Tag Archives: Culture

Hetain Patel: ‘Honesty in work really appeals to me’

15 Oct

Hetain Patel took time out of his busy tour to talk to me about his influences as an artist and the inspiration behind his performance TEN.

For those who are unaware of your work, could you tell us a bit about your background?

Well, I’m a visual artist based in Nottingham. For the past 6 years I’ve been producing photography, video and live works, all shown in art galleries nationally and internationally. All the work takes a personal perspective to British and Indian identities as a starting point and then evolves to ask wider questions about language and identity in general. Also, in most of my work I use my own body as the site for these investigations. TEN is my first piece for theatre.

How did you become interested in photography and art? What made you choose to study Fine Art at university?

I’ve been interested in different forms of art all my life. I’ve always been good at drawing and trained in making photorealistic oil paintings during my A-levels. Then, as I took a natural progression into an Art Foundation course and a Fine Art degree, the scope of what art could be got wider and wider. Photography started as a way to document the more sculptural works I was making at uni then I got seduced by the visual quality of the medium itself.

Who or what would you say your main influences are?

There are so many from different places; Visual artists including Bruce Nauman, Bill Viola, to Ron Mueck, composers include Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, choreographers such as Jonathan Burrows, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Akram Khan and aesthetics from slick American music videos. Physically, I’m really taken with martial arts from the personality of Bruce Lee to the movement of Shaolin Monks. Also, much more mainstream elements from comedy like The Office, In-betweeners and older stuff from Eddie Murphy. Honesty in work really appeals to me.

What was the inspiration behind TEN?

It was a few things coming together:

It started as an experiment to make one of my video pieces into a live work. In the video I perform 4 parts myself (aided through video editing), whereas the performance asks what it means to ask somebody else to be you.

Secondly, it became an outlet to experiment with an aspect of my practice which hasn’t had a creative voice yet: writing. I loved writing this piece.

Also, I really wanted to share with an audience all the wonderful things I was getting from learning Indian Classical rhythm through my tabla drumming lessons.

The challenge with this last element, however, is that when I present Indian elements in my work it often puts up an exotic barrier. There are a lot of assumptions made about the authority I might have over these Indian elements or that I have a natural connection to them. One of the main purposes of TEN is to challenge this idea. Continue reading

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Review: Hetain Patel’s TEN

15 Oct

It’s hard to define TEN, by Hetain Patel. It’s not a play and to call it a monologue would unjustly discredit the role of the two drummers, Mark and Dave. A performance might be getting warmer but that doesn’t seem to account for the element of honest- and at times seemingly spontaneous- dialogue that Patel uses. Nor does it give credit to Patel’s ease on stage, his tales of memories from childhood and the questions he asks without the need for immediate answers. Then again, you get the impression Patel doesn’t search to apply such a neat definition to this piece. Much like the red turmeric powder (Kanku), thrown by the fistful in the air during the performance, TEN is just as free and symbolic and very much a mirror on our cultural identity as it is on Patel’s.

There is no real beginning to TEN, just a casual slip into a conversation from Patel, as if we are rediscovered friends in need to hear his story. The most central theme comes from Patel’s discoveries from learning about Indian classical music and how he uses these lessons in his search to feel more of a connection to his culture. Through physical demonstrations from the trio, Hetain, Mark and Dave, we are shown the nature of a ten beat rhythm cycle. The rhythm is off beat, seemingly with no beginning or end. The concept of cycles is key to the performance and we are given the impression that even Patel’s cultural journey follows the same cyclical nature of the ten beat rhythm; his mother tongue being Gujarati, his adolescent shift towards English culture and then eventually coming back to rediscovering his Indian roots some years later. Patel’s exploration paves the way to much wider and deeper themes, such as what it means to be Indian and where our origins and sense of identity truly come from. Continue reading