3: Picture Maker

Nikhil ChopraTom talks with performance and installation artist Nikhil Chopra about Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing IX, on exhibit through February at New York’s New Museum.

Combining elements of live art, landscape drawing, painting, and photography, Nikhil’s work challenges conventional aesthetic boundaries.  His performances, intimately connected to his personal and family history, also examine and critique orientalist representations of India. 


Listen to Episode 3 Episode 3: Picture Maker.


If you find the background noises in this recording distracting, you may prefer to read a transcript of the interview.

Image Gallery

This album on the New Museum’s Facebook page has tons of great images documenting the performance.

About Our Guest

Nikhil has been working in the medium of live art since 2002, when he created his first character, Sir Raja. Sir Raja I (2002) and Sir Raja II (2003) were performed in Columbus, Ohio.

His work has since been included in Indian Highway at the Serpentine Gallery (2008–09), Making Worlds at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), and Marina Abramovic Presents, the Manchester International Festival (2009).

Nikhil studied at M. S. University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda from 1997-99. He completed a BFA at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, in 2001, and an MFA in painting from the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, in 2003. He returned to India in 2005 and currently lives and works in Mumbai (Bombay).


500 Words.  Nikhil provides provides an account of his Yog Raj Chitrakar performances for Artforum.

India’s Art, Booming & Shaking.  In October 2007, The New York Times featured an article about contemporary art in India.  Nikhil is quoted in the piece.

Shows & Spaces

Nikhil performed his latest work, Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing IX, at the New Museum in New York in November 2009.  The exhibit was curated by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs, and presented in conjunction with PERFORMA 09.

That same year, Nikhil exhibited at the Manchester International Festival at the invitation of world-renown performance artist Marina Abramovic and the curator-critic Hans Ulrich Obrist.  In this video, Maria Balshaw asks Abramovic about the artists she selected for the event.

Nikhil also participated in the Making Worlds art exhibition at the 2009 Venice Biennale.

The video below documents his preparations for Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing VI, staged in Brussells for the Kunsten Festival des Art

In December of 2008, Nikhil performed Yog Raj Chitrakar: Memory Drawing V at the Serpentine Gallery in London as part of the show Indian Highway

He has also worked extensively with KHOJ International Artist Association, an artist led, alternative space for artistic experimentation and international exchange based in New Delhi.  The pair of videos below document one of these performances (in March 2008).




Books & Articles

Bial, Henry. 2007. The performance studies reader. London: Routledge.

Carr, C. 1993. On edge: performance at the end of the twentieth century. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press.

Dehejia, Vidya, and Charles Allen. 2000. India through the lens: photography 1840-1911. Washington, D.C.: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with Mapin Pub., Ahmedabad and Prestel, Munich, New York.

Falconer, John. 2001. India: pioneering photographers, 1850-1900. London: British Library and Howard and Jane Ricketts Collection.

Gillick, Liam, Stephanie Moisdon, Thomas Demand, Laura Allsop, Lauri Firstenberg, Matthe Higgs, Shamin M. Momin et al. Future greats. Art Review 30: 89.

Gupta, Latika and Pooja Sood. 2008. Role Play. Art India 13(1): 118-120.

Heathfield, Adrian, and Hugo Glendinning. 2004. Live: art and performance. New York: Routledge.

Raza, Sara. 2008. Indian Highway. Art AsiaPacific 61 (Nov./Dec.): 80-81.

Jones, Amelia. 1998. Body art/performing the subject. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Peyton-Jones, Julia, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Kathleen Madden. 2008. Indian highway. London: Koenig Books.

Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.

Sambrani, Chaitanya, Kajri Jain, and Ashish Rajadhyaksha. 2005. Edge of desire: recent art in India. London: Philip Wilson.

Sinha, Gayatri, Paul Spencer Sternberger, and Brian Drolet. 2007. India: public places, private spaces : contemporary photography and video art. Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum.

Sood, Pooja. 2008. In the fast lane: the new buzz around contemporary Indian art. Flash Art 41(258): 102-104.

Weintraub, Linda, Arthur Coleman Danto, and Thomas McEvilley. 1996. Art on the edge and over: searching for art’s meaning in contemporary society, 1970s-1990s. Litchfield, CT: Art Insights, Inc.

Young, Robert. 2001. Postcolonialism: an historical introduction. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.


Fantastic interview, Thomas!

Fantastic interview, Thomas! Nikhil is such an articulate speaker. Although I wasn't at his NYC performance in person, I feel like I have an insight into what he is trying to do and how his work has changed since I saw his shows at Ohio State.

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