To conclude our Wall-to-Wall series, Ken Miller turns the spotlight to Hisham Bharoocha, who does many things, all the time, often at once, and all quite well.
As a musician, he has been a founding member of noise bands Black Dice and Lightning Bolt, and now performs solo as Soft Circle. Working with Yamataka Eye of legendary Japanese band The Boredoms, he has organized a series of massive “Boadrum” drum circles/ecstatic experiences. As a street photographer, he has a following of tens of thousands and has built a relationship with Instagram. And as an artist, he has exhibited in galleries and museums and, more recently, through a series of large-scale temporary wall drawings.
We asked him about the nature of his experience.
With your wall pieces, is the work of art about the process or the finished result?
For me the creator of it, the piece is about the process. But hopefully the viewer thinks about the process and where it is applied. I think of the wall paintings like a Tibetan sand mandala. Everything is temporary, and I feel we need to remember that our work will not always be remembered and neither are we, so we should concentrate on enjoying the temporary experiences we have on this planet.
Can you talk about the influence of mandalas and ephemeral art on your wall pieces?
The most influential experience on my whole life was my father dying from cancer when I was 10 years old. After that, all I could think about was, ‘Why are we here, what are we doing here, what is the value of life and these things that are all temporary?’ That all lead me to eastern philosophy via New Age stuff my mom was into. I still think about this when I create a mural, knowing that the day will come that it will be painted over.
As a musician, do you find the process of making art to be performative or public in any way? How is your interaction with an audience similar or different?
Usually when I paint a mural there aren't very many people who are watching me do it. I have my headphones on so I don't have to talk to anybody. It is a time consuming process and I usually want to get it done as quickly as possible.
Sometimes I'll think I am painting in solitude, but then look back to find a security guard watching me. That can be a fun conversation to have.
You also make smaller collaged works. Do you have a giant back catalogue of reference images you’re working from?
Yeah I have a ton of used books and magazines that I select things from and my wife hates it because we have so many books laying around the apartment. The process of finding an image is an important element of collage making, and I am drawn to situations or images that I could not have imagined myself.
Let’s get all Allen Iverson and talk about process. Collage collecting, mandala drawing, drumming… Is it all about process and repetition?
Yeah, for me repetition is an important part in all of my work. In sound it relates to a mantra or traditional folk music played all over the world. One strike of a drum may not create a feeling, but if you repeat that action it then creates a pattern. A series of marks create a composition. I like the feeling when you are not analyzing, but you are feeling and concentrating on that experience.
You approach mist be very different for a large scale piece?
I also interested in the impact scale has on the viewer. The scale of a wall painting, the spacing between lines, the thickness of the line, the choice in color…. These all affect the experience of the viewer. I am interested in the movement created by a static image, based on the movement of the eye. Peripheral vision and the physical sensation it can give you is interesting to me. The idea that vibration can be felt through the eye is fascinating to me. Your senses absorb information, then the mind translates the information to give you an opinion about how you feel about it. I am interested in getting people to think about that process of experience – to see that the mind is not our only identity but also a tool.
The first art exhibition I saw which truly moved me in high school was a group show of outsider artists, including Henry Darger, Adolph Wolfi, Martin Ramirez and some others. I think that kind of artist is often looking for a way to feel balanced, and I relate more to the idea of repetition creating the feeling of balance within the daily drone of life. I like to make work that concentrates on the beauty you can find in those moments where everything is overwhelming you, but you concentrate on one thing. For example, the way the sewage river dribbling down the center of the subway tracks reflects the light in a beautiful way. I try to recreate that feeling.