In a world were irony has become the common place, it is the authentic that offer the new; Hetain Patels’ work has evolved fluidly and rapidly since a more canny self perception has been acknowledged.
Contemporary art has been awash with reactionary, offensive and all manners of non traditional art. A sense of undermining the past, outgrowing it. And although contemporary art may be more accessible than ever, and the ways it can manifest are broader, an anxiety persists for some who enter a gallery, the feeling you missed it. Patel’s work however is refreshingly welcoming.
Beginning with a somewhat imagined history and sense of identity, something which we may all feel, inherited over generations though blood from countries we may not know well anymore to a more pertinent personal history. An identity can be made up of myths of the abstract past; where my people call home or a more immediate one: the place i grew up. It is this which Patel has really interrogated within an understanding of who he is. Shedding the shell of a more superficial relationship to his Indian heritage.
Patel says “it’s about being” and not just about culture or ethnicity. But unlike many others whom have centered there existentialism around being ironic and reductive, creating no positive doctrine: Patel emerges as someone who has moved through the questions of being to point to some answer.
Patel’s work is made authentically: in Fiesta Transformer (2013) he and his dad turn his first car, a Ford Fiesta into a Transformer. Going back to his childhood loves: vigilantes/ his Dad who is perhaps his original superhero icon? Here he uncovers something lost in adulthood, a forgotten enjoyment.
Including your parents in the process of making work as collaborators is a new idea to me. And thats not to make any bones about Hetain Patel’s Dad: he probably doesn't give two hoots for the ongoing dialogues of Art. He’s a mechanic, and he is just doing what he does. To respect him as a collaborator creates an interesting problem. Wile circa 1990’s we now have a broader understanding of what a practice can be, does art care if you even acknowledge yourself as practitioner?
By replicating others Patel becomes more himself, as in various choreographed video works Dance LIke Your Dad (2009) where he copies his dads motions both of them in there career contexts, Patel in a white room, and his dad in a garage. Or The First Dance (2012) six screen split video copying a fight scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Something emerges from the approach, if i am not this person or this or this person, no matter how i try, then i must be? Something is revealed, revealed about what it means to be Hetain Patel. Each example/work is very specific and very Socratic (Every man for himself must answer the problem of his own being) in approach. Despite being so personal, the mystery is accessible. "wisest is he who knows he does not know" To a broader understanding of being, to which every person whom sees the work can access. No wonder then, that his Ted Talk - a pint sized version of a longer performance, has over 2 million views.
The denial of roots is typically romantic. Particularly for those who wish to evade or escape the class or culture they grew up in, create an identity rather than unravel it. I’ve heard it said by artists that art is a way of getting what you want. Quality time with close family is rarely on the list. Here, the real personal history is acknowledged as well as a lineage from childhood to adulthood. And an organic movement towards International artist.