Friday, 16 May 2014

INTERVIEW: Hetain Patel

THERE has been much debate over the years about how TV shows and films can influence a person but for one South London artist they have provided the inspiration for his latest project.
American Boy is a warm and funny self-portrait by Hetain Patel constructed entirely from quotes and scenes from 90s Hollywood movies and TV programmes.
Drawing on the vocal and physical impersonations of Hetain’s playground days, it looks at the multiple personas which we all inhabit in our day-to-day lives.
The solo show which he is bringing to Sadler's Wells on May 20 and 21 marks something of a departure for the 33-year-old who trained and has subsequently built up a reputation as a visual artist.
Indeed Hetain, who lives in New Cross, mostly works in photography and video exhibiting in galleries around the world to critical acclaim.
Recent successes include his performance piece Be Like Water, which has been viewed as a TED Talk more than two million times, and Fiesta Transformer, a large-scale robotic sculpture created with his father from a replica of the Ford Fiesta he was given as a 18th birthday present.
"A lot of my work is for galleries as I'm more of a visual artist," he says.
"But recently I've started doing bits and pieces of physical theatre.
"This is only the third time I've done something for the stage. In the first one I was talking about myself and in the second I did the opposite and spoke in every other way but my own so I learned a lot of languages.
"American Boy is somewhere in the middle taking aspects of both those shows a bit further as well as exploring identity and belonging, race and culture, themes which run through all my work," he says.
"I'm really excited about it and especially because it's fantastic to be at Sadler's Wells."
And he says it was an interesting project to see which films he shortlisted and which were then whittled down to be in the piece.
"There was a big list of clips to choose from!" he laughs. "But all the quotes are personal to me, are about me and describe me.
"It's a self portrait of characters, quotes and scenes from all of those films I used to watch when I was growing up, spliced together to make up the narrative," he adds.
"It's been incredibly interesting to see which films and TV programmes have had an influence in my life and how they have done so.
"I've not used any really obscure films but when I had finished putting it together it was quite revealing," he adds. "A lot of them are guys in suits - Matrix, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Usual Suspects, that kind of thing.
"We know violence and guns are wrong but as a kid gun swinging warriors are cool so I suppose that's why those ended up in the mix.
"There was also a lot of Eddie Murphy including films like Beverley Hills Cop - he was the first person to deal with race in his movies but he does it in a humorous way.
"There were two main things that came up - the first that it was very male with the whole men in suits thing and the second was the questions of race.
"What's great though is that there is a vein of humour running through it.
"I'm being as honest as I can and giving an accurate reflection of being human."
To help illustrate the show there will be costume changes, different accents and even a super hero costume, though Hetain says people will have to go to the show to find out which one.
"When you are a kid wanting to be a superhero is almost de rigeur," he says. "There is one which I could relate to really well so he does make an appearance!"

American Boy is at Sadler's Wells on May 20 and 21. Tickets £17. Visit or call the box office on 0844 412 4300.

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