Interview with India K
An artist living and working in Ridgewood, Queens. She takes photos, builds installations, and writes words. exhibited in NY, LA, San Francisco, + most recently Taipei. She enjoys pizza, David Lynch films, tattoos, and visiting her dad in Florida.
Let's start with her career journey.
I went to a small college in Vermont where I studied art. I graduated, then moved to New York with friends shortly after. I started out working at American Apparel as a sales associate, and lived in what was essentially the closet accompanying my friends room in a railroad apartment. This apartment, I kid you not, had hairs painted into the walls. That's how much the people before us didn't want to clean the place ha. It wasn't ideal, but it also wasn't the worst. For me, the point was I was saving a lot of money, and that allowed me to keep making art.
I've lived here for four years now, and am lucky to have a strong community of people who are also artists, who support making work. I always made art a priority, put it before other things. Even if it never sees the light of day, I just keep creating and I think that has really allowed me to have a lot of different opportunities here.
The origin of this awesome mix of text and photography.
I'm a writer, and I wanted to find a way to bring that together with my photography. I was writing in a journal and thought about how nice the sentences were on their own as standalone thoughts. I had also been looking at work by artists like Robert Montgomery and Tracey Emin a lot, and it just kind of hit me to make my words into physical objects I could photograph. Initially, the project was about interrupting public space, about putting thoughts out into the world that many people might have but they might not always articulate them. But as the project has grown, it's become much more of an introspective, self portrait like endeavor from me. The phrases I write are very personal, but people react and get invested in them, so they have this universal quality to them. I've always thought that's really cool. Kind of like validating the "you aren't alone" sentiment. I write these things alone in my room and then put them out there on the internet, where they have a whole new life.
Do you think the perfect career exist for everyone?
I don't, because the current system that automatically assumes success looks like a 9-5 with a salary is hurtful to people who don't want that but who think there are no other options. When the idea of a "career" advances to include a more diverse range of lifestyles and our society can be supportive of those different lifestyles vocationally and politically, I might say yes.
What are the skills from school that have been the most useful?
I went to Bennington College, where I had a very non-traditional educational experience. It's really benefitted me. By non-traditional I mean we weren't expected to pick a major, focus, concentration, whatever you want to call it. Instead, you craft a plan of education for yourself based off of the classes you are taking, the things that interest you, the things you are passionate about. It may sound ridiculous to a lot of people but I think that's a huge shame, considering expecting someone under the age of 25 to pick one thing to focus on when college should be a time for exploration and self discovery is ridiculous. I was always encouraged to take classes outside of my comfort zone, to try something new, to do what I like but also reach beyond that.
A huge amount of who I am now is due to Bennington. I learned to be independent, to make decisions, which in turn gave me confidence because I felt trusted by my professors and mentors to make those decisions. I found what I like to do and what I don't like to do. It taught me entrepreneurial skills. It taught me about feminism, what it means to be a feminist. I took my first photo class there. I read some of my favorite books there. I met amazing teachers who are still mentors to me today.
If there is one thing I could take from Bennington and give to anyone reading this, it would be don't think you need to stick to one thing because that's "your thing" or "what you studied". If you work hard, make good work, support others and take care of the positive relationships in your life, you give yourself the liberty to make anything.
How do you figure out what your next installation is going to be?
It always starts with writing. I write a lot; about my day, my thoughts, what I ate, what I texted someone, who I've kissed, slept with, hated, feared, dreams I have, letters I want to send. Most of the phrases come from places like that. Sometimes, I'm on the train and I think of one and write it down in my phone. When I pick a phrase I like, I sit down and refine it for an hour or so. Just rewriting, trying new words, new arrangements. Like, some words are prettier than others when you see them out and about. The other day I was making a sign that had the word "world" in it and I didn't love that word visually, so I switched it to "universe". Universe is a very beautiful word, I think.
In the next five years...
I would like to make different kinds of signs and more involved installations with much more going on in them; incorporating my photos, objects, creating entire rooms or environments. Evolve the story around the sentence.
For me, I want to put myself in a position that allows me to empower other female identifying artists. I want to keep encouraging other artists, support them, be active and vocal in my support of the arts and other causes. I think that's something I have not done enough of yet and I want to work on it.
What's the first thing you think of when you meet the word "purpose"?
Determination. You know you've found your purpose when you can't shake a feeling of determination. It probably keeps you up at night, yet also makes you happy... you can't shake it. Purpose is persistent.
You can find more of India K on her site: http://www.india-k.com/.
This story was first published in Issue 4: Purpose.