The Artist as a Rig

Pix by Sahar Z

Art for me works on a principle of extraction, let's call it the Penetratus Principle. The artist to me is like a drilling rig with a very, very long proboscis. He swings this proboscis like a giant lasso and attaches himself to the ground or the ether that envelopes us all. These mediums become for him photo-sensitive experience-catchers. The world for him becomes a huge and layered amber in which is trapped millennia of drama.

Like a paleontologist the artist drills into this amber for things felt and things lived out long ago and far away.

I think any material has the capacity to become an amber trap. The artist-rig can extract ‘oil’ from any material. Extract and bring it to the surface. Of his canvas or whatever spatial grid his works inhabit.

Me at work on Takato Saita’s Viel Vergnügen (Much Enjoyment)
FluXuS exhibition, NGMA, New Delhi
On till June 2, 2008

So what gives the artist this deep drilling advantage?

I think it is largely a gift. A gift that lies in sort of diviner’s talent for knowing where to dig and how deep. And in becoming a human rig.

A lot of times people assume that art is an easy gift. And that it flows seamlessly through the hands of the artist. But in my humble experience there is nothing easy or pat about this gift.

The gift as I see it is in the kick of energy that is at the artist’s disposal… but he has to constantly keep spending this kick... keep doing stuff, creating ex nihilo something (new) out of nothing (new). Pushing the envelope. Transgressing. Enlarging our understanding of the creator/cosmic order.

It’s not as if the artist plans these things or enumerates his method, saying I will now do this or that to this end or that.


Like any other gift extraction also is a double-edged sword. The drilling, at different points in the amber of time and space, gives the artist a sense of dislocated awareness. A feeling (very strong) of constantly walking through a string of studio sets. Of being alive in different realities simultaneously. Of realising that they exist.

The rig can be an exhilarating place. It can also be demanding (of your time, attention and participation). It’s almost always delusional, in the sense that it dissolves the ground beneath your feet and gives you a fluid perch. It makes you feel as if you’re walking on a water bed. On another extreme it can leave you bruised blue and despairing for no apparent reason.


  1. this reminds me of Jurassic Park... extracting dino DNA from amber


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