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Why Pushing Artists Outside Their Comfort Zone Is The Key To Creative Expression

Artist Hisham Akira Bharoocha explains why as a creative he thrives off a feeling of unease.

Rachel Oliner, PSFK
Rachel Oliner, PSFK on February 14, 2014.

This article is presented in partnership with 1MSQFT, a traveling survey of culture seeking to provide one million square feet of space for curation and celebration. From fashion and film to art and food, PSFK is joining the 1MSQFT initiative to share the unexpected stories of culture across creative disciplines. For more, visit 1MSQFT.com and follow the culture study on Instagram  or on Twitter @1MSQFT.

Japanese-born and Brooklyn-based, artist Hisham Akira Bharoocha is no stranger to immersing himself and his audiences in a vast array of cultural experiences. Showcased at events ranging from Art Basel to Sundance, his works explore the architecture of the mind and the relationships that this creates through the interactions and exchanges we embark upon everyday.

Bharoocha has recently partnered with One Million Square Feet Of Culture (1MSQFT), Microsoft’s series of guest-curated spaces that help bring together artists and creatives from a wide range of of disciplines — like food and art, or film and fashion — to create unique works that sit at the intersection of multiple genres. By providing these atypical spaces, 1MSQFT enables artists to expand past their own traditional settings and medium.

For his most recent curation, Bharoocha and artist Terence Nance made over the typically stark-white backdrops of a video karaoke machine, enabling the performers’ to sing in front of and be inspired by the psychedelic visuals.

PSFK chatted with Bharoocha to learn more about his visual process, where he derives inspiration from, and the importance of the ideas behind 1MSQFT for artists everywhere.

As an artist, what aspects of One Million Square Feet inspired you to get involved? 

The idea of taking advantage of unused space in different cities to showcase art from all different mediums is a positive thing. Culture tends to be swept under the floor as some believe it is unnecessary, but what would humans do without inspiration? However we filter the inspiration we receive, it can keep a person energized and motivated to be the best person you can be, and I feel this is a great project where all different walks of life can walk away with a positive experience.

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Why is it so important for a platform like One Million Square Feet to provide non-traditional spaces of creativity for artists?

It’s a great challenge to take artists out of their comfort zone. We all end up finding a comfort zone whatever we do in life and it’s good to have the slight feeling of unease to push ourselves into new dimensions of creation or expression. I always feel a little nervous when trying something new in an unfamiliar space but I always feel great once I’ve accomplished the task at hand. New ideas are only born once you push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

How has your experience in music groups, as well as your collaboration on a sound piece with Doug Aitken, informed your visual process?

With Doug he is always quite generous in creating a platform for one to collaborate with his work. Whether it’s an actor or a musician one feels the respect he has for the performer, and that helps the performer work hard to create a unique connection to his ideas. He is a great curator for making collaborations that may seen uncanny to happen.

When I perform with Boredoms I always learn something new about musical composition as well as rhythms I wouldn’t think of on my own. They really work as a team to create a truly mind blowing musical experience for the musician as well as the audience and I love that about playing with that band.

When I do IIII (read Four) it is a huge collaboration between everyone involved. In that group there are a minimum of four drummers and two synthesizer players and we all share ideas about how to create a unique experience for all of us. We did a super fun performance at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Australia a couple years back with an additional 20 drummers and we all had a blast collaborating with each other. Leaving the ego behind and concentrating on making the best thing you can make is an important element to my work.

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What was the most surprising thing to come out of this project?

I’m pretty used to spending many hours doing large scale drawings and pieces but when I see people react to it I am always surprised and I am happy to have such a strong reaction from people who have watched my process. It’s very precise in a way but also done by hand, which I want people to see and think about. The crew who work during the installation of the work connect with me and the work I have created and that is the best feeling.

What do you hope participants will take away from the karaoke installation?

 I liked the challenge of being given elements or themes I needed to work with from Solange and the Saint Heron team. Hopefully the viewer will feel that we collaborated on ideas and met up somewhere in the middle to create a new kind of harmony. Hopefully they can trip out on the visuals and have a blast doing karaoke!

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One Million Square Feet of Culture (1MSQFT) is a survey of culture by Windows, where new creative works are presented by cultural partners in film, music, food, art , dance and fashion. It’s a series of spaces brought to life in unexpected places and guest-curated by experts across a range of creative disciplines. All contributing towards the eventual goal of creating one million square feet of culture. Visit 1MSQFT.com; or join the conversation with @1MSQFTon Twitter or Instagram.

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