Aspex Portsmouth

Rishi Ritch & BAMEstorm, Hardeep Pandhal

Rishi Ritch and BAMEstorm are two new recorded audio works by artist Hardeep Pandhal for Aspex’s 40th anniversary programme of digital commissions, Aspex (life begins) at 40.

Pandhal’s commission is presented as two tracks, each accompanied by a poster artwork featuring the lyrics performed by the artist. The poster artworks can be viewed on the screen whilst listening to the audio and can also be downloaded as high resolution posters, which can be printed at home.

Hardeep Pandhal (b.1985, Birmingham. Lives and works in Glasgow) works predominantly with drawing and voice to transform feelings of disinheritance and disaffection into generative spaces that bolster interdependence and self-belief. Applying practices of associative thinking, his research-led projects exhibit syncretic strains of post-brown weirdness. Across media, his works are imbued with acerbity and playful complexity; at once confrontational and reflective.

If you’d like to listen to the two tracks before reading the further information about the artwork, click ‘enter now’ then navigate between the two tracks by moving your cursor to the top right corner of your screen and clicking the left and right arrow buttons. Return to this page by clicking X.

Both Rishi Ritch and BAMEstorm discuss race and Pandhal’s experiences of racial inequality within academia and the art world. BAME, a widely used acronym for ‘Black, Asian Minority Ethnic’ features in both sets of lyrics. The phrase has been heavily critiqued by writers and academics and in this work Pandhal uses repetition to lampoon BAME and POC (people of colour) almost beyond them making any sense.

In Rishi Ritch Pandhal also repeats rich and ‘I’m so rich’ so much that it arguably loses any currency. In both tracks the artist talks about wealth and economic inequality, and even the title refers to the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who is reported to have considerable private wealth, and has held one of the most visible positions in British politics since February 2020.

As well as Sunak, Pandhal refers to others by name including Home Secretary Priti Patel and the first ruler of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Singh has featured in a number of Pandhal’s works, and as a militaristic, sword wielding figure he also appears, decapitated and emasculated on the poster artworks.

‘The motif of a headless Sikh horseman is a conflation of Ranjit Singh and Baba Deep Singh, whose decapitated body, legend has it, continued to fight the Afghan army during the 1757 Battle of Amritsar. I envisaged my figure as a prototypical fantasy character, who I hope will one day find home in a dark, Sikh-inspired Sword and Sorcery universe created by me and some friends. Images of auto-decapitation and supernaturally displaced heads are open to multiple interpretations. I like to think of these motifs as conveying emasculation, ejaculation (speech-oral/orgasmic-sexual), but also an openness to inexplicable or beheaded forms of consciousness. Essentially, it’s about losing one’s head(s), becoming headless and more egalitarian in spirit.’ – Hardeep Pandhal 2021

This cartoonish violence is consistent across Hardeep Pandhal’s practice, and interweaves his interests in horror and fantasy. Peppered throughout the lyrics are references to wizards, wisdom trees, lichs and sardonic harmonies. The backing music is disconcerting and the intermittent screams in BAMEstorm, sampled from skate videos, feel particularly sinister without knowing their source. 

Pandhal layers complex references and resists a single narrative or interpretation of these works. He states that “the best lesson was quarantine” but doesn’t pin down what he’s referring to; allowing space for our own reflection on what has been learnt from a global pandemic and multiple lockdowns.

As well as a drawing practice Hardeep Pandhal has achieved recognition for video works combining rap or spoken narration with animated drawings. For this commission Pandhal was invited to develop audio, foregrounding his lyrics and distinctive style of rapping, inspired by the rapper Lil B and his “Based” philosophy, which preaches positivity and tolerance through his music. Rishi Ritch and BAMEstorm were produced with support from Joe Howe and Stef Sadler AKA Snuffy The Vampire Slayer. The poster artworks simultaneously work as engaging posters, reiterating his choice of words and as a means for anyone who is D/deaf or hard of hearing to experience Pandhal’s work.

Hardeep Pandhal’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including, most recently: Goldsmiths Centre of Contemporary Art (2020); Tramway, Glasgow (2020); New Art Exchange, Nottingham (2019); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2019); South London Gallery, London (2018); New Museum, New York (2018); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2018); Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2017); Modern Art Oxford, Oxford (2016).
Pandhal’s work is part of a number of prestigious public collections, including Arts Council Collection, UK; British Council Collection, UK; Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow. He was shortlisted for the Jarman Award (2018) and selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013).

Hardeep Pandhal Interviews Peter Kennard

To complement the digital artwork Hardeep Pandhal has interviewed Peter Kennard about his work and the 1987 group exhibition, In A Right State which was shown at Aspex in Brougham Road. The transcribed conversation is available to read as a downloadable pdf or Google Doc, and is the second of four recorded conversations between the artists commissioned in 2021 and the artists whose work they have connected to in the Aspex archive.
Rishi Ritch and BAMEstorm were commissioned by Aspex and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. They form part of Aspex (life begins) at 40, our anniversary programme which also includes digital commissions by Bettina Fung, Jaf Yusuf and NT.

Rishi Ritch & BAMEstorm by Hardeep Pandhal – an activity by John Stewart

Watch the video and download the PDF activity

In this activity, which engages Hardeep Pandhal’s new digital commissions Rishi Ritch & BAMEstorm, we think about ways in which our own identities are formed and identify the structures that form them through the medium of song – or, more specifically: parody rap. Combine your rap with a drawing to create a video reflecting your own self.

The activity was created by John Stewart BA PGCE MA. John is an artist educator interested in practices that can impact on the agency of young people.