Stanford University, 2015    6 Months      Individual Project

“Kanhika Nikam’s project is a multi channel video installation documenting experimentations she conducts with strangers on the street. Nikam’s goal is to provide these strangers with the space and time to think or revisit thoughts that are often overlooked because of their busy lives. The resulting portraits are both intimate and thought-provoking.”

— Ted Purves, Chair, Social Practice, California College of the Arts

‘Five Minutes’ on display at the 'Radical Ethnographies' show at the Coulter Art Gallery.

Project Description

In 'Five Minutes' I walk up to strangers I encounter in public spaces. I ask them if they have five minutes to collaborate on an art project. Then, I ask them to sit still and look at my camera lens for five minutes. This is the only instruction I give. After the five minutes I ask them a few questions. The gallery exhibit is five (selected of 36) video portraits of people looking at the lens, overlaid with the conversation I had with them.

There are three major goals I wished to achieve through this project. Personally, I wanted to explore how small interactions with strangers could lead to meaningful conversations and form a temporary yet emotional bond. For my collaborators, I want to provide them with the space and time to think or revisit thoughts that are often overlooked because of their busy lives. I wanted to do this by slowing down their body and mind. And for my audience, I want them to realize the value of five minutes of doing 'nothing' in the frantic times we live in today, ironically as they spend five minutes listening to the thoughts of complete strangers.

Project Background

Unknowing, my artwork in the past year followed a theme. I tried to articulate this theme in form of an artist's statement. This statement acted as a starting point to my thesis project.

With my artwork I want to ask my audience to focus on the subtle and intimate details in our lives. I want us to slow down and pay attention, especially since I feel so much of contemporary life focuses on spectacle. I want to draw attention to the tiny things, but with a certain lightness of gesture.

I'm also drawn towards documentation. This might come from my lifelong love of collecting and hoarding objects. I feel it has now translated into collecting and categorizing human behavior through their subtle physical gestures, interactions, the unsaid social and personal rules they follow.

I try to collect these by having a set of rules either for myself or my study participants. Then, I keep repeating these rules until they give rise to a logical connected thought or a system.

Five Minutes

The videos are intended to be viewed on full screen, at eye level.

The other incredible people I got to interact with and spend a few minutes getting an insightful peek into their beautiful minds.