KARMAYOGIN : Vol.I. No.14 SATURDAY 25th SEPTEMBER 1909
Thursday, December 22, 2005
KARMAYOGIN : Vol.I. No.14 SATURDAY 25th SEPTEMBER 1909
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Review by Alokparna Das
The Observer of Business and Politics June 15, 1996
Friday, December 16, 2005
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
What does the future hold for architecture when any of its buildings can be animated and
transformed by projections and electronic displays? What is left of architecture if our architectural
‘sign’ language is no longer etched in stone? Facades and walls could be brought
to life by designers and provided with a new, dynamic iconography. When stationary objects
are visually animated they lose their ‘objectness’, their fixity. However sturdy their construction
may be, they appear to be moving. That really is ‘lite’ architecture. In addition to
striving after ever-lighter structures, transparent and translucent walls, and gravity defying
curvilinear forms, architecture can now, via film, become truly immaterial. Contours fade,
forms become fluid. The relationship between human beings and architecture is no longer
polar or dialectical, but ‘immersive’. You can quite literally be swallowed up in it... Who will
be the first architect to win the Oscar for best director?
2. The interactive surface.
How to overcome the passivity of the viewer? If the building is going to become a kind of
terminal anyway, you might as well go ahead and make it an interactive medium. The introduction
of sensor technology heralds a new age in which architecture can be programmed
to respond to highly specific actions. Connected by an efficient interface to the display
possibilities I just described, recording cameras, scanners, electronic eyes, sound and heat
detectors, infrared systems and the like, architecture can generate a dynamism that finally
eclipses the significance of the static object altogether. The architectural design encompasses
not just the object, but also the reaction of that object to the subject. Architecture
becomes intimately involved with experience. The building or urban environment does not
move because it has been turned into an animation but because you, the actor, animate it.
3. Architecture online.
Once the building is interactive, the next step is to connect the architecture to digital networks
and make it ‘online’. What possibilities would be opened up if not only people but
whole environments could be linked together in networks? Architecture online! Now that
digitisation processes are making headway in both the creation and experiencing of environments,
it is possible to link physically separate environments to one another. Once architecture
has been redefined as ‘information’ this can be rendered compatible by means of a
protocol-juggling interface. This in turn can be linked to other environments, analogue as
well as digital. The first variant of this approach is to link up with other physical environments.
A building is crossed with another location. Interestingly, the aesthetic experience
can be collective as well as individual. By adopting a multimedia approach – which involves
linking digital recording equipment such as video cameras, webcams, microphones, scanners
and sensors, to reproduction media such as displays, loudspeakers, or ‘invisible’ integrated
architecture electronics – and designing an interesting interface that makes the
option of exchange worthwhile and selective, it is possible to devise a new type of spatial
extensibility. Places and people in those places communicate with one another. Architecture
becomes a matter of moving situations.
This way, architecture travels, multiplies, becomes a migrant. Rather than creating a
place, designers stage-manage moving situations. The relation between individual and
object becomes the relation between dynamic places and (sometimes manipulated) states
of mind. This architecture belongs to neither the physical nor the virtual domain; it is a
hybrid. Space becomes genuinely fluid; it forms the link by which the digital space can flow
into the real space of daily life. And vice versa...
4. And, finally, full-blown Internetted architecture
This brings us to the second option for online architecture. In addition to virtually connecting
two or more physically remote environments, it is also possible, to link these physical
environments to virtual environments of online networks. This application will only really
become interesting when the design itself utilises the information from the Net as a fundamental
component of form: animation as creation. Should an architect or an artist devise a
special interface between physical environment and the Net, this application could become
an essential element of the architecture. Linked to networks, the meaning of architecture
actually becomes reprogrammable. Reprogrammability means that a building can fulfill an
important cultural role for a much greater part of its life. Updatability is no longer a question
of adaptation to new functions but has become an essential component of the architectonic
character of a static, constructed object.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
- The Temple of Jagannatha - Architecture, Sculpture, Painting and Ritual This publication for the first time focuses on a local art tradition in Orissa, vividly documented and substantiated with visuals.
- Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom : Contemporary Art of Orissan traces the evolution of art from the nineteenth century up to the last decade of the twentieth century. It focuses on a continuing tradition and its gradual transformation into an international art mode reflecting in it the cotemporary nuances and aspirations.
- Murals for Goddesses and Gods This monograph Murals for Goddesses and Gods is a magnificent document of India’s ritual painting, based on systematic study of the osakothi (osa penance, kothi sacred space) murals of Orissa
- First Experiment: I was teaching drawing and painting to children in the Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bhubaneswar. The school had no fixed syllabus to teach art. I did not want to provide model drawings on the blackboard to students for skill-oriented exercises. This I considered quite detrimental to the growth of creativity in children. On my initiative, the school provided sketch books to children and I inspired them to draw whenever and whatever they felt like recording from life experiences. At regular intervals I glanced through their sketch books and picked up sketches which attracted me from the point of view of innovative approach, creative excellence and pedagogic linkages. The subject-matter children drew in their sketch books was quite varied, with motifs from daily life and school books. They were attracted equally by a bicycle rider and the Prime Minister flying in a helicopter, the village goddess with protruding tongue, as well as their favourite film stars. The renderings of children varied a great deal depending on their faculties. These sketches also reflected their social consciousness and their interaction with their environment.
My intention in teaching visual art in school was to integrate it with the other subject areas a child is expected to learn, and not as an independent compartmentalised subject. This method yielded a lot of benefits. While making a picture a student used to learn not only about the picture he was drawing but several other facts and incidents connected with that picture and the entire cultural context. ‘Art’ in school therefore was a part of the total learning system meant to provide an aesthetic orientation to the child, whether it was in mathematics or in science, geography or literature. The Kendriya Vidyalayas project multilingual and multicultural content, since their students are drawn from all over the country.
Once while discussing with students the composition of a winter night, a number of possibilities came up. Since the students had come from various socio-economic backgrounds, they had different notions of a winter night. Some suggested a winter night in a sleepy tiny village around an open fire. Others imagined the winter night inside a house near the fireplace in the company of family members. A group of other students went for a more sophisticated environment and visualised the winter night warmed by an electric heater. When the pictures were drawn there were a number of innovative depictions drawn from different socio-cultural settings.
- Second Experiment: In the early 1970s I had the occasion to teach visual art in a Swiss school. The idea of teaching no doubt was exciting, but I was not conversant with the language. I thought about the problem of communication and rediscovered that the visual language needed to teach art is universal and can overcome barriers of language. At the end of the day I had a sense of achievement. I could make the class lively virtually without uttering a word. The visual symbols were enough to transmit the ideas of a multicultural set-up.
Let me elaborate on the symbols I used. At the outset I drew a conceptual world map to locate India and Switzerland and gave the children an idea of distance and direction. Within India, I focused on Orissa. The Indian and Swiss national flags gave the required identities to the geographical locations. I then drew a schematic map of an Orissan village, with the main street running east to west and other streets branching off like veins and veinlets in a human body. The temple, pond, well, school, the river, the distant hills, the mango grove, the coconut trees, the cows, goats, and chickens added to the beauty of the village.
Pointing to the typical house plan, with the cowshed at the front followed by the sitting room, verandah, open yard, sleeping room, store and kitchen, I explained the concept of the house and the joint family. The entire family sleeps in one room — something of a dream for Swiss children. Water is drawn from a well, filled in brass pots and carried home balanced on head or hips. Their eyes glowed with amazement. They rushed to me with their sketch books for a ‘Frau’. The cultural symbols which I could construct helped in communication. The idea of a ‘Frau’ balancing a pitcher filled with water on her head, the other one on the hip supported by the right hand, and in the left hand a bucket, was most striking.
The other symbol was of a family with portraits, of father, mother, brothers, sisters, in their typical dress, ornaments and hairstyles. The Indian features came out sharply. I had a fruitful day in the school, visiting classes to give them the idea of an Indian village, family, specially the ‘Frau’. The teaching was made exhilarating with singing, dancing and sharing one another’s jokes and experiences. During lunch break the students invited me to share their food. Some of them went home and brought for me a large cake with tiny Swiss and Indian national flags. This was a moment of great pride and excitement for all of us.
After this successful experiment I felt quite confident to provide the Swiss children an alternative to make them not only aware of but interested in India’s socio-cultural traditions through visual symbols. Later, I illustrated a children’s book, Gita and Her Village in India. The story of this book was provided by Eberhard Fischer and his wife Barbara. This book was basically meant for Swiss and European children to understand Indian village life through visual symbols. I illustrated how a small girl, Gita, spends a day in her village. The visuals spanned a wide range of incidents and situations from house interiors to fields, river fronts, the well, school, market and temple complex. It tried to provide a visual journey through an Indian village.
- Third Experiment: In collaboration with my colleagues Eberhard and Barbara Fischer, I was associated with another interesting educational programme — popularising Odissi dance through visual symbols. This is yet another experiment with far-reaching significance. This project was sponsored by Unicef, Switzerland. The project consisted of an illustrated book entitled Gita will become a dancer and a kit with ghoongur bells and a few ornaments to put on while dancing. The background story on which the book was based was the life of a small girl who was inspired to become a dancer after watching the eminent Odissi dancer, Sanjukta Panigrahy, performing in her village. The story projected the determination of the girl and how she achieved her objective through sheer perseverance. The visuals of the book as well as its story content are interesting enough and informative enough to teach a child how to dance at least for five minutes.
These experiments had wonderful results. The challenges that face our educational system are stupendous. Ways and means must be devised to tackle them. I have designed two modules which could be tried out in Indian schools. The implementation does not call for extra cost. It only needs a reoriented approach for re-structuring our conceptual framework. Module 1: Art at the centre . . . . contextual linkages in which art/art educator plays a vital role. Module 2: Child at the centre — cultural dimensions of learning, challenges of explorations, changes and socio-cultural identity.
A separate syllabus is not required to teach art. Art cannot and should not be taught in classroom situations. Art should be a binding medium holding together the total teaching curriculum, reinforcing, permeating and enriching the educational structure both at home and in schools. Art has refreshing and innovation-inducing qualities and it can bring about a total change at the perceptual and working levels. To conclude, I may again emphasise that art is the reflection of the universal order. It is the visual manifestation of the invisible spirit. Art is not the negation of science, technology, and modern living. It is a rejuvenating tool. [ Previous Page Contents of the Book Next Page ]
Monday, December 05, 2005
The convenient demarcation between secular and the sacred suits the academic approach. But for Sri Aurobindo this is a faulty notion because the causal aspect is eclipsed. The linkage between the two is less of the manner of an umbilical chord and more in the nature of interpenetrating imbrications. If our sensory and scientific construct of the world fails to accommodate such a picture, it must be understood as a lack.
Astronomy as an ancient passion has helped us to know about the outer universe. Astrology, too, by talking of stars and planets attunes us to their subtle influences. The different abodes of gods as described by various mythologies, also, permit us certain familiarity of the other worlds. But we rarely take their effect on our lives any seriously. And the task of Sri Aurobindo is to hammer the modern mind so as to rid it from secular superstitions.
The inner and the other worlds are a consistent theme in his poem, Savitri. Composed through the years from Quantum mechanics to nuclear holocaust, this modern epic puts a stamp of authority on the unseen fecund worlds and their inhabitants who are inextricably linked to our motions and emotions. To recognize this reality seriously, is what Savitri demands from its readers.
The different parts of our being and consciousness, as delineated by Sri Aurobindo in his Integral Yoga system, are nothing but the other worlds. We can well imagine our plights as puppets when disparate worlds are very much in the play to pull the strings. Somewhat similar to the insight offered by Baudrillard that it is the object which uses and employs us and not the other way round that we ordinarily perceive. But then, how do we benefit by this concept in our practical life?
That there runs a perpetual consonance between the seen and the unseen, might seem, at times, hard to digest, but a poetic impression can be allowed to swim aloft. The process should further deepen in the realm of creative imagination leading to a faint intellectual recognition. Since the notion runs counter to our egoistic autonomy, it is bound to take a long time to percolate down to the distant and defiant impulses. And regular recitation of Savitri helps here; its mantric effect casting its reach down to our body cells.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Rajeev Sethi The Hindu Thursday, Dec 01, 2005
Currently, India has no single body that can be called upon to represent creative and cultural industries as a distinct entity. A focal point needs to be established to engage various stakeholders in a productive dialogue, so as to achieve consensus over strategy. We can choose not to address the need at our own peril in a world where more and more governments are setting the required infrastructure. There are unprecedented opportunities for those members of the community who possess the skills and knowledge, the creativity and enterprise and have the spirit to empower themselves. They can deploy their expertise and talents in new ventures to create wealth. Their success, in turn, will further the growth of our society. As industrial production relocates itself in our part of the world, our own corporations and industries will slim down to achieve greater cost effectiveness.
We are poorer if we do not recognise the real wealth of our poor. Their time-honoured and tested skills are our tangible strength. "Hunarmand ka ek din, Behunar ka ek saal." Tradition tells us that a day in the life of a skilled is the same as a year in the life of the unskilled. Most contingent large scale employment schemes devalue inherent skills. A dynamic tradition never stops or slackens. The creative moves, nourishes, transforms, shapes, and furthers. For a while, we may be overtaken by the strident intimidation of powerful western media and homogenous corporate glamour. But we will soon indigenise whatever is thrust on us. We will improvise our own jugaad to be and to feel as international as we want to. Our infectious diversity will proliferate in a thousand creative ways. India's capacity to imagine and its never-say-die dream will enable our spirit to create an anthem from what we are only humming at the moment.