Deepanjan Mukhopadhyay works photographically and sculpturally, investigating post-colonialism and its shift into neo-colonialism while still reflecting on the very mediums of representation that he uses. Deepanjan is originally from Kolkata, India, and is pursuing his MFA in photography from University of Georgia. He graduated with a BFA in photography and a secondary concentration in painting from Louisiana Tech University in 2015. Deepanjan’s images have been published in Aperture, Burnaway, The Huffington Post, and PDN Magazine. He has also received honors for his work from 2015 PDN Photo Annual, Associated Press Media Editors of Louisiana-Mississippi, Society of Professional Journalists, and at the Southeast Journalism Conference. His work has been exhibited in India, Canada, and the United States.
Pre/Post/Eros is a body of work exploring and the shifting meanings within the conditions of post-colonialism and its evolution into neo-colonialism. As a non-resident alien in the United States, and originally from formerly colonized India, my hybrid identity oscillates within the cultures I explore. My materials include physical and image sources such as readymades, scans, computer generated product images, declassified army documents, educational documentary films, and stock photography- all fluid signifiers of history and culture. There is a resonance within the structures of aesthetics, epistemology, and politics situated within the post-colonial cultural production. As text becomes a compilation of quotations, art becomes appropriated, assembled, and collaged. Reproduction technology such as photography and video successfully problematizes the notions of representation, as introspection of subjectivity, and reflections on the medium become aligned.
Hey Deepanjan, it was great to review your work at this years ACP portfolio reviews. Please tell our audience a little about yourself? I feel that your heritage and life experiences thus far most certainly influence the work you make today.
I started pursuing photography seriously in 2011 while I was in Kolkata, India. Initially I was attracted to the documentary mode of photography, especially the one rooted in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ideas of the decisive moment. Most of the work coming out of India at that time was following those tracks as well. But I knew I wanted to explore the medium further and in a more holistic fashion than what India’s small journalistic and technical programs had to offer. So I applied to universities in the United States and came here in 2012. Up until 2015 I was still attached to journalistic publications but by the end of 2014 my personal work in photography had drifted into fiction. I was painting a lot at that time, and I was also influenced by films- especially Andrei Tarkovsky’s work.
You asked about my life as a non-resident alien. My current work Pre/Post/Eros may have something to do with the inability to define myself properly. Non-resident alien is just one of those terms that tries and generates an incomplete characterization. Thinking about this weird, shifting, oscillating, hybrid idea of people like myself who have been dispersed in space and time led me to working with photography the way I do now. The work is caught between past and present, image and object, reality and the virtual. Some of the content of the work arises out of my disillusionment with the ideas of authenticity related to the journalistic and/or documentary use of the medium.
You are currently in your second year of graduate school at UGA (It’s a three year program for those who don’t know), GO DOGS! Tell me about your time in the program there so far, and then maybe comment on the culture shock that must of been dumped upon you like a giant keg stand, and how you have been dealing with these new experiences. Perhaps a memorable time at a homecoming game or even a night out on the town with SHAWN CAMPBELL!
I am often asked about culture shock. Well it didn’t happen. I came to the US in 2012 and was going to school in Louisiana. Before that, most of how America mediates itself globally was already present in India when I was growing up. Our news media would subscribe to content from the Associated Press, we would be reading Hemingway in our literature classes, our televisions would play Hollywood and MTV, we had KFC, we would play Grand Theft Auto on our computers, and we listen to a lot of American music. The Internet brought all of America to us. However, we were often behind on the latest trends. We would be listening to older music and watching older TV shows. That gap in time has now disappeared. There were and are still complexities to the experience. The English I spoke and wrote fluently was different from the English around me. I thought biscuits were crackers. I couldn’t at that time, and I still hardly can, tell the difference between a Georgian and a Louisianan accent. I had never ordered food at a drive-through before.
Explain your intentions and the content behind the installation shot of the movie projector.
J. Michael Hagopian was a Britisher who went to India as a professor of Foreign Studies. In 1955, (this is a few years after independence) while teaching at the Benares Hindu University, he made a documentary film about the changing socio-economics of India called “Mooti…Child of New India”. In the installation, that 16mm film is being played on a projector. Directly in front of the projector’s lens is a CCTV camera that is linked to a CRT television. Since none of the frame-rates match between the devices, the image on the television screen is disrupted. Also, the shadow of the CCTV camera falls on the projection. The intention was again to disrupt this historical representation of the colonized subject, but also being aware of how difficult it is for me to create a representation of the contemporary Indian like myself.
Kolkata 71, 2015 Digital video, 1hr 26min Variable
The image of the two flat bed scanners with the National Geographic issue placed in between. What was your idea behind this? (I remember you saying something about the issue is was about an anniversary of India’s independence from Great Britain but not many viewers will be able to see this.)
The National Geographic sandwiched between the two scanners in the image is the May 1997 issue. This issue featured an article about the fiftieth anniversary of India’s independence from the British rule. Post-independence, the Othering of India continued in a more mitigated and sleek fashion through documentary photography. The color of India was and perhaps still is the color of Kodachrome.
Your work includes multiple mediums, from readymades to stock photography, computer generated product images, declassified army documents and also videography, etc. All in some facet used to comment on post-colonialism and its evolution into neo-colonialism (pulled from your artist statement). If you could explain these conceptual ideas further, why you chose to use each medium and how it expresses your ideas.
Initially Pre/Post/Eros was strictly photographic. The attempt was to work both with and about photography. Again, film was an inspiration in the form of Jean-Luc Godard’s self-reflexivity. I was also looking at Christopher Williams who was doing the same thing with photography in the 70s. I was photographing objects in constructed scenes, and was interested not only in the resulting image, but also the resulting photographic print as an object. The hybridity of the resulting forms felt suitable to for concepts relating to post-coloniality. Over time, the concepts required me to realize them sculpturally in space and also make them take different forms other than photographic prints.
When speaking or writing about my work, I use the words post-colonialism and neo-colonialism instead of simpler globalization because I believe globalization is a sterile term. It is a term that connotes a spontaneous and entropic development of the human civilization and helps the agents of certain socio-political changes disavow their responsibilities. I feel the experiences of migrant populations (immigrants, refugees, and others) are similar to experiences of colonized peoples. As a formerly colonized state, India is a post-colonial nation. India is also now a colonizer if we think about the involvement of certain Indian private corporations in Africa. India is just an example here- an example that I can relate most to. In all cases there is a dislocation of either power or person or both over space and/or time. Consequently there is also a shift in meaning of colonizer and the colonized. With my work I attempt to perhaps interrupt, resist, and problematize the cultural and historical efforts to define the colonizer and the colonized. The work deals with the ideas of domination through representation, and the questions of who has the means to produce such representation, and then who has the means to use and distribute them. It also investigates the channels of such dissemination. What are the economics and labor associated with production of such materials, including production of my work? What are the tools we/I use and where do we/I work? I am interested in the futility / failures/ fallacy because these are the points of weakness that help me interrupt structures that attempt to rule.
Broadly speaking, I work with ready-mades, whether I am working photographically (the stock image or the stock footage) or sculpturally (the tools, the objects associated with imaging technology). So appropriation and collage play an important part in my work. I am also interested in how the documentation of my work is mediated in print and on screen, and how that further problematizes the perceptions of work and its representations.
Tell me what you did this past summer. I know its something you must want to share.
This past summer I spent some time in New York as part of UGA’s Maymester program. We were visiting galleries and museums, and also meeting with artists and curators. Then I was back home in India for a few weeks and the most exciting part of the trip apart from the food was trekking to the base camp of Mt. Deo Tibba in the Western Himalayas. Being in the mountains was something I really missed and it was so refreshing to spend time in the wilderness.
Child of New India, 2016, 16mm sound projector, 16mm film, CCTV camera, tripods, cable, CRT television, fabric
To view more of Deepanjan’s work please visit his website.