East Wing, Doha, Qatar
Selected by East Wing, Doha, Qatar
Unseen Platform: For the past four years you’ve been working on a trilogy exploring different elements of the night. Could you tell us what it is about the night you find so fascinating?
Arko Datto: I find that night-time is when life finds expression at its deepest, truest and most intense. My trilogy focuses on night time, nightlife and night space – three essential elements that exist both in grudging harmony and brutal confrontation. MANNEQUIN is the first instalment of this trilogy, presenting a portrait of the Indian night.
The second chapter, SNAKEFIRE, takes place in Malaysia and Indonesia. During my time there, notably in Penang, a huge python slithered out of the jungle and onto a construction site, in obvious physical pain. Amidst unwarranted media frenzy and hysteria, it died in human arms while giving birth to its offspring. SNAKEFIRE is dedicated to the paradise that has been lost to unmediated human greed. The third instalment of the trilogy is still being conceptualised. I am also developing a narrative between the elements in the works: while MANNEQUIN explores a quest for land, SNAKEFIRE investigates the aspect of fire, while the third focuses on water.
You were on course to receive a doctorate in theoretical sciences when you changed course to further explore contemporary photography. What informed your decision?
My father is a photojournalist, so I’ve always been around photography, even though it’s been a kind of love-hate relationship. On the verge of concluding my studies, I realised that I spent more time thinking about art than about academic work, so it was probably time to take the plunge. It took another fifteen months of soul-searching before I could finally call myself a photographer. Even though I’m not working within the theoretical sciences anymore, I continue to use the spirit of research, inquiry and analysis in most of my artistic work.
Your particular use of colour is an integral part of your oeuvre. Could you tell us more about it?
There is a charged history of how colour is or has been used in the representation of colonial spaces such as ours and the narratives that discuss them. Through my use of specific colours in various projects, I seek to question and subvert these histories.