There’s been an explosion in the sheer number of creative studios across the homegrown landscape over the last few years, each with its own unique vision and identity. It seems a little unjust to call it an ‘oversaturation’ but the fact remains that there’s no dearth of individuals and collectives that are striving to leave their mark and shape the artistic zeitgeist across the country.
This is precisely why the multidisciplinary Howareyoufeeling.studio feels like such a breath of fresh air. An interdisciplinary endeavour that provides creative direction across brand collaborations, concepts for shows, installations, performances and film, you can see a deliberate multidimensional incisiveness to every project they undertake.
As you peel back the layers of what’s in front of you and take in everything they have to offer, you find yourself being transported on a sublime journey across time, space, emotion, and being. There’s an ethereal ‘otherworldliness’ that they inject into everyday spaces and objects that gently nudges their audiences into re-evaluating the preconceptions that they use to view art and the world as a whole.
The studio’s provenance was a creative and literal marriage between its founders and creative directors — Doyel Joshi and Neil Balser, who met while attending Parsons School Of Design in New York City. While Doyel’s area of focus was in visual art and fashion, Neil’s area of expertise lay within the realm of sound and interdisciplinary art, with performance as a focal point. The first project the duo undertook together involved Neil creating the sound for Doyel’s thesis design project. This experience of collaboration and experimentation was where they first laid the foundations for what we now know as Howareyoufeeling.studio.
“We had our individual practices after this point, but we quickly realised how much we really trusted each other’s instincts,” explains Doyel. “It wasn’t just a flat exchange and we were really able to build on things without criticism."
What was integral to the beginnings of their partnership was the fact that there was always a level of creative intrigue. The couple always had an understanding and a sense of how their own visions could build on top of each other to create something wholly unique despite the ostensible differences in their individual sensibilities.
The couple maintain that everything they’ve achieved and accomplished together as a studio isn’t something that they could’ve ever done alone or as individuals. Their body of work involves a cohesive amalgamation of diverse ideas, art forms, and concepts to the point where it becomes difficult to pinpoint whether the creative or the creative expression of each facet of their work originally came from Doyel or Neil.
“It’s the expression of an emotion and how it’s expressed doesn’t really matter,” says Neil. “I mean that in the sense that we don’t compartmentalize it; it’s up to our audience to do that and interpret it as they see it — whether it’s art, architecture, sound, design or even movement. I think with our respective backgrounds, there’s a multitude in the things that we engage with and create; a sublime hybridity.”
One of the things that has allowed Howareyoufeeling to carve out such a unique niche is their commitment to their process. Everything that has brought them success and the attention of the zeitgeist has come from a place of earnestness and honesty. They’ve realized that their less successful projects tend to happen when they find themselves trying to please someone or when their work is fueled by insecurity or fear. Their path towards realizing their creative vision has involved them using their intuition and paying attention to their own emotions as collaborators, both for each other and with each other.
The act of creating is one that is deeply personal for the duo and quite literally involves them invoking the deep intimacy and connection that they share with each other and asking each other the eponymous question — “How are you feeling?”
It is from the results of this that they either dive deeper or see how they can use what they’ve learned from each other. They reflect this through their art and place that ‘feeling’ into the world. What resonates the most with the duo are the things they’ve been able to personally and deeply meditate on, whether it’s personal experiences, societal and political issues, masculine energy, and even reactions to things they see occurring around them in real time. Their work is an echo of these elements, that their audience is then able to sense and find resonance with.
“If we question how we’re feeling, it becomes a means and a portal to introspection which brings us closer to our intuition. Then in the process of expressing these feelings, you have to pass all the conditioning and other things that life has thrown at you. This facilitates the improvisational nature of how we want to put things out in the world.”
While the starting points of their process are usually well-defined, what happens after that is fluid, contextual, and personal. While some concepts are fleshed out in a matter of minutes, others take days and nights. For them, it’s about finding a concept; a feeling; a vibration that feels just right creatively and emotionally.
What they’ve learned about executing projects over the time that they’ve been together is the fact that they’re individuals who are excited by ‘impossible’ prospects. They firmly believe that virtually nothing is impossible in a country as artistically diverse as India and that projects that possess ‘out of mind’ and ‘out of body’ characteristics are both attainable and achievable.
“Because our materiality with each project is so different for each project, you really have to go out and find people who work with those materials and who know its limitations better than anybody else. I think that’s the beauty of the thinking process and the doing process. The doing process is something we really enjoy in India because it showcases the collective ingenuity of the people here.”
Howareyoufeeling constantly strives to create experiential spaces and to take art out and beyond the proverbial ‘white room’; moving it into spaces where the public at large is able to more easily access it. They aim to connect with the humanity of their audience and find common ground with the emotions and characteristics that they most strongly resonate with.
“Often, artistic courage is the path that leads towards the work that will resonate with people the most. When it’s personal and courageous and when we really go through the process of overcoming our own limitations is when we excel as creatives.”
Every project that they undertake also shares a connection with those that came before it and nothing they do exists in isolation or in a vacuum. There’s always context that links it to a previous idea or sentiment, where one idea can often directly influence the next.
Despite the ostensible complexity of the duo's ambitions, they make it clear that ‘simplicity’ is a key concept that they attempt to bring to the fore while realizing their creative visions. They believe that it is in the simplification of concepts thoughts, emotions or ideas that they can find the best creative outlets and forms of expression.
A recent project at a Homegrown event at IFBE Mumbai saw them create a unique exhibition made up of blocks of scarlet ice. In doing so, they paid tribute to the history of the iconic venue, recognized the cultural legacy of ice and ice factories in Mumbai, invoked the collective legacy of the workers and artisans who made their livelihoods with the very same ice, and represented the passing of time; linking it inextricably with the melting of the ice over the course of the evening.
“We tend to question what the elephant in the room is. At the IFBE, we felt that it was unquestionably where the ice was. We noticed there was still a small ice factory at the back and we asked them whether they’d be open to collaborating, which they were happy to do. They were very excited to do something with the ice and create something that sparked joy.”
Beyond the surface, this exhibition asked some key questions about the idea of provenance, particularly in relation to architecture and space. It questioned how the passage of time affected those who shaped the trajectory of ice as a commodity and the spaces that it occupied. It also expanded on the immaculate artistry of those responsible for collaborating with the duo to create the installation.
The ‘Provinance’ ice installation was in many ways a microcosm of what sets Howareyoufeeling.studio apart from their contemporaries. Their body of work is a sublime coming together of artistic flair, organized chaos, practical simplicity, emotional empathy, and a palpable sense of self-awareness for both the times we live in and those that have long since passed. There’s an uncynical conviction in the way that they approach each project and an attempt to bring what’s often ignored or unseen to the surface. Their multidisciplinary approach is also paving the way for more creators who are unfettered by the pressure to fit into specific compartments. They’re shaping a world where various forms of art and performance can coexist to unabashedly relay complexity, nuance and beauty.
While they’ve already explored retail, artistic, experiential, digital and fashion spaces, the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind during and after a Howareyoufeeling show is almost always “What’s next?”
One area they’re currently exploring is creating ‘hybrids’ or crossover installations that bring in seemingly disparate elements that have thus far been underexplored in the country while simultaneously bringing their artistry and their process into relatively newer spaces such as culinary art and interior design. In addition to this, they’re looking at bringing creative and collaborative conversations to formats such as podcasts in order to contribute to the trajectory of the creative zeitgeist across the country.
What’s of paramount importance for them is to continue to push for collaborations that emphasize the indomitably creative ‘homegrown’ spirit that makes the Indian artistic space a place of limitless possibilities. They’re inspired every single day by the artists, artisans and partners that they work with and are constantly trying to push the envelope of what can be achieved through their unique process of empathetic collaboration.
In the next year, their looking at expanding India’s creative imprint globally through a series of projects and installations. To do so they’re growing their team and bringing in creatives from a variety of backgrounds across architecture, products, and more while simultaneously exploring greater variety of unique spaces through which to realize their “feelings”.
You can follow Howareyoufeeling.studio here.