Signals from the South is an annual showcase of projects from ‘the South’ (South America, Africa, Asia) consisting of an exhibition and a seminar. This year’s exhibition is entitled Anisotropics. It features a series of works by Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran (India) and is on view at MUU gallery during 12-28 March. The Signals from (and to) the South Seminar will take place on Sunday, March 28th, 1-3 PM, in Kiasma Seminar Room.
The projects in Anisotropics are based on temporary public works, media interventions and other artistic probes into technologies, communities and spaces in Asia, Africa and the Middle-East. Anand’s and Sukumaran’s work digs for what lies under, within and next to, “networks”. It attempts to bring a broad range of thinking to new media conceptions of virtuality, systems and participation.
The exhibition title refers to anisotropy, the property of materials or mediums being direction-dependent. Crystals, wood and tendons for example are anisotropic, they show different strengths when pulled in different directions. The projects in this exhibition suggest paths for technology that are drawn in other directions than their capitalist capture or obsolescence. When radio or electricity or CCTV is “pulled” in this way, it reveals a different set of properties, a vivid materiality and expanded parameters that are not just perceived or potential, but real.
About the Artists
// Shaina Anand is a filmmaker and media artist. She has been working independently in film/video since 1998. Prior to that, she assisted director Saeed Mirza on a number of projects including ‘A Tryst with the People of India’ (1997), which resulted in a book-length critical text on the filming process. In 2001 she formed ChitraKarKhana, a fully independent unit for experimental media, based in Mumbai. Her works continue to be informed by an interest in media and information politics, and by a critique of documentary form and process. Recent interventions such as Rustle TV (2004), WI City TV (2005), Khirkeeyaan (2006), CCTV Social (2008), Wharfage (2009), The Neighbour before the House (2009) have deployed present and accessible technologies such as TV, radio, cable networks or cheap surveillance equipment in simple and surprising ways that trouble immediate media landscapes and allow for speaking subjects to be seen or heard.
In recent years, Anand has exhibited work at Khoj and Sarai Delhi, the Power Plant Toronto, Ars Electronica Linz, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Serpentine Gallery and Gasworks London, Cornerhouse Manchester, Nottingham Contemporary and the biennales of Dakar, Sharjah, and Taipei, among other venues. She has spoken about media and media culture on panels worldwide and published in Digital Media and Democracy, Tactics in Hard Times (MIT press) and Towards a culture of Open networks (Waag- Sarai) amongst others. In 2007 she co-initiated http://PAD.MA, the Public Access Digital Media Archive: a collaboration between Chitrakarkhana, Majlis, Point of View in Mumbai, the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, and Oil21 from Berlin. She is a co-founder of CAMP, (http://camputer.org) Mumbai, an organisation that seeks to open up a space for radical artistic practice based on trans-disciplinarity and infrastructure-scale projects.
// Ashok Sukumaran trained as an architect and artist, now does speculative technical and conceptual projects. This work explores the intersection of spaces of living, and technologies being ‘embedded’ within them. The technologies themselves range from imaging and distribution systems to transport and other infrastructures. He is interested in the thresholds of visibility, distance, administration and doubt that we encounter within these. The projects themselves are an adulterous mix of software-based art, conceptual practices, telematics, early and pre-cinema, site-based performance, and architecture . With this approach he tries to bring, often with others, a broad range of thinking to “new media ” conceptions of virtuality, networks and participation.
His work has received numerous awards, including the first prize for the UNESCO Digital Arts Award 2006, a Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica 2007, and the Jury Prize at the 2009 Sharjah biennial (as CAMP).
Featured Artworks at MUU gallery
// Glow Positioning System (GPS)
A 400m ring of lights was installed around the General Post Office intersection in Fort, Mumbai, across various neighbourhood agencies and inhabitants, entering homes, offices, and the old GPO building, using both existing and new lights. The lights were animated via a crank mechanism located on the pavement in the centre of the area, turning this cityscape into a kind of “film”.
Lights patterns travel between buildings, across roads and onto trees and lampposts, forming a “virtual” image-scape that is starkly visible at night. A hand-crank mounted on the pavement provides a way for the audience to scroll this landscape. The ring responds to panoramic desire, the age-old search for an image to immerse our selves in.
// Changes of State
“Changes of State” took place at Elgin Talkies, a 110-year old theatre in Shivaji Nagar, Bangalore. It consisted of an electrical installation taking power from the building to multiple switches across the street. The audience could manipulate switches which would change from the default state to other ones, with lights, audio and other effects “leaking” out from the cinema. The installation was up for 5 evenings and was reconfigured almost every night.
The principal idea was that “digital” technologies typically involve at least two states, both equally valuable. For example, on and off, typical states in an electrical system, can mean various things from various user-positions, depending on contextual factors such as who owns the switch, or the electricity, what is assumed about what may be turned on or off, where the result occurs relative to ones body, and so on. One implication even at the simplest electrical level is that one or the other state may be “hidden” at a given time, and may contain potential for revelatory, dangerous, disallowed, or otherwise transformative acts.
// Two Poles
A standard decorator’s “chaser” box is modified, and its usual light-elements arranged end-to-end, so that the resulting line is over 400 metres long. The signal travels at about 300 Kmph from one neighbourhood to another, through 40-foot “pattas” of 6w bulbs, a standard in rented decoration lighting.
A switch at either end is connected to the light control, and sends a single “pixel” of light down to the other side. If there is someone at the other end, they can send it back. In this “telematic” scenario… you can walk across to the other side. But it is long walk. So we imagine who is there, or conditions at the other side based on an earlier visit, or from previous memory. Sometimes we are surprised that we dont know or remember what might be there at all.
A 9th floor resident of the prominent Landmark building on carter road agrees to “share” two electrical connections in her house with a temporary occupant of the road below. A switchboard with two dimmers is placed on the promenade wall, giving control of the two connections in the house, and (on the road) a 60-watt bulb and a standing fan. These utilities are made available to the street food vendor; his clients and passersby can also determine the “balance” between the two consumers.
While no actual electricity is transmitted, a wireless electronic system moderates between the two supplies, to ensure that total consumption does not exceed what the house would use normally. In other words, when the hawker gets more electricity, the house uses less.
// Rustle tv
. rustle : (n), a soft noise. (v), to move or work quickly and energetically, to find and bring together things and people, quickly. to steal (livestock). to forage(food).
. russell market: established 1927. shivaji nagar. bangalore. wholesale mart and retail market for fruit, vegetable, meat, fish poultry, flowers, butter and toys.
Rustle tv was a temporary TV channel set up inside Russell Market, Bangalore. The market presented a microcosm of the real world, over which was forced an idealistic “utopia”: the people in the market became the clients, the “stars” and the primary audience, while a group of students performed in the service of the community and delivered the programming.
KhirkeeYaan is an exploration of a local area network communication, micro-media generation and feedback device. It employed security apparatus, otherwise used for surveillance and ‘secret’ use, to create collaborative conversation systems. TVs, electricity, consent and participation were sourced on-site(s) often drawing from a multitude of sources. Four sets of cameras,TVs and mics were planted within a 200 metre radius of each other. The sound and image from all four locations was fed back to the TVs, allowing the subject/viewer/performer/audience to interact with others in the frame. Video became the ‘site’ for these interactions and conversations.
ChitraKarKhana’s prior media projects have employed cheap and accessible DIY video and editing software, hardware and skills to produce on-site ‘televised’ media. This project pushes that envelope of site,community media and technology further. Importantly,here the ‘filmmaking’ is automatic, made possible through eye-level communication, real-time feedback and the absense of cameraman and editor. The technology is even cheaper; no computers and DV technology, but commercially applied CCTV and CATV equipmnet.
// Sept soirées
Sept Soirees was a series of battery-powered “evenings” in the Marche N’ Gellaw, a suburban market in Dakar, Senegal. These evenings were conceived in a situation where there is scarce time, space or other resources for communal activity at a certain scale. Also because of the peculiar condition of cinemas in Dakar: there are only two still functioning. These “micro-cinema” and “micro-radio” events are performed by showing up at a street corner with some equipment, and negotiating the rest.
This project was realised within the framework of an Afropixel residency in 2008 at Kër Thiossane.
// Al jaar qabla al dar (“The Neighbour before the House”)
“The Neighbour before the House” is a series of video probes into the landscape of East Jerusalem. Shot with a security camera, these images suggest that before and after instrumental “surveillance”, there is inquisitiveness, jest, memory, desire and doubt that pervades the project of watching. In these specific times and places, camera movements and live commentary become ways in which Palestinian residents evaluate what can be seen, and speak about the nature of their distance from others.
Related writings of the artists and interviews
Other related websites