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Oh Aunty Ji Artists : Adrita Das
We chatted with artist Adrita Das aka Das Naiz, about her work, her love for gifs, and why Aunties feature heavily in her visual explorations. 

Adrita Das’s work is experimental, subversive, intelligent, but mostly importantly SO FUN! The Bombay based artist who loves all things GIFs, often uses iconic South Asian imagery, putting her own spin to classical visual culture rendering it contemporary and full of irony. Famous for her ‘Gods Taking Selfies’ series, she has created a fair number of viral images such as ‘The Lovers (Rene Magritte) in Delhi and ‘Inedible India’. At NorBlack NorWhite, we love her for all the amazing aunties from Bollywood and elsewhere who pop up in her work from time to time. Read the full conversation below.

Tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up, what were you interested in as a kid, what did you end up studying and what’s your practice now?

I grew up moving around a lot across the country, thanks to my father’s job but my fondest memories are from the years I spent in Assam and the transition to a big city like Mumbai. I think as a kid I lived a double life because all my teachers thought I was a sincere, shy child when infact I was tying people’s laces and playing pranks. My practice in some ways is very much like that - some people even consider it art.

Why the artist name ‘Das Naiz’?

At some point I heard a lot of people say ‘That’s nice’ everytime I asked them what they thought of my work. I also just wanted to make a Das pun and sound a bit german while at it.

When and how did you start making gifs? Why do you love working and experimenting with gifs?

I started making GIFs when I was in college and someone introduced me to memes. I thought GIFs were the perfect gateway from the art-school rhetoric into the interwebs. They were also simple to execute and I literally became a happier person every time I made a small, perfect loop.

What’s your favorite gif you’ve made so far?

The Aunty GIF and the one with Kim Jong Un are tough competitors. They both took less than 5 minutes each and I was laughing throughout.

Your work plays with a lot of Indian Visual culture, including religious iconography. Can you tell us how you infuse and humour into those kind of themes, in a sentimental country like ours?

Subverting religious iconography is in my opinion, my way of asking someone to see through the burden of it. At the end of the day, its a set of pixels rearranged- how could a complex human being take it that seriously? But my intention is hardly ever to provoke or make people laugh. More often than not, my work makes people laugh because it is (tragically) true.

Why do you like playing with Bollywood imagery? Do you watch a lot of old films to get ideas and content?

I find Bollywood to be a fascinating marker in some ways- so old movies, magazines, posters and their depiction of what society was/ should be is extremely close to me. You can see advertising from the 70s that is trying to sell you the idea of luxury (for example) and you can finally look through it. That makes you realise the tropes people have used for generations. 

Why do so many aunties & ladies feature in your gifs? I like how badass they are and how openly they speak their mind in a society that asks them not to. I grew up detesting some aunties because of how honest and non-chalant they were and now that I am one, I get it completely. I feel that aunties get a bad rep in our culture and they are always seen as nosy or pushy but maybe it’s also important to evaluate why.

Who’s your favourite type of aunty?

My favourite type of aunties are the ones who insist on upholding awkward conversations; the ones who want to ask you about your future and you can see on their face they clearly don’t remember who you are.

Have you ever been called ‘Aunty’ and if yes, what feelings did you feel?

I think a kid once called out to me with the classic “Aunty, ball pass karna” and I felt like I had hit my peak.

Anything fun you are currently working on that you can share? Tell us about Smarter Than A Waffle and Cards Against Sanskaar.

I recently took the plunge and co-founded a design studio Smarter than a Waffle, with my close friend from college. Karan and I began STAW as a production house while in college making funny videos for the community and realised we loved making content that made people laugh or think. At the moment we are working on Cards Against Sanskaar (a party game) that began as a prank for April Fools Day this year. Now people won’t leave us alone until we give them a deck so yes, we’re building the game from scratch! In the future we want to work on pushing the boundaries of media and content with our projects.

 

Follow Smarter Than a Waffle here, and go learn more about Cards Against Sanskaar.

 

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