Interview with the participating artists: Minam Apang

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E-mail interviews were conducted with the ten artists featured in the exhibition Home Again—10 Artists Who Have Experienced Japan.

Minam Apang did her residence in 2009. In her work, she creates a fantasy world guided by her unconscious and by chance.

These interviews were conducted by Arts Initiative Tokyo (AIT).

MINAM APANG India, b. 1980 Based in Goa, India, Apang graduated with a Master’s degree from the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. In small, yet highly detailed drawings, she uses paper and thread to create a fantastical world guided by her unconscious mind and chance. Her drawings are based on stories passed down orally by her tribe in northeastern India where she was born. In them, meaning and emotion are expressed in different ways through the weaving together of letters, signs and silhouettes.

Q1: Your works have a close connection to the myths and folk stories of your homeland. Why is this so important to you? Is it something like a dream landscape for you?

I first turned to the myths from my region because those stories offered me a connection back to my own history and relationship with ‘home’. Creation stories offered imaginative, pre-scientific ways of understanding our relationship with our natural environment. The flexible, non-logical structure of these stories accommodated my own complicated relationship with home, and yes, to that extent the fluid, imaginative space of myth offered me an expressive dream landscape to explore.

Q2: The Tokyo works reference Japanese episodes and things, like Hachiko. Are you writing new stories through these works? Mixing together different myths?

While I was in Japan I was interested in exploring the world of the dead and our relationship with it. In my work, Hachiko stands on a peak (a motif I have explored before and keep returning to), at the beginning of a bridge, acting as a portal of sorts, between the past and the present. I don’t see myself writing new stories as much as occupying stories that are already in currency; I (re)claim these stories and explore further ideas by retelling them in my own language.

Q3: How do you pick myths that you use in your works? Are they often related to life and death, or specific to where you originally from?

I have not worked exclusively with stories from Arunachal alone. In my earlier works I choose to work with creation/origin myths because I was interested in the impulse of creation. Subsequently I was drawn to stories about journeys and transformation because that is where I was in my practice. I have also been interested in stories about life and death because of the closely interchangeable/cyclical relationship they share in the mythic space. Sometimes looking at death, instead of life, ghosts instead of the tangible here and now, can be conversely life-affirming – it is a way of looking at the reverse side of things to understand what is before us. Q4: Do you think that traditional myths and stories today are being slowly forgotten? Is your work a way to try to remember something? When I first began working with traditional myths there was the sense that these stories are being forgotten as we do not have a written script in Adi. It has been a process of remembering and re-imagining these stories because these narratives themselves are a kind of trace from another time and a pre-scientific perception of the world we live in. I am interested in having an open practice where history, fiction, drawing and the imagination can come together to become something entirely unexpected.

Q5: What are the new works you will be showing at Hara?

The new works being shown here are a selection from my solo exhibition titled, Death in a Rainforest, 2011. While much of my previous works have drawn closely on re-imagining creation myths these works frame my meditations on the act of drawing itself. With this body of works, I was more interested in engaging with the form and structure of those narratives and how these structures play on the role of perception. I see them, not as exact copies but imaginative versions of the original. The original form of a stick takes a fictional shape in this series as they turn into tree trunks and animal forms. The symmetry is a reference to mirroring: the idea of mirror as self-reflection, mirrored selves/reality – plays an important part in these works.