by Rahul KumarFeb 14, 2023
Doyel Joshi and Neil Balser are interdisciplinary artists who found love and creative synergy at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. Their practice is dedicated to analysing emotion concerning the art subject. Joshi is a visual artist interested in fashion and sculpture, whereas Balser is interested in performative and audiovisual art. The two took a leap of faith from their respective art backgrounds to envision and navigate the horizon of a connubial practice at Howareyoufeeling.studio. Their preferred mediums in art are embodied, such as form, movement, and sound, to evoke empathy and resonation within the audience.
As Joshi and Balser’s creative partnership flourished, so did their romance, culminating in a mesmerising, art-infused wedding in Rajasthan. Their journey is a testament to their belief that every moment, space, and situation offers an opportunity for art and inspiration. Joshi and Balser are inspired by artistic duos globally and through modern and contemporary history, such as Christo and Jeanne Claude, Manvi Ray and Lee Miller, Freida and Diego, and Jay Z and Beyonce. Acknowledging that internal bonds may differ from creative dynamics, Joshi and Balser are yet fascinated with the agency of love, its ultimate expression as art, and its consequential emphatic scope for humans.
Joshi and Balser have a ritual to often ask each other: "How are you feeling?"; The simple question then becomes a portal for introspection and reflection. It moulds their intuition into a scale that measures resonation; it invites the other into a liminal space, confronting their past conditioning and giving them the courage to transcend inhibitions. Coming from different backgrounds, the two observe their relationship as a kaleidoscope of traditions, heritage, and genealogy, apprehending these thoughts and emotive connections into contemporary paradigms relevant to the grander scheme of the worldly order.
In their latest site-specific work, titled Provenance, Howareyoufeeling.studio grasped the idea of rented ownership of the space they performed in and have extracted inspiration from; IF.BE is Mumbai’s first ice chamber, founded 145 years ago. They interpret ice as a palimpsest, with a nine-foot red ice cube installation that acts as a monolith bearing the history of its surroundings. The installation is made and assembled by former “owners” of the ice factory, who now reside behind a wall of this industrial space. The ice sculpture reclaims ownership of the space until it melts. The audience is encouraged to collect the water from melted ice and pour it into the container, bringing it back to its frozen origin. Thereby finding an innovative contemporary expression to honour the provenance of the building. With this installation, howareyoufeeling.studio explores ownership, participation, and inhabiting roles confronting responsibility, form, and function. "The proverbial hamster wheel of thought, duties, and relevance," the duo tells STIR. This, too, has been inspired by their partnership, navigating these ideas through their differences, pain, and, of course, love. All this happens as the ice melts and finds reuse.
Joshi and Balser tell STIR that their practice belongs to a post ‘ironic’ era in which meaning-making confronts earnest convictions through a lens of irony. In this process, there are components of history, heritage, the unfolding journey of the past into the present, and coordinates for the future. Howareyoufeeling.studio dissects cultural and modern values they have inherited through the phenomena of feelings, which are both personal and universal. Hence, rendering their practice beyond notions of nations to a global realm. They employ an interdisciplinary art approach, intending for the audience to embody the altering of perception through their facilitation of heightened senses. Public engagement plays a critical factor in this ambitious format for their practice, as the artist duo attempts to democratise the prevailing mindset and feeling of the post-irony zeitgeist. In this sense, they structurally shape the new Indian thinking and support the reimagination of traditions.
Earlier this year, Joshi and Balser’s former exhibition, A Stone Marries an Egg, provoked a whimsical approach to a pairing that traditionally has never belonged together, such as artisans and artists. The exhibition navigated the question: Do artists evolve from artisans in the global context of production? It consisted of a large-scale Mumbai installation where 108 women artisans from UP Deoria performed alongside Howareyoufeeling.studio, crafting 20,000 palm-sized flower buds from waste fabric, sitting in a communal formation. Amidst this configuration, seats were left empty for the audience to participate in the performative act. The fabric becomes a metaphor for society, stitching together the corners of the same cloth; artist and artisan, audience and performer; making a pocket for profound comprehension of tradition, modern sensibilities, and the global production matrix.
The studio shares the wisdom of a slower way of life, tracing it to their roots; Balser has maternal roots in tea farming in Bengal and paternal roots in viticulture in Germany. Whereas Doyel belongs to Marwari Brahmin cultural roots, where the labour of rituals facilitates transcendence. Reflecting on their own trajectory, having lived in the West, they acknowledge the disconnect of final products from the craftsmanship, love, dedication, and culture that is part of making it. Displacement is the starting point of their recent art exhibitions, Provenance and A Stone Marries an Egg, evident in their display strategy of exhibiting the "process" and the display of intangible multitudes resonating with awareness, experience, and feelings. On asking the duo what's next for their practice, they said, "We'll see how we are feeling."