- by Alexander Joseph Kinzel
BRIDGING THE GAPS BETWEEN MYTH, HISTORY, AND THE NOW THROUGH INTERPRETATIVE DANCE
How does one grapple with a history of colonization and all that comes with it? How can ancient myth and wisdom be brought into the contemporary age, simultaneously holding the meaning they had when they were made and speaking to the current age as well? How can stories be deconstructed, rearranged, fragmented and set to ancient poems performed on a stage covered with mud? How can the east and the west, the colonized and the colonizers, the new and the ancient, the sacred and the profane, the word and the movement be held within the same space? These are the questions that Kuldeep Singh faces in his work, which like the questions themselves is complicated, non-linear and takes many forms.
Born in Rajasthan, India, a region known for its royal lineages, opulence, deserts, and hospitality, Kuldeep has excelled at art since his early teen years in which he won many prizes at inter-school art competitions and performances. From there, he followed his love of performance to study at one of India’s leading fine art’s schools, The College of Art at Delhi University. Kuldeep spent the next decade studying the Indian classical dance form of Odissi (an ancient compound system of movement and story-telling, gestures and percussive mnemonics), before coming to the USA on a graduate scholarship for a master’s in Studio Arts and Intermedia (specifically moving image) in 2012. For the past 3 years Kuldeep has been based in Brooklyn.
Most of Kuldeep’s works are non-linear narratives that operate through visual process, leading to performance, moving images and installations. Along with his movement work, he is currently working on a series of watercolor drawings on paper and cotton cloth, in small sketchbooks while traveling in NYC subway. In these, the prime depiction is a simple landscape like components (a barren land, a vast sky, and object and a diagonal area in a solid color). These works are like Zen landscapes that are sourced out from Greek and Indian myths. With his intensive training in the Indian classical dance and other techniques, Kuldeep deconstructs components in acting (and mime), sound/percussive mnemonics and installation design – all as re-arranged fragments, engaging in body politics and social anthropology. The content, primarily, comes from ancient word of mouth stories, classical Sanskrit texts, and extends to contemporary human situations, thus re-morphing timelines.
Kuldeep’s work has garnered him international attention and recognition in his field. In 2018 he won the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship for his interdisciplinary work and he has also been chosen by NYFA as a mentor of its Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program in Visual and Multidisciplinary Arts.
No matter the medium, whether it be collaborative improvisational dance performances at festivals worldwide, reimagining’s of 12-century Indian poems or watercolors done on the train in New York City, Kuldeep is both an incredible talent and a poignant social commentator tackling issues like post-colonial life, identity, and interdisciplinary studies. No matter what form the work of Kuldeep Singh takes next, one can be sure it will continue to pose difficult and important questions and answer those questions in unique and enthralling ways.