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Suchi Reddy talks about space, community, and tech in art with ‘me + you’

In celebration of the Smithsonian’s 175th anniversary in Washington DC, the India-born artist and architect Suchi Reddy fuses art and technology to discuss our future in a magical manner.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Mar 17, 2022

Suchi Reddy is an India-born artist, born and raised in Chennai where she lived for 18 years before immigrating to the United States of America, a common trend among Indian youth of her age at the time. Reddy’s family had fostered in her a genuine interest in art, architecture and culture, which found room to grow and blossom as she went on studying and practicing architecture. Reddy lived and worked in eight different states in the US, which helped her develop a deeper understanding of what binds communities together, a perspective enhanced by her outlook as an immigrant. In 2002 she founded her award-winning architecture firm – Reddymade - in New York, based on the principles of neuroaesthetics, which is the study of how our brains and biology develop as a result of exposure to arts. Her work in the space of art and architecture is centered around the human experience, celebrating diversity and equality. In November 2021, her interactive art sculpture me + you was unveiled at the Smithsonian in Washington DC. The work is on view until July 2022. The artist speaks to us about her practice, and its influence on this installation.

The installation sits in the rotunda at the Smithsonian | Suchi Reddy | me + you | STIRworld
me + you, 2021, Acrylic, LED lighting, Washi paper Image: Courtesy of Reddymade

Speaking of me + you, Reddy shares that it was conceived as an interactive work which articulates both singular views on the future as well as a symbolic translation of our collective vision of the same. The art installation looks to lay out the future we are simultaneously envisioning and constructing by transcribing our words into colour and form. The technology enabled sculptural piece uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) like Transcribe and SageMaker to translate sound into data which is rendered as light on the artwork itself. “In addition to these programs I created with my team specific codes to define the physical manifestation of patterns and colour and light, which make up the experience of the sculpture. Since the intention behind the sculptural art was to reflect the ever-evolving power of our individual agency and collective responsibility for our futures, digital materials were perfect tools to express the concept physically,” states Reddy.

The artist is unafraid of scale and reaches fearlessly into spaces of experimentation with material, art and technology. This is perhaps a result of her engagement with spatial design, a trait which is reflected in her artist portfolio. Reddy says, “When I thought about the subject of how we engage with technology, and envision our future with it, it was very clear to me that I needed to make a work that expressed the idea that it is the wisdom of humans that will temper and inform the wisdom of technology. The human interaction piece is essential to all my artworks, so it took shape as an installation that engages us all in creating a collective vision.”

The panels on me + you upon which colours reflect | Suchi Reddy | me + you | STIRworld
The panels on me + you upon which colours reflect Image: Courtesy of Reddymade

Tackling the future is a tricky and often depressing subject, what with devastating news of climate change catastrophe and political upheaval across the world. Reddy’s large scale installation adds lightness and an element of magic to an otherwise dark and dreary discussion. She says, “I hope that the work will make people feel the beauty of their power and agency in creating their future. I think it will make people think about what they fear and what they desire, and the distance between those two poles of being. My deepest hope is that it will bring home the beauty of all of us acting together to create a beautiful artefact together.”

The interactive installation is on view until mid-2022 in Washington DC but is accessible via a web based URL from anywhere in the world (as long as you have internet, of course!). This allows us to collaboratively take a global ‘temperature’ of our views on the future.

Details of the mouth piece up close | Suchi Reddy | me + you | STIRworld
Details of the mouth piece up close Image: Heather Hazzan, Courtesy of Smithsonian

Reddy takes on the world of art and architecture without inhibitions. She distributes her energy into both fields with equal enthusiasm, breaking down any notion that you must dedicate your time to only one thing in order to truly excel at it. She tells us about her approach saying, “I think of architecture as embodied art. It's about holistically experiencing our world through all of our senses, and so architecture is the perfect matrix for considering neuroaesthetics. In this way, science and data are parallel fascinations to art and design for me and have always influenced my thinking and creative process. They are tools intrinsic to understanding our world, along with our senses, which are our natural tools. The same parts of your brain that teach you to think about the future are the same ones that are manipulated by your experience of space. The better your space is, the better you are going to be. When you think about that and you extend that over the entire world, it’s a huge responsibility to make sure we are designing great spaces for everyone.”

L to R: Suchi Reddy and project curator Isolde Brielmaier| Suchi Reddy | me + you | STIRworld
L to R: Suchi Reddy and project curator Isolde Brielmaier with me + youImage: Heather Hazzan, Courtesy of Smithsonian

The founder of US-based firm Reddymade also tells us about her next art project underway. “I am currently working on a public sculpture in Surrey, Canada. Entitled Becoming, the work is inspired by the liminal experience of an immigrant. Tectonically expressed as an arch form, it represents both a gateway and a process of transformation. Inspired by the multi-national demographics of Surrey, I felt it was important to propose an artwork that celebrates the process of becoming oneself, expressing the transmutation of people through cultures and lands as an elegant curve that twists and turns, and always returns to the ground, creating an opening for others to traverse, giving them a view of changing colours as they move through it,” she says.

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