Meet: Kaila Bhullar
Meet Kaila Bhullar, a soon-to-be SCA alumnus. As we talk about here, Bhullar, along with Hana Steinwand, is a recipient of the 2023 CAG Prize, which get awarded yearly to student artists presenting work in the BFA Graduating Exhibition. Bhullar's winning work, The Audiovisual Perception Test, was part of the exhibition Dream Safely, which ran April 19 – May 6, 2023, at the Audain Gallery, which also included work by Tanha Binte Azam, Ayesha Beg, Karry Hon, Marwah Jaffar, Huong Anh Pham, Iver Smith, and Steinwand. For more about Dream Safely, visit HERE.
And now – meet Kaila Bhullar!
Now that you're graduating, please tell me about your time at the SCA.
My time at the SCA was an interesting experience with many highs and lows, though overall I learned a lot. I met a lot of unique personalities, and formed many meaningful connections that look like they will spill into my future arts career, which I am super grateful for. I'm also particularly happy to have attended an interdisciplinary arts program, since having the opportunity to work with artists in other disciplines has been a shaping factor in the formation of my practice as an experimental filmmaker/multimedia artist, and has allowed me to find collaborations that formed more complex work and projects that I could not necessarily complete as well on my own.
Congratulations on winning the 2023 CAG Prize! Please tell me about your CAG Prize winning work in Dream Safely.
Thank you so much! Definitely feels very surreal to have won among so many talented cohort members. The work that I created for my grad show was titled The Audiovisual Perception Test, which was an interactive multimedia installation that combined visual (video + installation), auditory (three audio tracks), and reflective (participant survey) sensory components. Viewers could select from the three audio options while watching the video, then completed a short survey about their subjective experience. The audio options included synchronized audio (Option A), simulated silence using active noise-canceling headphones paired with earplugs (Option B), and an unsynchronized abstract sound collage (Option C). The project's purpose was to explore the complex relationship between auditory and visual stimuli, and their impact on human perception. The work aimed to understand how different sounds accompanying the same visual components could affect/alter viewers' understanding, experience, and interpretation of the content, leading to further contemplations on external influences on perception and self-identity in everyday life.
What are your plans for your CAG Prize, which includes a four-week self-directed residency?
As the survey responses from The Audiovisual Perception Test revealed a number of very interesting existential themes, such as human interconnections, creativity as a means of moving forward, fear of the unknown, and other internal motivations, I plan to use this research as the base for a new experimental audiovisual work, as well as experiment in the studio with different video installation methods. I envision the new video work to be an abstract, introspective, and immersive audiovisual collage, which will incorporate recorded and found footage, altered super 8 film, images, and digital manipulations, accompanied by an original score.
Some of the specific activities I would like to experiment with and further explore in terms of filmmaking and editing techniques throughout this residency, include eco-processing techniques with super 8 film, hand-editing film (i.e. cutting/splicing, hole punching/super imposing, scratching, painting/drawing with inks, heat transfers), digitally editing scanned film, and experimental duration/timing manipulations (i.e. delays and glitching). In terms of installation/video display experiments, I would like to play around with projections on various textures, surfaces, and objects, as well as different sorts of monitors and screens (i.e. different sorts of CRTs and screen sizes/types).
Another response pattern from the survey that stood out to me was with the unsynchronized audio (Option C), certain viewers experienced unease and anxiety when experiencing the mixed-matched sound and visuals, whereas others felt this to be a compelling aspect that kept them engaged, which is something I’d like to explore further throughout the residency project creation. Viewers also reported that the project overall evoked deep inner contemplation, sparking thoughts on technology, media, and lucid existential thought streams. This gathered research inspires me to take the project in a new direction, using the varied viewer feedback as a “skeleton” to create a new video-based work that further disrupts and contemplates the relationship between sound, vision, and perception using an experimental new media approach.
Beyond the CAG Prize, what are your future plans?
My plans beyond the CAG Prize residency, which is set to take place in March 2024, include my participation in Gallery Gachet's BIPOC New Media Screen mentorship program. This program begins later this month, and throughout it I will be creating a short film, without audio. The release of this work is set for May 2024, so keep an eye out for the opening date if you're interested in seeing the finished work. I will also be screening my film "A Sequence of Moving Pixels" (2023), with F-O-R-M Festival's public screens programs, so that will be on view throughout Nov 2023 in both the SCA Woodwards campus and on the Mount Pleasant Community Screen by grunt gallery. Another upcoming project that I am beyond excited about is an artist residency with Lobe Studio, through which I will be creating a super trippy immersive audio-based work with an accompanying CRT video installation. This project will also feature collaborations with other SCA alumni/students, including Liam Murley (music) and Viviane Wu (performance). The presentation for this work is currently set for June 15 and 16 2024, so if this sounds interesting to you, save the dates. For future updates about these works and new projects, please feel free to follow my Instagram page (@yelllo.www) and/or check out my website (kailabhullar.com).
Thank you so much for this interview! Can't wait to see what my co-winner of the CAG Prize, Hana Steinwand, is planning to do throughout/after her residency as well!
Us, too! Thank you very much again for your time and work here – and congratulations on your graduation!
Kaila Bhullar (She/They) is an experimental filmmaker + multimedia artist based in the stolen traditional territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) tribes.
Largely informed by digitally-based art forms, Bhullar uses art-making as an introspective tool that explores various internal dispositions concerning identity and perception, including contemplations around the existential and political implications of images. As a queer and biracial individual, they are interested in analyzing cultural binaries and norms, alongside the complexities that exist within the self, where they use moving images and sound as a means to express the abstractions and tensions within these themes. These inquiries often manifest as collages of varying forms, video or audiovisual works, and multimedia installations.
Bhullar’s practice is centered in collaboration, curiosity, and a yearning to create and contribute to experimental cultural spaces that amplify the voices of the underrepresented.