The Irregular Times is a quarterly art and design newspaper showing unique perspectives at the intersection of art, media, activism, politics, & contemporary culture in India. We've stocked up the Recess Shop with Issue 03 while our team chats with Tarini Sethi, the co-founder of TIRT about their origin story, inclusivity, and intergenerational inspiration.
Ajith Thangavelautham, writer
Radha Pithadia, producer
Tarini Sethi, co-founder of TIRT
I’m Tarini Sethi, the co-founder of The Irregular Times (TIRT). TIRT is a space and platform for artists and people of color from across the globe to showcase their work, currently existing as an art & design newspaper.
TIRT originally started as The Irregulars Art Fair, an alternative art fair that happens at the same time as the India Art Fair, sort of the Anti-Art Fair of India. Around 6,000 people came, it was amazing, it was crazy. We sold our car, and we had no money left because we couldn’t get any sponsors due to the pushback from the Indian art community that holds power, like gallery spaces and big collectors.
Then covid hit, and that's when the newspaper came about. We found the newspaper to be a great way to do similar things without spending as much, being able to work from home since the country was on lockdown, and reaching artists from around the world.
The idea of a newspaper in India is so different from a magazine. There’s this idea of waking up, eating breakfast, and reading a newspaper every day in every single household, no matter what kind of person you are. That's how we all grew up. You know, the newspapers where we would get recipes, book & film recommendations, or write in to aunties for advice.
We didn’t want to make a self-important art world magazine. As an artist myself, I realized what’s missing from the art world in India is accessibility. Is this something that a non-artist will want to go through? Are the articles something that a non-reader will want to read? We want every kind of person to be able to understand the newspaper, to be able to keep it in their shelves, to be able to share it. We want you to cut things out, frame the art because it’s stunning, keep a recipe for your grandkids.
TIRT is an experiment. We try new things with every issue. We don't know if they're gonna work. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. That's who we are.
I noticed in volume 3 that there’s a recipe for passionfruit rasam and my mind was blown. I never imagined rasam with fruit in it.
Try it! It’s delicious.
I just might have to. I’m curious about the newspaper's relationship to India, and vice versa, India's relationship to the newspaper?
Well, the whole team is Indian, and almost all of our contributors are Indians living across the globe. The newspaper is also primarily sold in India due to global shipping costs, so our primary audience is also Indian. This is really lovely because what we've noticed is that art platforms here showcase the same artists over and over again. So, we’re able to open up the art world to new artists, broaden the conversation around Indian art & design, and provide space for audiences who wouldn’t necessarily go to a gallery.
Is there an intergenerational aspect to the newspaper? Are different demographics interacting with it positively or negatively?
We do try to put the newspaper into spaces that we know there are gonna be different types of people coming in, like spaces where elders usually are for example. And it's actually been quite cool and bizarre that everyone has really liked it, people of all ages. Our friends send us videos of their parents cutting stuff out and their grandparents listening to our Spotify playlists and things like that.
There are a lot of sex-focused columns in every issue, but there hasn’t been any pushback. People want it but they don't know how to say that they want it. They're scared to say it, but of course you want to read this stuff.
What inspires you artistically?
Luckily for me, I grew up in an artist's household. My dad's a designer, my mom works in art, and my sister works in movie sets. So we've all gone in that direction because we've all always had art around us, and luckily it's never been religious art. Thank God.
My art is very bizarre and sexual in nature. People love it and I think it's a huge response to the fact that it doesn't exist as much. What's great about right now, is that everything is moving forward and people are trying to protest action and creation.
Was this always a dream project for you? When you see an issue come out or when you're working with the team, what is that feeling?
My granddad ran a design studio, before computers existed, it was all analog. It was one of the first design studios, right after partition. He did all the stuff for the new buildings, the new newspapers, the new menus for all the restaurants, and my dad worked with him. He was all rebellious and whatnot and decided to start his own newspaper, just talking about I hate my parents and this and that but, apparently it was really cool.
I only found this out after we released issue 2. But no, it was not a dream project. Although I've always been really into zines. I used to run a zine collective with a friend of mine where we used to get work with artists in Delhi and have little zine shows once a month.
But working on the newspaper is an amazing feeling. I don't even know how to describe it. Especially once we get it printed, it’s so exciting to see, after months of work everything come together. None of that has gotten diluted yet, everything is still really exciting and the whole team is just giddy whenever anything new is done.
The third issue of The Irregular Times centres women-led initiatives. It aims to shift the power of storytelling in the form of paintings, photography, performance, writing, and sculpture to talented and phenomenal artists. The issue introduces new writers and highlights stories about the legacy of women in our lives, focusing on the importance and significance of owning and knowing our bodies.