Studio in Rajasthan
He may miss the Brady Street Pharmacy, but because of the Internet he likely already knows it is about to become the new home to Glorioso’s Italian grocery store. Try not to think of India as the land of water buffalo and chai, because it’s way more than that, in fact Waswo X. Waswo’s move across the ocean has served him and his partner Thomas Liveri quite nicely, thank you. (If the proprietor of Portrait Society Gallery, Deb Brehmer, is reading this 5Q, take note.)
You are a former resident of Milwaukee. Anything you really miss about living here?
I miss the silly little things like a burger with fries at the Brady Street Pharmacy or a morning coffee at Rochambo. Of course I miss our friends. Sometimes I actually miss a bit of winter. But then I remember shoveling snow or trying to start a stubborn car on a sub-zero day and I quickly come to my senses.
Are computers used quite a bit in India, or are they tools for only the moneyed? Are there cafés and such where one can access the web on a computer provided by the venue?
Yeah, of course there are computer cafés about everywhere, but most of the time they don’t actually serve coffee. They just have computers and a ceiling fan. But these places deliver computer access to just about everyone. In the upscale joints Wi-Fi is making a lot of inroads. I have a high-speed Wi-Fi connection at my home in Udaipur.
Home computers are not as prevalent in India as the U.S., but more and more they are becoming standard features in middle-class homes. It is hard to compare the two societies. Indian class structure is a lot different from that of America. I mean the poor are really,really poor and the rich are really, really rich. The so-called middle class ranges from what Americans might call upper-middle class to what Americans might perceive as “poor.” It gets even more complicated if you compare class structure in urban areas to the rural villages.
What season are you in?
I’m writing this from Bangkok since it’s the hot season in Rajasthan (where I normally live). When I say hot, I mean about 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, so we try to escape India during these months. If you’ve been following the news you’ll know Bangkok is in the midst of a political power struggle right now. People are fighting in the streets as I write this! The news has just reported that a bus has been set on fire. But normally Bangkok seems like one big air-conditioned shopping mall. It’s a posh city. (Ed. note: This conversation took place in May)
Tommy and I will return to Rajasthan in July, after the monsoon has hit south India, which tends to cool northern India too. We rent a place in a quiet neighbourhood of Udaipur, where I have also maintained a studio for over four years now.
Hey, if Deb offered me an exhibition at Portrait Society I’d do it for sure. Just waiting for the invitation. I don’t think she’s seen the large hand-coloured prints that I’ve been doing in collaboration with Rajesh Soni. Happy to know Johny and Julie’s work will be on display at PSG. I admire those two so much.
This past season the Studio in Rajasthan work had a solo exhibition in Pondicherry, and also we made the premiere of New Myths (which is a new series) in Bombay. Five of our hand-painted photographs were selected to be in this year’s Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie outside of Frankfurt, and since they only invite thirty international artists each year I considered that a pretty big honor. Some of the hand-colored photos were even featured in magazine articles in Paris. So good things are happening for me right now.
Where can people keep up with you?
I have a website, which is www.waswoxwaswo.net. But the best place to start is actually what I call my “Posting Board” which is at www.waswoxwaswo.blogspot.com. This links to everything else, like my personal notes, my art collection, Facebook, etc.
Anyway, whatever the future holds Tommy and I will need to return to the U.S. in 2012. That is when our passports expire, and the only place we can renew them is in Chicago. So we will be sure to be walking down Brady Street around that time, if not sooner.