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Art that craves your attention - Aparna Rao

This is an engaging TED talk ("The art that craves your attention") by Indian artist/designer Aparna Rao, about her recent works on cartoons that respond to the viewers emotions and mood.......wonderfully cool. For hearing the complete video of the talk please click the embedded video below or click this link.

A little bit about her, she is a part of the artist duo "Pors & Rao" specializes in interactive installations with electro-mechanical systems. The description about their art is fairly complex like "a personal exploration of subtle unconscious patterns and limitations that influence our behaviors and relationships; and the applied fiction or imaginative logic that makes them seem logical. The resulting work can be idiosyncratic, but still logical on its own terms.”The artist duo, Aparna Rao (India) and Søren Pors, (Denmark)


In this talk ("The art that craves your attention"), she convincingly simplifies the concepts.

Her art is dynamic, edgy and innovative. Like the ones below. Hear from the artist's own words about the installations (From another TED speech of hers " High Tech art with Sense of humour").

Uncle phone


" It was inspired by my uncle's peculiar habit of constantly asking me to do things for him, almost like I were an extension of his body -- to turn on the lights or to bring him a glass of water, a pack of cigarettes. And as I grew up, it became worse and worse, And I started to think of it as a form of control. But of course, I could never say anything, because the uncle is a respected figure in the Indian family. And the situation that irked me and mystified me the most was his use of a landline telephone. He would hold on to the receiver and expect me to dial a number for him. And so as a response and as a gift to my uncle, I made him "The Uncle Phone." It's so long that it requires two people to use it. It's exactly the way my uncle uses a phone that's designed for one person".

Sun Shadow

"This is a work called "The Sun Shadow." And it was almost like a sheet of paper, like a cutout of a childlike drawing of an oil spill or a sun. And from the front, this object appeared to be very strong and robust, and from the side, it almost seemed very weak. So people would walking into the room and they'd almost ignore it, thinking it was some crap laying around. But as soon as they passed by, it would start to climb up the wall in jerky fashion. And it would get exhausted, and it would collapse every time".

Upside down man 
"This work is a caricature of an upside-down man. His head is so heavy, full of heavy thoughts, that it's sort of fallen into his hat, and his body's grown out of him almost like a plant. Well what he does is he moves around in a very drunken fashion on his head in a very unpredictable and extremely slow movement. And it's kind of constrained by that circle. Because if that circle weren't there, and the floor was very even, it would start to wander about in the space. And there's no wires. So I'll just show you an instance -- so when people enter the room, it activates this object. And it very slowly, over a few minutes, sort of painfully goes up, and then it gains momentum and it looks like it's almost about to fall. And this is an important moment, because we wanted to instill in the viewer an instinct to almost go and help, or save the subject. But it doesn't really need it, because it, again, sort of manages to pull itself up".

The pygmies
"The "Pygmies" was a sound-sensitive installation that we affectionately call "The Pygmies." And we wanted to work with a notion of being surrounded by a tribe of very shy, sensitive and sweet creatures. So how it works is we have these panels, which we have on the wall, and behind them, we have these little creatures which hide. And as soon as it's silent, they sort of creep out. And if it's even more silent, they stretch their necks out. And at the slightest sound, they hide back again".  

"we worked very hard to make them as lifelike as possible. So each pygmy has its own behavior, psyche, mood swings, personalities and so on. So this is a very early prototype. Of course, it got much better after that. And we made them react to people, but we found that people were being quite playful and childlike with them".

For reading more on the art works go to the TED speech Transcript.

If you are interested to read more about their art, check out Deepa Bhasthi's blog.


  1. Love this art, Gay Bodhi! Not at all passive as it engages the observer. It also provokes one to think about how one is acting in response to the art. Very clever and innovative.

    1. Yes, very innovative, this can engage with people. She describes how the people were playful with the pygmy sculpture.......that is what art should is interesting to note that she is not in love with technology, but the art.......she uses technology wisely to convey her ideas through art. Hard work and out of the box thinking. Thank you again!

  2. Hi Gay Bodhi,

    This is very interesting art. It has taken me out of my realm since I'm really not an artistic person. I like her uncle phone and the way she used her personal experience to create it.

    Thanks for sharing,

    1. Yes, Lillian, interesting indeed.......I too loved that concept of uncle phone, examples of art coupled with nostalgia has been artist essentially incorporates his/her experiences into his/her art. The most important part of her art is, the concepts are very simple but the way she executes those concepts is really complex and awesome......but what other artists do .......the concept will be very complex and abstract, but the outcome will be a just a simple two dimensional the outcome is a three dimensional object with a mind of its own and it can carry the viewer along with it.......that i think is on a whole different level...........thank you for commenting.


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