Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra: Cross Border Conversations

Magic Between Forces
STIR X LOCO Design pair Dutch designer Maarten Baas with Indian artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra who discuss breaking barriers of defining one’s self and one’s practice.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Sep 03, 2020

Life as we know it is precariously poised between push and a pull - tug a little, suspend now - the fine balance of stretch, stillness and reactive tendencies defining the interplay of all things, especially that of design. So how does art and design respond to the context around it? How does an artist create magic between the forces?

In the ninth episode of Cross Border Conversations – a STIR-original video series in collaboration with LOCO design - these are some of the questions that come to mind. We bring together one of the most influential Dutch designers, Maarten Baas, in a candid discussion with the experimental Indian artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra of Thukral and Tagra, also known as T&T.

The conversation with Pramiti Madhavji (Consulting Content Adviser, STIR) as moderator brings the two creative powerhouses together as they meet for the first time in a virtual café, sharing intriguing anecdotes, insights and interpretations about each other's works in a heart-to-heart discussion.

The magic that you are striving for, is always between the forces. – Maarten Baas
  • Dutch designer Maarten Baas  | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Dutch designer Maarten Baas Image: Courtesy of Maarten Baas
  • ‘May I have your attention please’ installation by Maarten Baas | Maarten Baas | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    May I have your attention please installation by Maarten Baas Image: Courtesy of Maarten Baas
  • Thought Cloud by Maarten Baas for Swarovski | Maarten Baas | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Thought Cloud by Maarten Baas for Swarovski Image: David Levene, Courtesy of Maarten Baas

At the beginning of the 50-minute conversation, Baas, who is based in the Netherlands, finds a primordial connect with the work of Thukral and Tagra and agrees with their ideologies while the New Delhi-based artist duo tells us how their first encounter with Baas’s work at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris created an impression they clearly remember.

Work becomes a monster because people typecast you. How do you undo that memory from their mind by bringing something that they do not expect? – Sumir Tagra, Thukral and Tagra
  • Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral of Thukral and Tagra  | Thukral and tagra | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral of Thukral and Tagra Image: Courtesy of Thukral and Tagra
  • Lullaments installation at STIR gallery by Thukral and Tagra  | Thukral and tagra | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    The installation Lullaments at STIR Gallery by Thukral and Tagra Image: Courtesy of Thukral and Tagra
  • Meissen Installation at Jaipur | Thukral and tagra | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Meissen installation at Jaipur Image: Courtesy of Thukral and Tagra
  • T&T's installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England | Thukral and tagra | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    T&T's installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England Image: Courtesy of Thukral and Tagra
  • Wings designed by Thukral and Tagra | Thukral and tagra | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Wings designed by Thukral and Tagra Image: Courtesy of Thukral and Tagra

Going further, Baas agrees that a designer or an artist should never be able to clearly define the category in which they work, to be able to continue to re-invent themselves. Tagra shares the idea with which the duo derived inspiration from the push-and-pull principle and the importance of the resultant 'play' of forces in their works. Lullaments by Thukral and Tagra, which was showcased at the STIR Gallery in New Delhi in 2019, explored this very synergy.

The artist duo shares visuals of the studio space they work in and how each element brings a certain memory or anecdote that has been a part of their journey as international artists. Baas shares some of his initial works and talks about the renowned Schiphol clock installation at the Amsterdam airport where the illustration shows the hands of the clock being drawn for a straight 12 hours.

Games People Play at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai (2015) - a work by Thukral and Tagra that explores the idea of “play” from cultural, strategic, physical, and psychological perspectivesImage: Courtesy of Thukral and Tagra

During the conversation, Baas contemplates the 'commercial' side of being an artist, “The balance between being commercial and being autonomous - where do the two meet each other?” while Tagra shares the story of their humble middle class background, about breaking the rules and always attempting to depart away from the mundane to create new discourses.

Thukral and Tagra as well as Baas also emphasise upon feeling the pressure of creating new techniques for their works, where Baas specifically mentions that it feels like an attempt at reinventing the wheel. He recalls his days at the design school, where he created the Smoke Chair, Piano and the Gaudi chair, however he was asked, “Can you do anything other than burning furniture?”

  • Smoke Zig Zag Chair by Maarten Baas | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Smoke Zig Zag Chair by Maarten Baas Image: Marielle Leenders, Courtesy of Maarten Baas
  • 'Smoke Piano' by Maarten Baas | Maarten Baas | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Smoke Piano by Maarten Baas Image: Courtesy of Maarten Baas
  • Smoke Hill House Chair (BURNING) by Maarten Baas | Cross Border Conversations | Maarten Baas X Thukral and Tagra | STIR X LOCO Design
    Smoke Hill House Chair (BURNING) by Maarten Baas Image: Bas Princen, Courtesy of Maarten Baas

In the context of breaking barriers, Thukral and Tagra share one of their projects, the Wings. Baas presents a unique interpretation of the chains representing the weight of responsibility and social norms that we all face and wish to fly out of. In response, Baas refers to a copper and polished brass 'slide' that he had designed, to which Thukral offers an interesting analogy saying it resembles a hamster's wheel and that one would always be a bit older when they return to the same spot.

How does art respond to its political and global contexts? The conversation explores how an artist or designer reflects upon the immediate surroundings in unique ways. Baas’s work, May I have your attention please and I think; therefore I was are examples of his responses to the chaos created by social and digital media today while Thukral and Tagra respond to these hegemonies in the dynamic political environment of India in different ways, the most recent one being an interdisciplinary lab called 'Pollinator'.

The conversation between the creative contemporaries brings mutual concerns, dilemmas and interpretations to the forefront while offering a light-hearted conversation between renowned individuals across borders and disciplines that share a multitude of takeaways.

All this and a lot more in the video above!

Cross Border Conversations

Curated by Pramiti Madhavji and Amit Gupta, STIR X LOCO Design present candid video conversations among creative professionals across geographical borders and creative disciplines of architecture, design, art and beyond.

LOCO Design: Shape of things to come
Steered by values of leadership and integrity, LOCO Design strives to create aesthetic innovation with a creative essence enriched by design values, master artisans and technical expertise, contributing to a responsible future.
Know more at www.locodesign.in

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