You might be forgiven for thinking of Shubigi Rao as a writer, since her book Pulp II: A Visual Bibliography of the Banished Book just swept the Singapore Literature Prize 2020 for Creative Nonfiction in English, but the multi-talented 45-year-old really defies definition.
For one thing, Mumbai-born Shubigi is also an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist who makes layered installations of films, books, etchings, drawings, pseudo-scientific machines, metaphysical puzzles, video works, ideological board games, and archives, and who will be exhibiting in a major biennial and triennial next year.
For another, she was unanimously selected to curate the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, South Asia’s biggest visual arts event, which begins in December. She’s also a filmmaker, with two new films in the works.
“I see very little separation between my artistic and literary work,” she explains. “Drawing is as much a primary impulse as language – both are rich yet incredibly flawed forms of communication.” However, she prefers the term “artist”, precisely for its flexibility. “It gives me the freedom to research and make work in almost any field, to be critical, informed and openly opinionated, to switch between conceptual frameworks, and to teach myself new things, media, and ideas when needed.”