Please Don’t Disturb, I Am Wasting My Time
Ashish’s work for the Khoj residency was consolidated in three parts.
There was a video projection of his studio room, projected in the actual studio room, with a notice at the entrance that read “Do not Disturb, I’m wasting my time.” The projection is simple- hologram Ashish stands gazing at a blank studio wall, and turns around with a disgruntled expression every time someone parts the curtain to enter the studio or makes a loud noise. The rest of the studio was left empty, reflected in the video, creating a mirror room effect of white walls.
The people who walked into the residency were greeted by Ashish’s second piece at the entrance- a moving microphone. Ashish fitted a microphone with ultrasonic sensors that determined the movement of the mic by detecting the distance the people moving around were at.
He also advertised a “Time Wasting Machine” through posters and pamphlets, that evidently wastes time on the behalf of the user of this service. This machine is something Ashish hopes to develop over the course of his career.
All three of Ashish’s projects have an underlying strain of satire on an empty preoccupation, on time that is filled with activities that are in themselves meaningless and void, and he caricatures the people who indulge in the active wastage of their time. This wastage of time, in Ashish’s observation of the people who crowd the tea stalls and other places, is also a symptom of something greater; they create echo chambers of non-discussion, where a lot is said but very little holds any actual meaning. Ashish’s project therefore, is a take on the structures of discourse- political and otherwise, what informs it, and how it affects public spaces and their inhabitants. There is also an examination of the futility of action. Here, the gaze fixed on the wall and the turning around are repeated, and it creates an effect of stagnation and meaninglessness. The “Time Wasting Machine” is an ironic innovation. If the concept of a machine is founded on the means to an efficient and quick end, to saving time, here is a machine in sharp contradiction that is exclusively dedicated to wasting time, undercutting the whole purpose of its invention. Ashish also left his phone number on the pamphlets, which creates a link of direct access to the innovator. This adds credibility to the work, and also creates the space for an interesting social experiment.
The staccato movements of the mic serve as a commentary on the nature of political conversation that pervades both public and private spaces. Ashish has tweaked a device that has recurring relevance and presence, particularly in the domain of demagoguery. The mic is a humorous take on the peddling of political discourse, where people listen not to understand but to reply. It creates an atmosphere of urgency, where one has to constantly speak over others to be heard, and there are no conclusions and no retention of meaningful insights. It creates an exaggerated platform for people to indulge their armchair activism and glorified but empty conversations.
Ashish’s techniques however, seem to be derivatives of things he has worked with before. His work with sensors is essentially an extrapolation of projects he has already done, ideas he has already explored. It falls short because it doesn’t put to good use the space and privilege of a residency like PEERS, which provides the perfect opportunity to experiment with one’s projects and push the limits of artwork with nothing to lose.
The resulting effect was somehow not as impactful as the process initially promised. It could be due to the scattered set up, but the overarching effect was one of three disjuncted pieces that did not conglomerate as a coherent whole. There is no special value in coherence as opposed to a work that breaks coherence, but this particular project’s fragmented nature bordered dangerously on being unjustifiably entropic.
On the other hand, the use of humour makes Ashish’s work very accessible, and creates a well-balanced mix of critical engagement and light viewing. There is no attempt to forcibly intellectualize and theories the concepts and impulses in his work. As a result, there is no disjoint between what is intended and what is articulated. The work can explicate its own existence and intent without any external footnotes. It exists in itself as a complete unit of what it physically is as well as what it intends to do. There is negligible discrepancy between his work and his claim.
The minimalist studio set up also worked very neatly with the work that the space was used for. It allowed complete focus on his video projection, and drew the whole room into play with only that piece, right from the curtains at his door to the actual projection, tying everything together.