Rupi Dhillon is a British, Indian, (British Asian, Punjabi, and all things in between and beyond) multidisciplinary artist based in Birmingham, UK.
Dhillon explores the relationships and connections we have with one another and the land. Through her arts practice she investigates how multiplicity in culture is conducive to the concept of belonging and space. She is interested in facilitating discourse around race, gender and social class. Using playful techniques, her current work reimagines cultural experience through gestalt expression, participatory performance, shared practices, gifting and attachments in found objects.
She has both exhibited and completed residencies in the UK and has also been the recipient of the prestigious Gertrude Aston Bowater Bequest as well as the AIS Award more recently. Dhillon has both a BA Hons and MA in Fine Art. Dhillon currently works with contemporary art gallery IKON in Birmingham.
She is also interested in establishing further research into Cultural Dysphoria as a Philosophy.
An Encyclopaedia of Cultural Dysphoria, 2020
A collection of artworks, writings, theories and philosophies, 2020
The term dysphoria (from Greek: δύσφορος (dysphoros), δυσ-, difficult, and φέρειν, to bear) is a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction. In a psychiatric context, dysphoria may accompany depression, anxiety, or agitation. The term is often used to refer to gender dysphoria, experienced by people whose gender identity does not align with their assigned sex. Common reactions to dysphoria include emotional distress; in some cases, even physical distress. The opposite state of mind is known as euphoria.
Cultural Dysphoria could therefore be understood as the dissonance between the social expectations for an individual’s broad cultural performance or identity and their desired embodiment of that culture, or uncertainty about where they fit into cultural categories. Currently the only research into Cultural Dysphoria is a brief outline of general dissatisfaction with modern culture and the blog post by Ayesha Sharma. My research began with my own utter disdain for the patriarchal culture that exists in Punjab and India as well as the deep rooted colonialism associated with being British. Whilst there is still so much beauty within the Indian culture, much of its traditions leave me feeling very unsettled personally, through life experience – I reflexively write about mannerisms, identity, politics and the simplicities and complexities of multiplicity.
I designed the logo based on the lotus flower. One of the essays included in the book is “Lotus Flowers: University as Swamp, on becoming the Lotus”. I hope to expand this encyclopaedia with further volumes in the future hence the 2020 around the lotus this being the first issue written in the problematic year of 2020), borrowing the design aspect of leather and gold embossing from the Brittanica Encyclopaedias, the lotus floats on the cover as a reminder to always grow toward the light in all of life’s conditions, be it the institution, political system or through the systems of familial ties.
Nangal Khera, 2020
Sapele, Pine, Hemp Twine, Cotton Cord, Nostalgic Discourse, 2020 – Ongoing
Nangal Khera takes its name from the small village in Phagwara, Punjab, India. It is the place where I spent many of my formative years.
The piece consists of a Manjha, (which is also known as a Charpai translating into English as ‘four feet’) a traditional piece of furniture native to India. It is a woven bed, often constructed from wood, with most designs tending towards metal structures in contemporary society due to the cost of materials, the longevity and the time taken to manufacture. This particular Manjha was made during the spring/summer of 2020 during lockdown and later completed in August, 2020. It is constructed from timber found in a shed. The language of Utilitarianism is built into the very fabric of the object, it was made as both a reminder of home and as a space for people to share their memories and stories. The process of weaving the Manjha is a labour intensive one, the act itself is one of weaving histories, particularly in the face of the situation we have all endured this past year.
In the rural village communities in Punjab the Manjha is often a communal space, all important decisions are made around it, vegetables are dried on it, friends sit on it, and the tired sleep upon it.
The piece has now expanded beyond its original context, it has become a piece that travels, an object of social engagement, a place where people can have conversations about their pasts, about their connections to place.
It is a participatory object, it invites people to interact with it, to be comforted by it, to gift stories to one another, and to become an active listener through its passive facilitation.
So far conversations and interactions with the piece have ranged from memories of grandparents building their own Manjhas as far back as 20 years ago in Africa, as well as conversations around materiality and nostalgia for place. The piece has the ability to elicit memories to transcend histories.
Written with Frederick Hubble, whose shed gifted us the materials.
Cha Wali, 2019
Bike, artificial marigolds, statue of Guru Nanak, gold basket, hot drinks dispensers
Documentation – Digital prints, 2019
The concept of Cha Wali originates from typically male street vendors in India selling Cha (Indian tea) from bicycles. In seeing a lack of innovation in Subodh Gupta’s Three Cow’s, I felt compelled to embody in performance the role of a Cha Wala. The noun itself speaks for only males who take on this role. In the piece I wanted to not only subvert this role but to also activate spaces and conversations around cultural phenomena, specifically the act of sharing Cha with the public. The British made Pendleton bike combined with a DIY aesthetic, of silk marigolds, a statuette of Guru Nanak (ducked taped to the handle bars) is typical to the aesthetic of a Cha Wala on the streets of India, yet this performance also seeks to understand the concept of gifting as all cups of Cha were given for free. Documentation shows interactions with different demographics of the public, ranging from workers of the city, students from the art school, homeless, builders and some of which recognised and connected with the act.
The Anthropology of the Self, 2020
Single Channel HD Video, 2020
(Images below show, 3 channel potentiality)
The Anthropology of the Self is a bricolage/ assemblage (in the Deleuzian sense) of several performances and a collection of videos of various sites with prose to form one coherent piece of work. The title of the work emerged from an investigation into shame, politicising of the body and power structures, as my specific body – through the period of lockdown.
In times of societal precariousness, perhaps we can look back on these myths, in attempt to understand empathy, compassion and morality.Rupi Dhillon – The Anthropology of the Self, 2020
For more artworks and information please see www.rupidh.com