Permindar’s studio in the UH Art & Design building is currently littered with works-in-progress. There are interlinked copper rings blanketing a table, knitted foil in the corner, and various wooden and copper contraptions which support or enclose her ever-expanding selection of black and blue teddies. She chooses not to work on one installation at a time, but rather to work on bits and pieces simultaneously. Her plans for the final installations, and how they will work in the gallery space, evolve as she experiments. This method of working, without a precise plan in mind, prompts Perminder to focus on the process of making. “I am obsessed with having things made well… that will last”. She consciously steers clear of materials that will not age well, or that will require constant upkeep. Glass, for example, is a material which she avoids because it must be cleaned so often when it is not on display.
This approach may have arisen in part because Permindar does not view her exhibitions as final outcomes, but rather as part of a longer process. “There will always be things I don’t like about [my work]” and so the exhibition is just a step in a longer journey. She expects her works to be exhibited again in part because each exhibition will provide an opportunity for further improvement to a particular installation. No collection is ever finalised because the works within it will be recontextualised or reconfigured for each future exhibition.
The small studio in which Permindar works is very different from the gallery space in which she will eventually exhibit her collection. This means that large pieces can never be fully finalised in the studio. Rather, the studio is a venue for experimentation and “playing with ideas”, not completion. Smaller works can sometimes be finished in the studio, but in larger works can’t be considered complete until they are located within the gallery space. Since it is site-specific, each installation is a different piece of work every time it is sited. “My whole work is about adapting”, she tells us. “It’s really important that I adapt” when moving from space to space.
Stemming from her desire to move between spaces and exhibitions, longevity is also a practical concern for Permindar. Permindar acknowledges that it is dangerous for an artist to create “throw away things”, as at any moment she “could be asked to put things in a different show”. This leads to further practical concerns such as how easily an installation can kept for future use. She prefers works that can be disassembled and reassembled for easy transportation and storage. Indeed, several of the works that will feature in her March exhibition have been exhibited previously in different forms: a chainmail blanket that has previously been hung as a curtain will become the covering for a playpen; black teddies which were once hidden in swathes of black cloth have now been liberated and exist as independent objects. Permindar is also considering ways to reconfigure the exhibition while it is on public display, so that the installations are constantly evolving and surprising repeat visitors to the gallery.
She does, however, feel an urge to challenge this way of thinking, She would quite like to “do things that don’t have a future”. She admires the work of Tino Seghal, a Turner Prize nominated performance artist who refuses to record his work in any way, even as written instructions. Permindar has glued a piece of white cotton wool to the wall of her studio, in an effort to produce something more fleeting, that does not have the permanence of her usual work. However, she recognises that ultimately in order to succeed in today’s art world, work must be easily stored and retrieved. When presented with works such as those of Seghal, which disappear at the moment they are produced, galleries will always ask, “how sustainable is that?”