The anonymous Dubai-based artist talks to us about the recent political uprising in the region and why his artwork features the dead al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden
UBIK is part of a new breed or emerging artists from the so called MENA region [Middle East and North Africa]. Originally from India, UBIK moved to Dubai five years ago to develop his practise as an artist. UBIK’s recent body of work examines the recent socio-political tectonic shift in the MENA region. He explores the optimism of the new wave "social media 9-5 weekday anarchists" who seem to promote a sense of optimism that is both convenient and sceptical. UBIK references his views through a mash-up of pop-culture laced with his usual dose of dark humour. In his own words, "suddenly everyone is a political pundit in this new world diss-order!"
Dazed Digital: how did you end up being an artist?
UBIK: After high-school, I ended up at a fashion school in Delhi but I dropped out after a year and went on to do odd-internships in advertising and publishing. I never really wanted to be an artist, it just so happened that I was drawing a lot during my free time and I just kept at it. After a while I ended up in Dubai where I realised I had to start figuring out some way to make a living. It was around this time that i figured I should give being an artist a shot... and so far it's worked out well for me!
DD: What inspires you?
UBIK: Mankind and our respective emotions, our need for affection and appreciation, LSD, beatnik lit, deconstruction, urban planing, anarchism (sometimes ), people in general and the things they say or don't say etc etc
DD: How would you define yourself politically?
UBIK: Politically I tend to gravitate towards a more liberal setting, I do dabble in anarchism but I'm more interested in postmodernism and existentialism. I have my views about certain things when it comes to politics but I tend to dissect it more on a psychological view point as opposed to dwelling deep in to the dirt deeds of political power play. But I guess the only political cause I'd really be willing to stand up for would be the legalization of marijuana - no jokes - I say legalise and tax it!
DD: What do you think is happening right now politically in the MENA region?
UBIK: I'm curious to see where all of this change is spearheading towards. The way I see it, the revolutions did really only happen in North Africa. If you look at the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council = Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates], there's still a lot of censorship and crackdowns happening that no one's really reporting on. The monarchy is tight-lipped and have a tight whip on the scene here. The optimism in the air feels very convenient and skeptical to me - but that's just me, I'm always cynical!
DD: Please explain a little about the 'Holy Ghost' work that you have recently made. It depicts Barack Obama, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden in a sort of triptych...
UBIK: The funny thing is that the piece actually started off a year ago as "the vandal, the idol and the holy lost". The image consisted of Uncle Sam, Darth Cader and a terrorist, but I felt quite cheesy about it and put the concept aside. I revisted the piece this year and decided to stick to the original concept by substiting the images Obama, Ahmadinejad and bin Laden. The piece does touch up on an obvious reference to religion and the political interaction on the world stage between these three men with Obama as the new age Messiah, Ahmadinejad as the spoilt punk and Osama as the elusive one.
It was just pure luck that Osama had to die now, a day after the piece came back from production. I found it amusing and at the same time a bit haunting. I'm quite curious to see how people react to this one. I guess one thing I'll have to deal with is the notion people might put forward saying that I did this piece to cash in on the Osama hysteria ....
DD: Tell us about your change in direction when it comes to your art and what/where you're you going with it ?
UBIK: After drawing and painting for about three years I've finally managed to make the transition to more text-based art and conceptual works. So far the shift has been interesting, it's a lot more challenging for me now with the endless hours of research and reading etc. Right now I'm focusing on appropriating a lot of existing text pieces from pop-culture of my generation.
DD: Is it all right to be unsure as an artist when it comes to concepts?
UBIK: Yes, I personally sometimes am unsure of a few of my concepts. I usually just let them be and come back and attack it at a later stage when i feel like I can structure them properly.
DD: How do you work on a piece? How does it evolve from concept to execution etc?
UBIK: There's no set formula, I usually read a lot and if something I see, hear or read trigger something in me I make a few notes, hit my studio and start to do more research about how I can structure the piece. And then I proceed to work on options and layout and the scenography for the piece.
DD: How deeply invested are you emotionally when it comes to your work?
UBIK: Oh! well I'm excited when I'm doing a new piece, if that counts, but I usually tend to move on to the next piece as soon as I'm done with the old one.
DD: Is inspiration everywhere or is it just a myth ?
UBIK: It's everywhere! I guess you just need to keep an open mind and keep looking at something till you get bored and beyond bored ; maybe then it might just inspire you ; sometimes this works for me..
DD: Do you go through a pattern?
UBIK: When I'm working, yes. A lot of jazz, beer, multiple browsers open and a lot of reading material. Being hung-over sometimes helps me, too...