Yaazd Contractor grew up in Mumbai and moved to Chicago to hone his skills. He’s a multidisciplinary artist, always ready to get involved in something new.
From his stories, it seems that “transition” is a word that strongly characterizes his professional and personal life. In the interview we talk about this.
Hello Yaazd, how are you? I’d like to start by asking you to introduce yourself briefly and tell us what you do, please.
My name is Yaazd Contractor. I’m a multidisciplinary artist and designer, currently based in Mumbai. I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At the moment, I’m working and trying to set up studios and workspaces in Mumbai, although I am noticing that there are many differences between the US and India.
So, you are from Mumbai but you lived in Chicago, right? Have you ever mixed your native and American culture in your works?
Yes, what surrounds me really inspires me and what I see and the people I meet when I walk around the city, for example, are aspects that in a way motivate me and show me different things that are usually overlooked by others because they are part of our daily life. To answer your question directly, my works change according to the city I am in, as well as the resources I have available, the materials... All this plays a huge role. It’s like a combination of all of this.
Looking at your website, I noticed that you deal with both digital and physical projects. What role does technology play in your job?
So, I moved to Chicago from Mumbai. Art in Mumbai is more like art and painting. I used to take photos and videos, because I had a camera. When I started attending the SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) I perceived an advantage in technology. This discovery opened my eyes to a previously unknown world, so I started working in digital fabrication, with 3D, printing and that sort of thing. Technology is a vast world, you can’t define it with one word - you see something on Instagram, it’s technology, you use a new tool and that’s technology too. It always surrounds me. I try to differentiate my works, physical and digital, even if there’s a symbiotic relationship between them.
Let’s talk about your digital project Green 360. Why did you choose to shoot a video about plants? Does green mean something particular to you?
The idea for the project was born when I was in Chicago and visited a place where there were tropical trees, plants and internal architectural structures. It was kind of a weird concept for me: trees and plants are supposed to be outside, but it was really cool at the same time.
Also, I was really trying to carefully observe the reality around me all the time, because it was new. I found it very interesting and I felt the need to dive into it. I was thinking about what the future will be, how we will be, how and what we’ll see outside. This is the idea behind the project. Making it without tools and software was more than an experiment.
Well, “green” at the time meant something different to me, but from that moment on I understood better that being surrounded by friends, people and sustainability is a healthy action towards ourselves, but also towards the environment itself. It was a kind of change. Now I feel more responsible for what I do and what I can do, be it small or big. I always try to be conscious and understand what I am doing and what it is happening around me. Everything has changed for me since then, but I think it makes more sense now.
Among your works, the Vases collection with particular shapes stands out. What was your inspiration?
I walked in the Neo Studio at my school, and it all started from that. There, many students were taking classes and throwing a lot of glass tubes in the trash - they were pretty big pieces. So, my inspiration was mainly the trash, full of discarded glass that I could use. It was an experiment but also a mess. That’s how the shapes were born. I was just freestyling, I didn’t have a particular plan or reason in mind.
For which type of room would you suggest one of your creations from the Vases collection?
There was a small vase, it was 12 inches long. On some occasions I used to give it to my friends or even other people as a gift. It could be put on the dining table, on the bedside table... Actually I think any place could be suitable, the important thing is those who own it enjoy it. Personally, I used to keep it on my window, because the light created beautiful reflections through the glass.
What about the Window grill project?
Most of the members of my family are architects or interior designers, for example my dad, my mom, my sister... I’m surrounded by art.
At the time, I was really interested in grilling methods, but also grilling in general, stuff like that.I also created a project on doors, always based on the same idea.
I really like objects like doors and windows because I am curious about the passage from one room to another, or, as regards the windows, from inside to outside. So, I played on that. I finished the project in a very short time. The entire piece is made up of glass, even the back. The front is from Krypton Gas, which is white and glow.
Basically, my inspiration came from places of transition in architecture.
The pandemic period has led to many reflections and new projects. Has it happened to you too?
In a way, maybe not as much as someone else. But when the pandemic hit us, I went through a big time of transition. @Eugenio and I had just set up our first solo show Emission Lines, which we had put up, which we have walked through for a long time and we’re gonna open it when all this ends. We kind of had our minds completely immersed in this project at that time and when the pandemic started we were like “Ehm… Okay, what’s happening?! What’s gonna happen?!”.
So, initially I thought about taking a step back from art. I wanted to reflect and think about life, changes, our roles and these kinds of deeper things rather than actually “making” stuff.
Also, we were 4 friends in one house talking, reflecting and struggling. All of us foreign students had to leave, go back to our cities. So, it was a huge time of change, maybe not as far as artworks meant as benefits, projects and stuff like that, but definitely for myself, because I think this period has helped me improve as a person, as a project. There has been a huge leap in quality in this regard. And I believe it will get better and better than when I started and messed around with things. I know that whatever happens I will not step back.
As you know, our magazine name is “D.A.R.E.” – it’s the acronym of 4 important values for us, but it also embodies “risk” and “courage”. Now, let me ask you, what does ‘dare’ mean to you?
The first word that comes to my mind is “belief”. You know when you strongly believe in something and the people around you say “No, I think it won't work”, but you know it’s gonna work. So, that’s the first thing I associate with the concept of daring.
Aside from that, I think that doing something different from others is fundamental, especially when people tell you “That’s wrong, it’s not the way it is”.
Which of your works represent your idea of “daring”? Or, if it doesn’t exist yet, will you create something that represents it?
Yes, both. Right now I’m designing a sculpture that was commissioned to me for outdoor spaces. It’s 17 feet tall – the tallest I’ve ever made so far. That’s kinda what I meant before when I said that you have to believe and jump into it. This is definitely one of the “pluses” I noticed in my life recently, but I can also feel that in many of my projects.
After my academic career I jumped into a lot of projects and did a lot of things, like sculptures, micro-processing, 3D animation, screen-printing, whatever. And also, stuff like the Internet, YouTube and tutorials. When I see something that intrigues me I think “Okay, cool, I can do that”, even though I don’t have all the necessary knowledge. So I take this step, I try to figure it out and test myself. It’s like when you put your legs in the water and you can feel that it’s really cold and you want to get out but at the same time you know you have to stay in if you want to get used to the temperature, if you want to get in the game.I think each of my work is part of a puzzle in a way, all my projects have this optimistic idea.
You can find the video interview on @dareclan IG profile.
Finally, Yaazd is also part of TheBackStudio, a project that we’ll see soon on @dareclan.