15 Questions for Trash-Recycling Installation Artist Asim Waqif

Asim Waqif's "HAZARD!," 2011

Name: Asim Waqif

Age: 34


Occupation: Artist

City: New Delhi

Current Exhibition: "Bordel Monstre" at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo with the support of SAM Art Project, through January 21, 2013.

What did you want to create at the Palais de Tokyo?

This work mostly revolves around trash. To me, looking in a garbage can is almost like doing archaeology. You can learn a lot about a community or an individual from the trash that they produce. When I visited the Palais de Tokyo three months ago, they were in the process of changing exhibitions and there were huge piles of materials from the previous show that were going to be destroyed (officially described as “eliminated in complete security”). That made me think about what, with artistic systems, we create as trash. Today development and progress are often closely associated with a consumer economy. And it’s as if we could repair the damage from excessive consumption by throwing everything into the provided containers. I wanted to shed light on these containers and recycle them into an art object.

Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.

My days vary. When I’m working, it’s like I’m possessed and the days and weeks disappear in a cloud. Other times, I hardly work at all for weeks. It’s a balance; I have to take a break after having worked hard and vice-versa. For the Palais de Tokyo show, I got up around 8 a.m., started working on location at 10, and stayed until 7 p.m., with an hour break for lunch.

What is your favorite place to see art?

I don’t have one. What’s important is to know if the artist in engaged with the space where he is showing his work.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

Knives and blades. I have a lot of different tools for each artwork idea.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

Ideas emerge from life and from observing life/society.

Do you collect anything?

I collect a lot of things, but I’ve never tried to make a collection. I like collecting things that people throw away. Sometimes I collect my own trash. Among other things, I also have a weakness for collecting airplane ashtrays, which are like fetishes.

What is the last artwork you purchased?

I’ve bought crafts. For me they are a lot more relevant than a large portion of contemporary art.

What was the first artwork that you ever sold?

A sculpture that I made for myself in 2010.

The weirdest thing that you’ve seen in a museum or a gallery?

The weirdest thing in most museums and galleries is that you’re not allowed to touch most of the art. Commercial value has eclipsed experimentation.

Do you have an art world pet peeve?

That people consider the best art to be the most expensive. This implies that rich people control what is good in art. There’s nothing wrong with being rich, but I notice that they generally live a very protected life and are usually not aware of what's going on.

What’s the last great book you read?

Raymond Queneau’s “La Saint-Glinglin.”

What work of art do you wish you owned?


What international art destination do you most want to visit?


What artists, galleries, or artworks do you think are undervalued?

None to my knowledge, but I’m determined to keep the art world at a certain distance.

Any hobbies?

I do a lot of hiking in the Himalayas, alone or with friends, without guides or porters. I like crafts and learning new techniques. The boundary between my work and my leisure time is rather fluid.