It’s the combined forces of cultural history, personal narrative, on-site improvisation, grand costumes, and live charcoal drawings that make Nikhil Chopra’s performance art fascinating. And now, as the artist-in-residence for 2019-20 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Chopra will be the first in the museum’s 150 years to reside in the premises for over a week (from September 12 to 20, 2019), interacting with the iconic works on display. Shanay Jhaveri, assistant curator of South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art at the museum, has an intimate conversation with Chopra on his hopes and goals for the pioneering show.
Shanay Jhaveri: Nikhil, you have now made three research trips to The Met. Can you share with us how this has informed your preparations for this month?
Nikhil Chopra: My work often reacts to a site. Visiting a place, in this case repeatedly, has allowed for a deeper understanding of the context within which the performance will be carried out. I spent time at the museum in its various galleries, in spaces, among objects, and thousands of people. On a rainy day, The Met often felt more like a public space with a utility like Grand Central Station. How thousands of people negotiate through the museum, what the favourite sites and objects are, and which are the least visited galleries, determined where in the museum I would perform.
SJ: It’s very exciting, antici