Pors & Rao (both physical and emotional)
Established in 2004 by Indo-Danish artist duo Søren Pors and Aparna Rao, Pors & Rao is a studio in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) focusing on technology-driven sculptural work and interactive installations. The duo is particularly known for their use of electro-mechanical systems in imbuing lifelike and seemingly sentient qualities in their inanimate productions. Rao, born in Bengaluru, studied at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, before joining a two-year research programme at the Interactive Design Institute at Ivrea in Italy, where she met Pors. An artist from Esbjerg, Denmark, Pors studied at the Utrecht School of the Arts and worked in the Danish Public Broadcasting Company before enrolling in the same programme. He moved to Bangalore in 2004 to carry on his collaborations with Rao and eventually set up their joint studio.
Through their sculptural objects, Pors & Rao seek to unearth the ways in which people’s subconscious nature or patterns are expressed through involuntary motions and physical reactions. Engineering is used not to emphasise the machine, but simply as a tool to produce distinctly human responses such as trembling, fear and fatigue, and to manifest psychological processes such as humour and irony in objects. Their work aims to elicit a range of emotions, from frustration to empathy, and a sense of kinship towards the art-objects from the viewer.
Pors and Rao go to great lengths at their art lab, PATHOS (Poetic Animatronics Through Hands-On Systems) at Wyss Zurich, to ensure that mechanisations remain unnoticeable while performing their function of invoking the seeming inner states of objects. While their aesthetic influences — minimalist art from the sixties and animated cartoons of the slapstick variety — may be retrospective, their work itself employs cutting-edge, responsive technology to achieve space optimisation, minimal noise and seamless motion. In Imperial Monochromes (2018), for instance, the eight panels comprising the work slump into a lazy disarray from their precise grid-like arrangement until they sense movement or presence in the room, upon which they snap back to attention and into their preset positions in the grid. Other notable works include Handheld (2012–14), Teddy Universe (2009–11) and Untitled/Pygmies (2006–09).
Pors & Rao’s art has been exhibited in India, Norway, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. Noteworthy exhibitions include Whorled Explorations at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2014); METAMATIC Reloaded (2013) at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland; and a feature at the Setouchi Triennale, Japan (2016). Their work is in the permanent collections of the Centro De Arte Caja de Burgos, Spain; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan; Devi Art Foundation, India; and Artphilein Foundation, Switzerland.
At the time of writing, the duo is represented by GALLERYSKE.
Asia Society | Switzerland. 2020. “In the Research Lab with Pors & Rao.” Art over Lunch in January II. https://asiasociety.org/switzerland/events/research-lab-pors-rao
Nair, Uma. 2018. “Art Basel Hong Kong 2018: Gallery SKE Presents Pors & Rao.” Architectural Digest, India. March 29, 2018. https://www.architecturaldigest.in/content/art-basel-hong-kong-2018-gallery-ske-presents-pors-rao/
Artphilein De Pietri Foundation. n.d. “Pors & Rao.” Accessed ?. https://www.artphilein.org/support/view/20/pors-&-rao.-spacefiller
Residency Unlimited. n.d. “Pors and Rao.” RU Residency | 2015, NYC, Artist. https://www.residencyunlimited.org/residencies/pors-and-rao/
Pors and Rao. Accessed September 20, 2020. http://www.porsandrao.com/
San Jose Museum of Art. n.d. “Roots in the Air, Branches Below: San Jose Museum of Art.” In Exhibition :Modern and Contemporary Art in India,” February 25, 2011 through September 4, 2011. https://sjmusart.org/roots-air-branches-below-modern-and-contemporary-art-india/works/pors-and-rao-the-uncle-phone.php
Sridhar, Aparna. 2019. “Subconscious Thoughts Embodied in Art — Pors & Rao.” Soft Power. July 06, 2020. https://www.softpowermag.com/subconscious-thoughts-embodied-in-art-pors-rao/
Wadsworth, John. 2018. “Pygmies.” Silent Frame. March 27, 2018. https://www.silent-frame.com/articles/pygmies-soren-pors-aparna-rao.