Tag Archives: Selina Nwulu

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

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

The White Tent

12 Oct

I took this entry from a blog I used to write when I was living abroad on a French speaking island near Madagascar, called La Réunion. My time in La Réunion was well and truly one of the most interesting yet sometimes frustrating experiences I have ever had. The mix of French and Creole culture is both beautiful and fascinating but can sometimes be a source of contention. Many of my blog entries are just generic ramblings about life away from home but I found one experience particularly interesting. I wanted to include this entry here because I think the issues it raises are symptomatic of the underlying issues that still exist on the island.

So anyone who has had a conversation with me lately will know how disappointed I am by the fact that I don’t really know many Réunnionnais people here. I know a few French people but most of the friends that I spend time with are foreign. While I realise this could seem closed and small-minded on my part, this is really not from want of trying. The proof? The visual art exhibition I found myself at yesterday night. A visual and interactive exhibition called “La Théorie d’Antoine- Extension” which meant that I had to leave my bag outside and step into what can only be described as a room made out of sheet, kind of like a white rectangular tent.

Inside were four dancers, all dressed in white, and a chair in which they pushed me around and swung my legs. Through the course of this experimental session the four of them proceeded to carry me sky high, each dancer taking a limb and turning me clockwise like a twirling star in the sky. Afterwards I was led to a makeshift door, again made of cloth, with just a hand sticking out. Feeling very Alice in Wonderland-esqe, I took the hand and was led into a dark room where I was taken through the same procedure, only now in sheer darkness. As this finished, I was led back out into the terrace to view the rest of the exhibition. The whole concept focused on the role of choreography and how each new person who entered the tent played a role in this dance sequence without actually doing anything.

The exhibition, however interesting, was overshadowed by something else; I was there, surrounded by seemingly interesting people, but I had never felt so invisible. I purposely came by myself with an open mind and the intention to meet new people, but I didn’t talk to anyone. I’ve never silently pleaded anyone to talk to me like I did that night (even the scruffy guy, walking barefoot with  his shirt barely buttoned, I would have gladly talked to) If I had been rocking back and forth in the corner mumbling to myself, I’d have understood the reluctance to engage. But I’d like to think that I’m a fairly sociable creature Continue reading

Film Review: All White in Barking

12 Oct

Director and writer, Marc Issacs, explores the growing levels of contention for the increase of immigrants in Britain. Using Barking, a town with one of the highest levels of immigration and a large BNP following, as his location, Issacs explores the multifaceted attitudes surrounding race and immigration in 21st century Britain.

Issacs portrays his characters with startling honesty and originality. Far from the stock BNP fanatics we have become accustomed to seeing in the media, Issacs’ approach is far more clever than that. His subjects are engaging people dealing with the same issues and living the same lives as everybody else. We are presented with three-dimensional, and sometimes contradictory, characters such as the Dave, a BNP activist, with a mixed race grandson who he openly shows love and affection for. Or Sue, who despite her prejudices (which are later challenged) against ‘Africans’, instantly becomes more accessible when mourns over the grave of her son. Through this, we are able to glimpse at the complexity of human nature and the unfounded roots of people’s pre-conceptions.

Issacs explores the concept of ‘otherness’ and the ambiguous and blurry grey lines in which people’s prejudices lie. Dave will happily defend the Italian residents in the area whilst airing unfounded suspicion over the unsuspecting ‘African’ lady passing by on the street. Sue has no qualms about her white Albanian neighbours whilst bringing out tired stereotypical clichés about African culture and her Nigerian neighbours.

What is clear is that these characters are not fundamentally racist, but their attitudes are based on fear of the ‘other’ and an anxiety that a different way of life will somehow dilute their own. Continue reading