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Behind the Drywall: An Interview with Prerna

By means of drywall, Prerna's Today, we become contemporarily recontextualizes and historicizes the language used in a 1980s Basic Guide to Naturalization paired with a speech by the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization. We were lucky enough to sit down with Prerna and discuss her life and studio routine as a MFA student, as well as her coming to drywall as an element in her work.

Tiffany Lange: And we're live! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Prerna: I’m Prerna! I'm a current first year MFA student at the University of Minnesota in sculpture. I'm from Mumbai and I moved here four years ago to make art, but I didn't know I was going to major in art. I originally started off as a communication studies major and happened upon art by taking a metal casting course.

TL: Why Minneapolis or the Twin Cities?

P: I had visited here before, and my sister was living here at the time. However, it feels like the right decision given the amount of funding for art that is available in the cities.

TL: As an artist, what are your creative routines? Are there specific things that you do to get into that making mindset?

P: I nap for the first hour now. Right now, I'm getting into the studio at seven thirty in the morning because I want to find a parking spot. So the first hour is napping, meeting people that are trickling in and running to get coffee with them. My entire studio practice is very social.

TL: I think that’s really important for an MFA candidate.

P: I am too extroverted for that to not be the case! I really care about my community.

TL: What keeps you motivated as an artist.

P: That's hard. I've been thinking about these things a lot actually.

I love challenging myself constantly and problem solving, but also what I really like is feeling liberated and being able to make what I want. It’s really liberating to be able to have complete freedom within art making because there aren’t any rules to what you can and can’t do. I love questioning things, finding problems and figuring out how to solve those problems in the process of making them.

TL: Any favorite or influential artists that are important to you right now?

P: Yes! I have always been obsessed with the artist, Jennifer Bolande. She did this project as part of a biennial, Desert X. In this project, she made giant images on billboards that were covering the views of the mountains, but the images that were covering the landscape were of the mountain. I found it interesting that at one brief moment in the horizon, the billboard and the mountain would line up.

TL: Any favorite books or articles that you have been recently reading?

P: I have been mostly reading information on the US government and all the funny/weird immigration questions that have been asked to immigrants throughout the years. I also have been enjoying Chromophobia by David Batchelor and Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown.

TL: If you were given a chance to create and show your dream project what would it be?

P: Something that I've been thinking about more recently - not the official dream project, but something that can be expanded based on a project I have made before called Falseiling. In this project, I would photograph what was above each drop ceiling and paste it back. These photographs would be placed over the drop ceiling tiles to reveal what’s underneath. I grew up with this urban myth about drop ceilings, something on the lines of if you see that someone has drop ceiling tiles in their house they are probably hiding something above it, most likely black money. I was interested more in what that meant literally.

I’ve always found drop ceiling tiles weird and disgusting, but it would be amazing to do this on a larger scale in some institutional environment because it’s such an institutional material. I am interested in creating a faux drop ceiling tile between floors essentially serving no purpose.

TL: Diving a bit more into your work, Goes on Pink, Dries White is a piece about citizenship in the US. When did you make this piece and how does it tie into what’s happening in the political climate today?

P: I made this piece in December of 2018, but I had been thinking about it for a while now. I think it’s because I'm super affected by what's going on around me and I feel it's a response to how I was feeling in that moment in having to personally fill out these forms. In the case of Goes on Pink, Dries White and my show at SooVAC, I have always been interested in these citizenship questions because they have been around forever. It’s just crazy, the questions that get asked in these forms. The futility of it all doesn't make sense to me.

What's more interesting is that in this political climate, it's finally starting to catch everyone's eye because of the media and how it’s portrayed.

TL: With these two pieces, Goes on Pink, Dries White and Today, we become, tell me a little more about why you are so drawn to drywall as a material.

P: The piece, Goes on Pink, Dries White, started this interest in drywall, but went through many phases. I’ve really enjoyed recycling text and seeing how the material can change the context of the piece. About a year ago, I was trying to make a form using the same text on a litho stone. It was only a year later when I realized that drywall was the material that made the most sense for the piece.

I'm interested in drywall because I’ve worked for a long time in the Katherine Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota. A lot of the skills that I developed as an artist came through working there. A little bit of why I like drywall started because I was using and playing with it so much in the gallery. As I would fix the walls, I learned a lot about drywall and how fragile it can be. I’m interested in how temporary and inexpensive the material is and how it is so cheap, yet it’s used in a pristine gallery setting. I think there's something about the materiality of it that conceptually also makes sense to me because of where I’m living right now. I feel like the temporality of living in the US reflects how temporary drywall can be. It can be so breakable and look like absolute shit and then you can fix it to make it new again.

I like the ability to fix things.

TL: And then any last words or additional thoughts on your show at SooVAC?

P: I'm really glad that I got to do this show. It's a really exciting opportunity and the last 7 months have been treacherous because there have been so many ideas running through my head. I think the most difficult part of creating a show was deleting and editing down dramatically, but I’m really happy with how everything turned out.

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