and get excited about [them]. If I think of an idea on the subway, I’ll get out my notepad and write down every sentence. I think that’s the best way for me to switch things up and get out of my head. It also comes back to how the internet is this continuous feedback loop and it can be really easy to go there to get inspiration for new things, but in the end I’m always happier when it’s something I’ve come up with just sitting on my own.
You were talking about your banners interrupting physical spaces. I was wondering if you see your photography in a similar way, or have a different goal with that?
I think the banners used to about that, because I was in undergrad and I was doing a lot of installation work on campus at my college. I went home to San Francisco for a part of a semester and did a bunch of installations there and I really liked that idea of disrupting space.
I used to write the signs as talking to people like “your” or “you’re”, but I switched gears after college and decided to make it a first person narrative, and make them about things I think or I say, because I felt weird putting these signs in public spaces and telling people things they might not actually believe about themselves. That [idea] actually came from a professor I had in college who thought I was trying to make work that was very big general ideas, and she was like, “I think you should make work about yourself first, and that will bring out things you think are important in the world.” She was totally right; that was the best advice I’ve ever received.
The banners became kind of an introspective personal project for me over the last few years, so now it’s more about creating this specific moment where I can hang them and this one moment, in this place in time. Whether that’s a show, my room, or a friend’s room, and then capturing that moment and the feeling that words kind of have around them and having that be the final piece, and not so much the public portion of it. I did really like that idea [back] then, that jolt you get when you see a piece that’s in public and it kind of confronts you in this public space. I’ve never really tried that or thought about with photography, but I think it’s an interesting idea.
Usually for photography I try to take my pictures as surreptitiously as possible. Because I like moments where people maybe don’t know they are getting their photo taken, or I like how my friends look when they are just relaxed or sitting around. Most of my photography is super in the moment and random. I just take a picture whenever I feel like it. I don’t think I’ve ever posed someone for a portrait, really.
We first heard about you when you did Girls at Night on the Internet with Grace Miceli, and we were super into that because there was an artist we knew from Dallas that was there and people like you whose work we were seeing for the first time, so that was kind of a cool place where that community came together. What do creative communities feel like to you?
I think that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It was so awesome to see everyone come together in a physical space, because I think for me, my artistic community here in New York is really strong, and I owe a big part of it to the internet. It coming from the internet and becoming this in person connection, was really cool. Any place where I feel like I can have an honest discussion about work and we can give each other support, not only “can you help with this project”, but just be supportive.
“I want someone who’s honest with me who can really tell me what they think about my work and I can do the same for them. That’s what a really strong creative community is to me.”
I want someone who’s honest with me, who can really tell me what they think about my work and I can do the same for them. That’s what a really strong creative community is to me. I was lucky to have one in college and really lucky to have one here in New York now. I do think the internet is a really great place to find those spaces. I don’t know what I would do without a lot of the artists I found through Instagram and people I’m able to talk to there and get inspiration from there. It’s crazy how I can open Instagram and feel so a part of the community there. That’s something that’s really fueled me during my work. Especially because New York, despite being huge, can feel really lonely.
Do you have any favorite people to work with?
Well I do love Grace, we actually didn’t meet on the internet, we met because we both worked at American Apparel. It’s funny because it feels like I’m a part of this internet group, but I wasn’t even really on the internet. I didn’t even have a smart phone when I moved to New York; I had a flip phone. It’s funny that now it’s my main place that I get inspiration for.
Do you have particular things you look for in collaborators or creative friendships?
I think this is the year that I really want to be smarter about who I collaborate with and who I work with and what I do, especially when it comes to politics and being politically active right now. So just seeking out people who draw out that side of me, who force me to confront things like that and force me to ask difficult questions, especially coming from the fact that I am from a middle class and I’m white and have privilege surrounding that. I’m just looking for people who are going to challenge me on that and challenge me to make work that is important and helpful to other communities that need help right now.
You posed recently on Instagram about how you feel better about yourself lately than you have for a long time. It was really meaningful to us because we’ve been working really hard to get right with myself, start a new project from a good mental place etc. What was that journey like for you? What advice would you give in terms of caring for yourself?
I think for me it’s been making sure no matter what, I find time for doing things that make me feel good. In the end it always comes down to you, and you always have to be your best self to make any of that work. I always make sure I make time to stretch in the morning and do little things like that, even if it’s just five minutes. And then maybe this is a little dark, but I think just being smart about the people you put around you and spend time with. 2016 was a year that I was finally really tough about relationships in my life. When you take a really good look at the different relationships in your life it can be difficult to come to terms with that about certain people, but I think so much of who we are is who we surround ourselves with. Taking a good hard look at your relationships can be one of the best things for people. And spending time with the people who are important to you, seeking them out and asking them questions and just being around them. I think that’s been a big part of it.