Nithya Iyer

Nithya Iyer is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher of South Indian Tamil-descent. Raised in Melbourne, Australia, she currently resides in Lisbon, Portugal. Her practice dialogues between written, embodied and visual inquiries that explore alternative modes of sense- and meaning-making as a means of exploring alterity, intersubjectivity and decoloniality. With a focus on cumulative and iterative projects that span solo and group performance through to experiential, participatory installation, writing and voice, Nithya seeks to articulate generative modalities of arts practice as means of both research and form, attempting to disrupt traditional parameters of aesthetics and performance through the enactment of ambiguous territories. In 2022 she co-founded The Third Thing with Vlad Mizikov. The current focus of her research unfolds between solo and collaborative projects.

Nithya was trained for 12 years in the forms of Bharatanatyam and Odissi at the Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy of Indian Dance in Melbourne, Australia, where she later taught and performed as a senior ensemble member of the Jambudvipa Ensemble. She was the co-founder of interdisciplinary arts collective L&NDLESS with Devika Bilimoria and Luna Mrozik-Gawler, presenting several durational and participatory works across festivals in Australia. In January 2020, Nithya was invited to perform her debut solo work ‘Vengayam’ at Kampni Kutcheri in Bengaluru, India, by the esteemed Madhu Nataraj of Natya STEM Dance Kampni. The work – first shown at the Critical Animals festival as part of This Is Not Art in Newcastle in 2018, and subsequently at Bus Projects, Melbourne, Australia, – dissects the impact of migration and nationalism on individual identity with a particular focus on first-generation South Asian immigration to Australia.

Nithya arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, in March 2020 under the auspices of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust to complete a year-long residency project at the Hangar Centre for Artistic Investigation. Entitled ‘An Indefinite Series of Discontinuous Acts’, the project explored the apex of artistic investigation, phenomenological practice and academic research to ask: What is knowledge-making? How are alternative forms of knowledge validated into the formal research process? How can these processes re-envision knowledge-based hierarchies to challenge systemic dysfunctions? Working collaboratively with PhD researchers Zohar Iancu and Jad Khairallah (Universidade Catolica Portuguesa) the exhibition aimed to challenge traditional notions of both research and arts practice.

Concurrent to the themes of her residency project, Nithya was commissioned by the European Cooperation Funded 4Cs Project – From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, to facilitate a 3-day workshop at Appleton Box, Alvalade.  ‘Notes from Atopia‘ centred on the existential atopia – or placelessness – ushered in under the isolation measures of pandemic restrictions. Employing the tools of phenomenological research informed by her Masters at the Melbourne Institute of Experiential and Creative Art Therapy, participants were guided through a series of solo and small group investigations in dialogue with an artefact of their choice that related to the period of the March COVID19 restrictions in Lisbon. The resulting digital archive can be found on the 4Cs website. A critical text regarding the subject matter of the workshop and the resulting findings  will be published by the 4Cs in 2021.

Also in 2020, Nithya was commissioned by Luisa Santos, Ana Fabiola Mauricio and Miguel Palma to present a performance at the esteemed Nanogaleria, Alvalade. The work, LAZULI#002FA7, sought to question the complicated lineage of a colour commencing at Lapis Lazuli and eventually appropriated to ‘Yves Klein Blue’. Drawing on the work of Helena Almeida and the Anthropophagy Manifesto by Oswald de Andrade, the piece signals a new direction in her ongoing  research regarding the use of the performative body as a tool of subversion, deconstruction and reconstruction.