Dialogue feature

Dialogue 35 | Reishabh Kailey

Hi Reishabh! Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for us!

So, take us back to the beginning…

I was born in the capital of India, New Delhi. Growing up in the very urban capital, I was surrounded by excessive amounts of both: toxic air and toxic masculinity. So, I left the city at the age of 17, escaping as soon as I could to do my Bachelors in another metropolitan, Pune. Apart from a few financial troubles arising from our self-indulging natures, my upbringing and family life was a pretty normal one.

That brings me to my next question, what was your educational background like?

I have a Bachelors in Communication Design, and a Masters in New Media Design with a minor in Visual Culture, Curation and Contemporary art.

So, you completed your education in Pune?

I only did my Bachelors from Pune. After completing my graduation, I moved to Mumbai and worked for 5 years there. In 2017, I moved to Finland for my Masters. 

How did you end up in Helsinki?

I’m a graphic designer and as I got my feet wet in this field, I started exploring my options and decided to change the scenery and make the move to Helsinki for my Masters in New Media Design in 2017.

Was entering the art world a planned move or did it just happen?

I had previously exhibited my works in Mumbai but I got seriously involved in the art world after coming to Finland. 

It is not an easy field to integrate…

Yes, in fact, art wasn’t really a viable career option for me as I was clueless about how artists make money or if they make money at all.

I suppose that’s a very pressing doubt for most of us in this sphere. How did you manage?

I’d almost resigned to the fact that I’d have to do everything on my own and that art would remain as something part time to my primary career in design.

It is particularly difficult when there’s so much information out there but also, there are discrepancies in communicating it.

What changed your opinion? How did you go about it? 

My outlook changed after moving to Finland when I came in contact with people who shared similar interests in arts. They played a vital role in opening up my world to see the many options available. I consider myself lucky to be a part of a well-funded art program, which enabled me to explore more freely. In addition to my masters in New Media Design, I also ended up doing a minor in Contemporary Art.

How did you start exhibiting in Finland? Was it all by yourself or did you have a backing?

MediaLab and the immigrant artist community was my support and backing more than anything else. The year 2019, my final year of my masters, was a blur of projects. By the end of that year, I had already participated in 4 exhibitions and produced a series of eleven process films for my masters thesis.

That is when you set your mark…

This is officially when I was convinced that I was a part of the art world and wanted to be in it.

Your art is indeed interesting and fairly novel. Explain to us the nits and grits of it…

Well, I am a multidisciplinary artist and I use a variety of techniques; but coming from my background in graphic design, I find my comfort in using digital tools. My work is based on the idea of collage – assemblages, layering and mixing of materials, images, text, mediums.

Are there any other mediums or techniques that you rely on? 

Other techniques that I use often are drawing, painting, printing, scanning, photography, videography, digital illustration, 2D animation, projection, typography, web development, colour strategy, generative visuals, predictive writing, machine-learning, among others.

Sonic Twink, 2018

And how do you incorporate them in your creations?

I enjoy combining methods and mediums. I like cyclically transferring physical materialities to digital platforms and vice-versa. 

It might all sound Greek to our ears…

This means that I take things from real life and digitize them, then make them physical again, then digitize them again and so on.  For example, I once printed 2,100 frames of a video so I can reshoot them against a strong spotlight which highlights the texture of the paper mixing with the footage. Then, I ran the reshot frames in photoshop and used a script to delete pixels of a certain colour value, thus adding a digital texture to the final footage.

A very 21st Century type of art indeed! Do you see this New Media Art movement last longer than the others like Contemporary or Conceptual art? What is your outlook on the future of art?

I think it’s difficult to properly differentiate between these movements, because New Media Art is contemporary, and can sometimes be conceptual. I can imagine movements like new media, contemporary or conceptual art lasting pretty long since their meanings can be interpreted in new ways infinitely. New media just means whatever is new at that time – it is not new as a field of art, the first photographic experiments in the 19th century are considered early versions of the art form. It has been continuously reinterpreted throughout the 20th century with changing technologies. As long as we don’t die of climate change, it could go on for a while. I think the future of art should lie in empowering minorities by working towards decolonizing art spaces, practices, aesthetics, and opportunities. This means more representation, more funding, less white cubes and less museums filled with stolen objects.

What drives you to create?

Honestly, it has been pretty hard to find motivation in recent times. It took me two weeks to respond to your interview questions. 

Happens to everyone…we are going through unprecedented times.

True, after having a highly motivated 2019, the pandemic brought everything to a halt. The motivation was down. It feels like these have been the least productive times of my creative life and it doesn’t even matter because the world seems to be collapsing everywhere.

Can things do things, 2019

We understand and hope you get your motivation back on track. It is also important to take care of yourself in these times.

I do that by binge watching shows, spending time taking care of my plants, falling into endless information rabbit holes on YouTube. I’m also an avid cook. 🙂

Is it something as they say in Spain, your ‘vocacion frustrada’?

Hahaha…I’d definitely choose cooking or something on the culinary path in a parallel universe. 

Apart from external factors affecting the outcome of your work, one has to fight some internal forces as well. As it happens, perfection is a common denominator with which we struggle these days. Does it affect you as well?

Perfection for me is a myth. It is created by humans to get stuff done. I sometimes think that if the concept / idea of perfection didn’t exist, then everything that already exists would be perfect. The myth makes us always crave for something greater than what we have. A perfectionist approach to creativity usually results in a self-centered and hyper-individualistic style of making which can sometimes be insensitive to ecological and social circumstances.

Do you find this affecting you in the sense that you have to go return to your already created works and improve them?

Yes all the time! Everytime I update my portfolio, I keep retouching almost everything I have done. My works feel like a continuous process of making and tweaking.

Is it because you wish to convey a message through your work and everytime you re-do it, the message is different?

To be honest, I never really made an artwork with a preconceived message. I identify as gay, brown and south-asian and by making any work, these identities get a place wherever the work exists and that is the message itself. My work is based on exploring media technologies and their ecological relationships and consequences.  Lately, I do feel like yelling at everyone and telling them how the internet is not an ephemeral place, but is in fact very physical and exists within ecological realities.  

If not ephemeral, what is the state of the digital according to you?

The digital is not virtual; it is pretty real in the form of energy-guzzling data centres and undersea cables, precious metals found in communication devices, and exploitative labour practices specifically in the global south, which bring us our technology and make our digital garbage disappear.

Demotivational Advice, 2016

And if you could bring change in your sphere, what would it be?

I’d like to change the ‘tech-bro’ vibes that New Media spaces can sometimes give, which can be annoying. I would also like to see more representation in New Media Art, especially queer representation.

Speaking of representation, how does culture/history/identity influence your work?

I’d like to believe that my fascination with layering and collage resonates with the layers of deep history in South-Asia. I enjoy reading and watching things about South-Asian history (actually all history) , and this surely must have influenced my work. My queer identity influences everything…It influences everything – my existence, and my work.

Is that how you’d describe your art?

One word to describe my art is anti-purity.

And would you like to elaborate a bit on that?

I am basically describing my intention, when asked to describe my art. I try to avoid puritanical approaches which try to dictate a singular ‘right’ way to do something. Instead, I try to encourage alternate, lateral or parallel thinking and methods which don’t have to be logical, rational or efficient.

If you could recommend something to us and to those who want to follow in your footsteps…

I’d advise that the so-called experts or adults really have no idea what they are talking about. I recommend that you listen to your instincts, be careful not to get trapped in the impostor syndrome, and always try to be skeptical and critical. 

Thank you Reishabh for getting candid with us and letting us get a sneak peak of your life! Your views are very honest and we hope that it helps the readers in some way. We hope to see more of your work in the future!  🙂

And Happy Pride Month to you!

*All photos courtesy of the artist.*


Check out Reishabh’s work at:

Instagram: @areireiarei

Website: www.reishabhkailey.com


Author: Priyanka Ragji

Instagram: @priyankaragji

LinkedIn: Priyanka Ragji

Wanna get in touch, share an idea or have something interesting to say to the author? : Say hi!


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