After an email exchange with Dani and Cecilia, I have decided to contribute to the discussion with a series of field reports from India, mainly Bangalore, where I am currently working. As a curator who has often worked with networked and online practices my approach to this month's discussion is to begin to unravel how my experiences here have shaped my assumptions, thinking, and the way I work.
In my field reports I will talk about two projects, the exhibition “The Chroma Show” and the book (and related residency) “Silicon Plateau Vol—1”, as well as my experience of teaching at Srishti Institute of Art and Technology and programming the activities of T.A.J. Residency & SKE Projects. Hopefully these experiences, all interwoven, will offer some insights into “how ‘technologies of migration’ instantiate themselves a new type of border, often geographically displaced and abstracted from our physical experiences of mobility”, as the hosts of the discussion have well put it.
FIELD REPORT 1: A RESEARCH PROJECT IN NEW DELHI AND THE REDUCTIONISM OF TECHNOLOGY-LED GLOBAL ASSUMPTIONS
In 2013, I—quite naively, with hindsight—came to India. I went to New Delhi to be precise, on a research grant to explore the history of artistic and curatorial web-based projects here. At the time I was affiliated to The Sarai programme at CSDS, and I was particularly interested in their Sarai Media Lab, who was co-funded by Raqs Media Collective. Unfortunately, I joined at a time where the Lab stopped to fully operate, so I embarked on a widely cast research process looking into ‘as many people I could find as possible’ who were related to the Lab’s past activities. (http://sarai.net/ + screenshot of the old website here http://www.fondation-langlois.org/html/e/media.php?NumObjet=55120)
To cut an intricate story short, I was confronted with what—as a European who had very rarely ventured outside the so-called Western world—was a fact already well-known in the South Asian context: the web might be both a medium of production and distribution but this does not mean that the two are in a reciprocal relationship.
Infrastructure and the socio-cultural context of given geographical areas do have an impact on the type of production and distribution. We have histories of technology, and they are a complex and non-universal affair. In Europe, I very much underestimated it: accessibility was different; hence, discourses had a different focus. In my experience in India publishing online was multimodal, but in the following sense: in and out of the web, and not because ‘we are post-internet’. Many web-based projects I came across were distributed on CD: the most viable way of accessing them, as HTML-based works presented on a physical and movable support. Under this umbrella, there were the “Global Village Health Manual” (2000) and “Ectropy Index” (2006) projects by Raqs Media Collective, to name a few. These works were not archived online at the time I was researching them and I was only able to access them thanks to artist and designer Mrityunjay Chatterjee. He was directly involved in their production as a member of the Sarai Media Lab, and the love for his work and patience made it possible for me to look at them while we were sipping coffee around a table.
I also came across the eclectic photographer and curator Shankar Barua, who ran the project “Indian Documentary of Electronic Arts” (IDEA). This was a series of “collectible CD e-zines” published for 4 years until 2004 with contributions by a variety of artists and writers in the form of essays, videos and sound works. I met Barua at CeC, the Carnival for e-Creativity, “just one tiny little stream in the whole global gamut of activities revolving variously around Creative & Experimental New Media”; basically a new media festival that in 2013 was hosted in an ashram in the mountains near New Delhi where we constantly fought with long power cuts and freezing temperatures. (http://retiary.org/idea/)
Other works that captured my attention were those by artist Kiran Subbaiah, many of which were presented on the now defunct GeoCities (http://www.geocities.ws/antikiran/) and by Prayas Abhinav who produced a project that began as a Facebook group to ‘end up’ in a gallery space in Delhi. (http://prayas.in/projects:glitch_forum)
As a conclusion of my research time at Sarai, I organised a professional development workshop, “Hybrid Curatorial Models: Producing and Publishing in-between offline and online dimensions” (2013), for which I invited Mrityunjay Chatterjee, Shankar Barua and Prayas Abhinav to speak about their experiences of working across online and offline platforms. Many young curators attended the workshop and the discussion was lively. What I remember very clearly is that the web was discussed by most of the attendees in relation to issues of visibilities and accessibilities and that the “in-between” I was pointing at was a misleading term in a geographical area where the internet entered the day-to-day life of people through mobile network connections rather than personal computers for example.
I then landed in Bangalore because of my desire to meet some of the artists I researched and my curiosity for the activities of the Centre for the Internet and Society and its Research at Work (RAW) programme. Their research is in fact “driven by contemporary concerns to understand the reconfiguration of social processes and structures through the internet and digital media technologies, and vice versa” (http://cis-india.org/raw), thinking that their approach would help me to understand the complexities inherent to the South Asian context. It is with this trip that my research/work affair with Bangalore began.
To finish this story, the social and geographical aspects I once overlooked started to complicate my research approach, becoming more interwoven with my thinking. Up to that point, my physical mobility had mostly brought to light the staticity of my thinking. Contexts, in a broader but much local sense and in terms of socio-cultural structures and infrastructures, and not just in relation to theoretical and artistic discourses per se, became necessary lenses for me to move forward.
My following Field Report will look at the exhibition "The Chroma Show" and some other first-hand experiences of Bangalore.
A side note on accessibility: “Your request URL has been blocked as per the directions received from the Department of Communication, Government of India. Please contact administrator for more information”, appeared on my computer screen, and that of my colleagues at Srishti, while trying to browse a few artist websites yesterday morning—and many other previous days. Perhaps, this is another interesting element when looking at the humanist relationship to data and information that Dani and Cecilia are suggesting for this discussion.
Thank you for reading.
And looking forward to reading all the other contributors' posts!
On 23 Nov 2015, at 17:54, Dani Admiss <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear List,
> This month’s discussion *Ground Truth: 'The Migration Machine’* has emerged
> as a direct response to the ongoing migration crisis in Europe, and
> It is hosted by Dani Admiss, AHRC-funded doctoral researcher with CRUMB at
> the University of Sunderland and independent curator; and Dr. Cecilia Wee,
> independent curator and Tutor in the School of Communication, Royal College
> of Art, London.
> Since the summer, when our discussions about how to approach this topic
> started in earnest, migration has attracted a heightened level of attention
> from the world’s media. Whilst they depict an exodus of asylum seekers,
> refugees and migrants into Europe, we see migration as part of the complex
> flows of power interlinking fields of life like security (powers of the
> European border agency Frontex), finance (the unregulated yet burgeoning
> migration industry), health (mental health issues and PTSD amongst
> refugees), climate (discussions about environmental migration at COP21) and
> governance (the nexus of national and supranational bodies) in contemporary
> globalisation, producing barriers to all forms of mobility and
> equality. Meanwhile,
> fierce debate continues about how those involved in Paris, Bamako, Beirut,
> Ankara and other shocking events are using the label ‘refugee’ to fly under
> the proverbial radar.
> We propose that ‘technologies of migration’ instantiate themselves a new
> type of border, often geographically displaced and abstracted from our
> physical experiences of mobility. These technologies are subjects of social
> engineering, residing in websites and interview rooms, as well as the more
> immediately perceivable ‘arrival infrastructures’ of e-border and
> immigration detention centres. Governments continue to seek ways to measure
> the political into policy. Expert devices, such as civic integration
> examinations, speech recognition technology, or European databanks of
> asylum seekers’ biometric data, map the phenomena of migration and mobility
> into knowledge practices, incorporating them into risk profiles and
> evidence-based strategies. Grounded by the need to defend the subjective
> and narrative-based, we also think of ‘technologies of migration’ in the
> broadest sense.
> The current migration controversy highlights the fundamentally problematic
> challenges to a humanist relationship to data and information. Our
> discussion begins with a series of “field reports” from the areas of
> cultural activism, academia and ‘extra-disciplinary investigations’. We
> have reached out to a network who, in turn, will explain projects in their
> archive, share their research, or deliver reports from the ground. We have
> asked them to think about how we are locked-in to contemporary conditions
> of migration, what are the (social and media) technologies around
> migration, their social effects, and what are the limit of these
> technologies? We would like respondents to consider effects of
> interventionist impulses and tactics, of documentary as a call to action,
> the skepticism of rendering things visible as steps towards change, of
> identity politics against the probabilities of technicalities, and of
> cognitive, crisis and controversy mapping in activist and artistic research
> and production.
> We are very pleased to introduce a variety of practitioners to our
> conversations this month. You are artists, designers, curators, and
> researchers. We look forward to learning of your experiences and seeing
> where your insight, along with the voices of all of the list participants,
> will take these conversations over the course of the month.
> We know that many people on this list have a strong commitment to updating
> technological and methodological interventions and as such wanted to take
> this opportunity not to say what things ought to be, but adopt a ‘slow
> media’ approach to ‘discussing it (with others)’.
> Invited Respondents:
> *Jamie Allen* (Canada) is an artist, researcher and teacher who likes to
> make things with his head and hands. He lives in Europe, works in the world
> and is Senior Researcher with the Critical Media Lab Basel and the
> Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. www.jamieallen.com
> *Dawn Bothwell* is curator with CIRCA Projects, Newcastle Upon Tyne + The
> Northern Charter, Newcastle. She is a PhD researcher with CRUMB at the
> University of Sunderland. http://dawnbothwell.hotglue.me
> *Ruth Catlow* is an artist and co-founder/artistic director, with Marc
> Garrett, of Furtherfield for arts, technology and social change.
> Furtherfield’s public exhibition and lab venues in the heart of Finsbury
> Park, London, provide a physical interface for free exhibitions, events and
> workshops and an online hub provides a forum for exchange and critical
> review. http://www.furtherfield.org
> *Ricardo Dominguez* is a co-founder of The Electronic Disturbance Theater
> (EDT), a group who developed virtual sit-in technologies in solidarity with
> the Zapatistas communities in Chiapas, Mexico, in 1998. The Electronic
> Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab created the Transborder Immigrant Tool
> in 2007, a GPS cell phone safety net tool for crossing the Mexico/US
> border. The project was under investigation by the US Congress in 2009-2010
> and was reviewed by Glenn Beck (2010) as a gesture that potentially
> “dissolved” the U.S. border with its poetry. Dominguez is associate
> professor at the University of California San Diego in the Visual Arts
> Department, a Hellman Fellow, and Principal/Principle Investigator at
> CALIT2 and the Performative Nano-Robotics Lab at SME, UCSD. He also is
> co-founder of art collective the *particle group*.
> *Heidrun Friese* is professor of intercultural communication, faculty of
> philosophy, chemnitz University of Technology. Her research interests
> include social and cultural theory, social anthropology, postcolonial
> perspectives, (cultural) identities, friendship, hospitality,
> (undocumented) mobility, transnational practices. Recent publications
> include Grenzen der Gasfreundschaft. Die Bootsflüchtlinge von
> Lampedusa und die europäische Frage, Bielefeld 2014.
> *Marc Garrett* is co-director/co-founder with artist Ruth Catlow for
> Furtherfield, an artist led online network, gallery and commons in Finsbury
> Park, London. In final stages of an Art history PhD at University of
> London, Birkbeck College. http://www.furtherfield.org
> *Marialaura Ghidini* is a contemporary art curator and writer with
> international experience in producing projects reflecting on the
> intersection between the arts and technology. She was founder director of
> the web-based curatorial platform or-bits.com (2009-2015), and currently
> she is faculty at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology and
> program director at T.A.J. Residency & SKE Projects in Bangalore (India).
> *Thomas Kilpper* is a German installation artist, draftsman and engraver
> and since 2014 teaches at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway.
> He is known for his critical, social and political interventions and for
> his use of architectural scale woodcut methods to transform historical
> buildings and spaces. In 2000, he created The Ring, a monumental woodcut
> and installation at Orbut House in London. In 2008/2009 he exhibited “A
> Lighthouse for Lampedusa!” at a number of locations in Italy.
> *Armin Medosch*, PhD, is Professor of Theory and History of Art and Media
> at the Faculty of Media and Communications at Singidunum University,
> Belgrade. He is an artist, curator and author working in art and media art
> theory and network culture. His work as curator includes exhibitions such
> as Waves (Riga, 2006; Dortmund, 2008); and Fields (Riga Culture Capital,
> 2014). His book “New Tendencies – Art at the Threshold of the Information
> Revolution” will be published by MIT Press, May 2016. He is initiator of
> the Technopolitics working group in Vienna and initiator and maintainer of
> the cooperative web-space http://www.thenextlayer.org/
> *Copa & Sordes* (Birgit Krueger and Eric Schmutz) have been an artistic
> cooperation since 1995 exploring the intersections of everyday culture and
> art. http://www.xcult.org/copaetsordes
> *Florian Schneider* is a filmmaker, writer, and curator. His work
> investigates border crossings between mainstream and independent media, art
> theory and open source technology, documentary practices and rather
> estranged forms of curating. He is an initiator of the KEIN MENSCH IST
> ILLEGAL campaign at documentaX. He founded, designed and supported
> online-projects, such as the European internet platform D-A-S-H and KEIN.ORG.
> He has directed and co-organised new media festivals including MAKEWORLD
> (2001), NEURO (2004) and the FADAIAT2 event in Tarifa/Tangiers (2005).
> *Brett Staulbaum* is an artist and C5 research theorist specializing in
> information theory, database, and software development. A serial
> collaborator, he was a co-founder of the Electronic Disturbance Theater in
> 1998, for which he co-developed software called FloodNet
> http://www.thing.net/~rdom/ecd/ecd.html, which has been used on behalf of
> the Zapatista movement against the websites of the Presidents of Mexico and
> the United States, as well as the Pentagon. Stalbaum has published widely
> on digital art, its context and aesthetics, and location-aware media.
> Dani Admiss
> [log in to unmask]
> +44 7912 526 412