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Inside FRAME

INSIDE FRAME: Aarushi Surana

Written and Edited By: Nathaniel Enriquez & Aarushi Surana

Aarushi Surana is a Delhi based graphic designer with an allergy to templates. She enjoys short-circuiting and jump-starting factory presets by swapping default systems to analyze the misalignments.

On a given day, she has been found designing alarm clocks that move between Yesternow and Presentomorrow, localizing film/TV posters for Netflix, sneaking monobloc chairs in fonts, spelling out ramen with ramen, encoding tapestries, remodeling car & tuktuk interiors for 360 degree VR films, splicing out ‘like’ from audio clips, smuggling Chindōgu inventions in exhibition invitations.

She hopes to tame her ways, or not.

FRAME: Hi Aarushi, can you tell me about yourself?

AARUSHI: I am the 13th frame in 24fps(frames per second). One step ahead of halfway there.

FRAME: How’s the weather in New Delhi?

AARUSHI: It is dithering.

FRAME: As a graphic designer, how would you say your approach is with graphic design? Does the influence of cinema affect your practice?

AARUSHI: Apparently I am a graphic designer with an allergy to templates. I like to look at the systems in which a piece of design is situated and see if I can tamper, swap, sneak or smuggle design moves from other systems.

I was once seen laying out plastic monobloc chairs inside texts. You can do it too! Just download the font at the end of the page.

Absolutely, watching a film teaches me how to read. There was a time when I was trying to see a film a day and make a post about one thing that caught my eye. That was my idea of the #36daysoftype challenge. I have also been localizing film/TV titles streamed on Netflix for the past 2.5 years now. Some of the productions that I have designed for include Shutter Island, Inglorious Bastards, Power Rangers, Mission Impossible, The Karate Kid, Anna Karenina, Zodiac, The Score, Elysium, Rango, The Office, Jimmy Carr, Ali Wong, Silver Linings Playbook.

FRAME: How did the exhibit at Kunsthalle Bern come about?

AARUSHI: Aside from the projects we have done together, our friends, Lantian and I have been thought-convening for over two years now. What we conjure every time we meet—it’s funny how I used to imagine it as a machine that hummed but today I'm seeing it as this—a coagulant mass of ideas that keeps soaking up pigments each time we talk.

Each project proposition that comes to us, comes with its own unique planetary conditions that give this mass a momentum, axis tilt and contends with its gravity. When this mass collides with the planetary plane, the pigments leave an imprint that you see as one output of our ideas. But what this also does is that it catapults the mass to now move in another direction with a different velocity until it gets caught with another project’s gravity. Kunsthalle Bern was also a plane/planet that was warm enough to host our ideas.

FRAME: The exhibit revolves around connections, circulations and the links between tangible and intangible things, be it from pop culture, music, objects etc. Why did the relationship between Yash Chopra’s Chandni and Switzerland stick out to you and Lee?

AARUSHI: Switzerland has a bronze statue of Yash Chopra, a Lake Chopra, a train and a super deluxe cinema-themed-hotel-suite named after him. The Swiss Federal Statistical Office logged that Indian tourists spent a total of 780,815 nights in Switzerland in 2018.

All this accreditation is pretty much owed to a film Mr. Chopra made in 1989 called Chandni. Do you see it too now?

Switzerland continues to be one of the ultimate romantic destinations for every Indian. I remember spotting at least 5 newly married couples at the visa office when I was submitting my application to come for the exhibition. And apparently about 400 applications were expected to be filed on just that one day. But aspiring for that one selfie with the Swiss Alps also means going through a lot of paperwork, proving affordability, high expenditure, scrutiny, long waits, alienation. The anxiety around faltering on even one of these accounts can turn a dream into a nightmare.

FRAME: How long was the piece developed for? How was the process and how did you feel about it?

AARUSHI: 15.4 seconds. Funnily enough it was a placeholder image that was put together to serve as a prelude to certain ideas. And it was potent. But any counter graphic that was created in response, this image still held the crux of our intentions more effectively than any other iteration. So eventually we came back to this provisional sketch as the main graphic, only now with resolution and clarity. Lantian termed it beautifully, he said sometimes you just have to take a walk.

FRAME: How does this piece respond/tie in to the wider theme of the exhibit?

AARUSHI: I say placeholder also because this image served as a promise for an artwork to come but eventually became a node that sprouted more discourse than any artwork in its place was able to.

In its design, in its form, in the way it ghost rides the exhibitionary infrastructure and in the way it is encountered within the exhibition, it stands somewhere between a before and after.

FRAME: Collaborating with FRAME, I’m sure you and Lee thought about the wearability of the tee and the overall fashion aspect of it all, what were the initial thoughts while designing the tee?

AARUSHI: This T-shirt came out of putting together an art exhibition. What is interesting is that it sits a little uneasily contextually. Is it a supportive merch that is meant to champion the exhibition in some way? Or is it a piece of art that is part of the exhibition? It is both but neither. It is an entity that responds to the exhibition by probably even confounding it with its disobedience. But the exhibition said to it, feel free to do so. So the disobedience turns into camaraderie that lets it fulfill the same function with a different intent. In this way, the lifespan of every so-called marketing prosthetic can become much longer, because it is emancipated from being memorabilia to an event but can acquire another life as, say, a 25-piece-edition in Dubai.

FRAME: Lee talked about his connection of India to Switzerland and Dubai in this particular piece. Can you tell me more about the context of its release in both Dubai and Switzerland, what makes these places remarkable for the release?

AARUSHI: Each of these places produce a very peculiar reading of the other in their bid to project that other as an aspirational destination. Dubai sees a billboard of Roger Federer saying I need a break, I need Switzerland; Switzerland makes changes in their infrastructure to cater to the heavy tourist footfall from India; India consumes romance films set in Switzerland by a production company that, owing to its success, now has 5 offices including one in Dubai. All three produce very intriguing counter-reflections of each other that the other one may or may not even be aware of.

FRAME: I’ll end the interview with this question, to what extent can this piece live on after?

AARUSHI: If you think of this piece as a glyph from a language, then it will live on for as long as that language is spoken or thought through.

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