Post-Incident Report of
"The 3rd Carnival of e-Creativity & Change-agents Conclave"
CeC & CaC 2008
For a change, I'm not really sure what to say, or think.
There is no real "enemy" in this most peculiar war. It is just about adding to, or modifying, primary paradigms already being driven by businesses, institutions, and perhaps even the natural course of things, which are increasingly casting all of us into simple units to be processed and marshaled, in the form of data, as (ideally-permanent) consumers and customers of the innovations and inventions of some fuzzy 'other'.
To which, all that we set out to add, on behalf of the larger community, and also addressed to the larger community, is that, "Hey! We/you can be innovators and creators too."
How's that for a revolutionary sort of prelude to what's supposed to be a simple incident-report?
I couldn't resist leaving it in once I'd got it down, even though it's just a random ramble on my own trip, and need not have anything at all to do with anyone else involved in any way at all with the incident!
But, it certainly wasn't just a simple incident, in any case.
As with almost all guerilla actions today, meticulous planning actually began a long-long time ago. And we did of course carry forward the momentum, and also the experience, of our earlier two successful occupations of the India International Centre, 2006 and 2007, as well as our other works.
Over the years, including the earlier two iterations, and also my old work with The IDEA series of CD-Gazettes, cohorts and converts of all levels and hues and shades had quietly come aboard in various different ways, all around the world; albeit most of them sort of dormant as associates in the normal course, almost like sleeper cells.
Some pretty incredible organizations had also came into quiet alliance on the incident and some of our other work, from the frontlines of promoting e-Creativity of all sorts, in all sorts of ways, across the world.
And with that, key individuals began to come openly over-ground about their supportive association, and sense of belonging, not necessarily with what exactly I might personally be to, but certainly with what we might be able to do all together, to shared good purpose. Lawrence Casserley reaffirmed his profound old commitment by taking on the public mantle of an Advisor to The AeA, whilst Curtis Bahn, Martin Gotfrit, Ansuman Biswas and John Antoine Labadie stood up to be counted as Advisors to CeC & CaC 2008 itself.
A transcontinental sort of framework for consultations emerged, in service of a fuzzily shared goal, in regard to moving ahead from where we had got to in 2007. Issues and initiatives of all sorts were tabled, picked over and dispensed with. There was accord; there was discord. A rough and ready sort of democracy ruled, amongst a sort of core cadre.
Each of us also obviously volunteered to personally be on the frontline of the actual raid (though John Labadie was eventually unable to make it in).
Curtis would be armed with his ongoing codification and software-extension of Hindustani Classical music, together with his e-Sitar and e-Dilruba. Lawrence would be armed with his ongoing explorations into live audio processing as performance art. Ansuman would be armed with his unique psy-tech and performance tactics, as well as a small arsenal of different instruments. Martin would be armed with his computer-augmented compositional and performance strategies. And, I would pull all of these, and other, strings together, sort of as "The Base" (coincidentally 'al qaeda' in arabic~:o).
A few more veterans were then also drawn into the brew: Kenneth Newby and Aleksandra Dulic completed Martin's cell, with extended violin, kalimba, and live video-animation. Aparna Panshikar brought in Hindustani Vocals to complete the Seknsak Ensemble, with Ansuman, Lawrence and Curtis.
Other veterans were also drawn aboard on the independent India account: Ashhar Farooqui was an obvious choice yet again, for his context-driven compositional strategies. And, with him this time came Prashant Yashpal and Praveen Venugopal, bringing in live video-manipulation of the mainstream cutting-edge here in India. Another obvious choice was Arun Mehta, carrying forward his software excursions into empowering the challenged.
Meanwhile, our segment of short-creative-videoworks (SCVs) had by now churned itself into almost a sort of self-fulfilling global circle of sound reason. After all, to be amongst one of the best collections of SCVs to be screened anywhere in the world is obviously one of the best places in the world for some of the best works in the world to find themselves in,.. which in itself adds up to one of the best collections of SCVs to be screened anywhere in the world, and so on.
And, with the incredibly fortuitous coming aboard of Ima Pico and La Sala Naranja, from Spain, to research, gather together, and consolidate several outstanding contemporary collections for us from around the world this time, we suddenly had such an incredible global representation of SCVs from so many different countries, that we thereby also had the very great luxury of being able to stop accepting (or seeking out~:o) any further non-Indian works several long months before the actual incident.
Meanwhile, a couple of almost-forgotten sleeper cells also then suddenly awoke in India itself, of their own accord, upon graduation from the National Institute of Design's first batch of postgraduate new media students, who had collectively participated in CeC & CaC 2006. This primarily yielded for us incomparable young Ruchira Parihar, who saw us all the way through it all; participating with an exhibit and a presentation herself, curating a collection of Indian SCVs; doing the stage-flags; executing a last-minute rescue act on the catalog that nearly wasn't; setting up the whole exhibition segment; coordinating all sorts of stuff through the course of the actual incident; and so on.
And, all through the course of the build-up, all of the advisors and myself looked things over and over again, from every side possible, to spot and immediately fill up any and all possible gaps in our meticulous plan for a seriously meaningful springtime strike upon the heart of the Capital City of the world's largest democracy.
In the background, Tim Calonius was due to be back in from Finland to specially shoot video for us this time, after the footage that he had gathered for us in 2007, when he was actually taking care of our screenings, eventually yielded for us a fantastic 22min. documentary film, which was loved by all who saw it, and even telecast nationally across India a couple of times, before we withdrew it on account of an important quote having accidentally been taken seriously out of context in it.
With him also came aboard young Nishant Pagare, full-tilt film production professional, to deploy a second pro-camera this time. And, Wolfgang Rebernik would fly in from Austria within days after the incident, to take on post-production.
Rishab Parmar, our young architect, who had run the screenings along with Tim in 2007, jumped in to again generally lend a hand,.. and to also create a funky little installation for our exhibition-segment in the Gandhi-King Plaza, commenting upon sheep in the city with a complex construct of cardboard boxes and t-shirts covered in dozens of special image-transfers, with special lights and sound, at the base of one of the two handsome old trees in the space. The segment also drew in Nitin Bal Chauhan, that breakthrough fashion-designer who'd presented an outstanding film in the 2007 occupation, who created a second installation this time, commenting upon e-waste and the treatment of POWs, with a collage of fashion dummies, masks, design-prototypes, props and special lights, scattered around and even up into the second large tree of the plaza.
But of course, the central phalanx of the occupation of the plaza was all about the Retrospective of Digital Still Imaging (DSI) from The IDEA series of CD-Gazettes. I will not list all 28 artists here, since they are already listed in the main webpage of the incident, and also since they weren't actually with us personally, but yes, I made up the 29th. And, other than myself, represented by a single framed-image, each of the other artists was represented by a small collection of their original images, composed into a single large frame each, to present a sort of mini-retrospective of each individual's work.
And, whereas it is too subjective a matter for us to have even attempted to piece together some sort of retrospective of "the best" of anything off The IDEA to begin with, what seemed to be pretty clear from the collection that we did hang up, is that there's a lot of incredibly great stuff in there, across an incredibly variegated canvas within any of the many streams of creative practice that the gazettes ever touched upon.
Anyway, the occupation itself eventually began with a piecemeal infiltration of the India International Centre (IIC) guesthouse, by the primary participants of the siege, who innocuously began to separately check-in more than five days before we were to go public. And of course, meticulous planning and preparation had won over the Programme Division of IIC into actual partnership with us on the action, with Lalsawmliani "Teteii" Tochhawng serving as our inimitable co-organizer on the inside, right from when we pulled off one of these actions for the first time, Jan. 2006.
Nonetheless, whispers were obviously already about the city by now.
The current issue of Time out Delhi was carrying two and a half pages of startlingly accurate information on the upcoming incident, including an actual "Cut & Keep" schedule. First City carried all of four and a half pages. The Indian Express newspaper also suddenly came out with a quarter-page of coverage. All of it even carried direct quotes from several of us, as well as actual images of several of our electroacoustician partners actually wielding their weapons.
There was no going back now.
I shifted into the IIC guesthouse on the 13th, late-morning, also ferrying in our various printed materials, as well as everything needed to set up a basic field-headquarters, all bundled into a couple of innocent-looking cardboard boxes, along with my suitcase and field-bag. By early afternoon, after first touching base with Teteii, those of us who had already checked in had commandeered Conference Room #2, on the rooftop. Instruments, cables, laptops, widgets and gadgets were scattered about as kit-lists, plans and schedules were crosschecked, and synchronized. We also made contact with Hoshiyar Singh and the rest of the IIC crew that had quietly been assigned to facilitate us from the inside, and crosschecked everything that they too were to have in place. Suresh Pal, our key ally in the crew, was not to be onsite up until the days we were actually to go public, but, if everyone kept track of, and came through on, their individual roles and responsibilities over the coming few days, then nothing less than a full police action could now stop us.
Being up on the rooftop, everything was still undercover by the next morning, allowing the code-warrior core group amongst us to gather together, behind closed doors as planned, along with a small handful of outstanding local candidates, whom we had identified, by a process of testing ideological interest and commitment with levy of a slightly fat fee for entry, as being potential local modules to carry forward the revolutionary ideology that empowered creative innovation can, and should, be a healthy part of every healthy society, everywhere in the world today. And, with that, longer-term moles would now be targeted into the very hearts of at least two key higher-education institutions of the country, as well as scattered amongst a few free radicals.
After all, this was as close to a battlefield-indoctrination as several present might ever get. Entire arsenals were unpacked, laid out, plugged in, explained, picked over. Hidden weapons were revealed within software and hardware, including a compact sitar, as well as a simple dilruba-bow. Algorithms, logic-streams and controller-patches of all sorts flashed across the screen as copious notes were recorded.
Curtis Bahn revealed approaches and strategies to codifying and then working in real-time within unique cultural nuances and distinctions of a given community. Lawrence Casserley offered explorations into gloriously living off the land, with any found sound. Kenneth Newby pitched in with methodologies for intuitive appropriation of cultural nuances into one's performances, while Aleksandra Dulic led all through explorations into manipulating video live, to visually support, highlight and also convey the essence of any performance. Meanwhile, Ansuman Biswas also finally arrived on the scene to cover expression, introspection, exploration, absorption, commitment, and so on. And, Matthew John Davey (appearing secretly under the pseudonym "Hardoff") finally took over to walk everyone through cutting-edge basics of coding on the run, using Pure Data.
By February 15, when we all reconvened, still largely undercover in Conference Room #2 once again, but this time along with an expanded circle of special local people, adding up to the "Change-agents Conclave" (i.e. the CaC part of CeC & CaC), everything was running smooth as clockwork.
In the background, Ruchira Parihar moved in to take over the Gandhi-King Plaza and the auditorium, setting up the exhibition in the former, and getting up her stage-flags in the latter. Rishab Parmar also slipped in alongside Ruchira before long, to start assembling his installation, together with a few associates. And Nitin Bal Chauhan was there by the afternoon, with a small army of assistants lugging in all of the paraphernalia of his own installation.
Meanwhile, CaC was of course about expanding the 'inner' circle into a more open and diverse gathering, with more primary participants coming in, and also, as usual, a small and carefully selected phalanx of local special invitees. The local institutional sector was represented with good folks like Katja Kessing, on behalf of Max Mueller Bhavan (Goethe Institut), who'd brought in two participants from Germany this time,.. but not the third; Chandrika Grover, on behalf of Pro Helvetia, which had brought in three participants for an earlier occupation; Jignesh Khakar, on behalf of National Institute of Design, which had brought in its entire first New Media batch for the 2006 occupation, as well as a core team this time, besides having also had a hearty chunk of students and faculty travel to Delhi to 'informally' support the siege of 2007. On the independent account too, there were other local institutional stalwarts, such as Susan Vishwanathan, of JNU, and Vibodh Parthasarathy, of Jamia, as well as several independent forces.
As usual, it was formally up to me to get things going, which, again as usual, I did by tabling the same old saw that whereas almost everyone else present was there within the parameters of healthy career matrices of personal and professional interests, it had again been largely up to me alone to pull all of the strings together, without any such matrix attending upon the time, effort and expense that it cost me to do so. And, that that was obviously not a healthy way forward, if we were to ever get anywhere significant into the future. Which meant/means that I/we need to figure out how to close the gap.
After all, who the heck is supposed to pay for such guerilla actions anyway?
But of course, the opportunity was too good to miss for too many other things too, tabled by too many other good people. And so, there was discussion, debate, diatribe, accord, discord, networking, and the works, about everything to do with e-Creativity, across several of its innumerable possible manifestations, addressing opportunities, responsibilities, technicalities, possibilities, probabilities, desirables, plans, projects, and so on and so forth.
By midday, we were ready to come over-ground with the occupation as a coherent and substantially expanded group, breaking into the open by together gorging into a great buffet-lunch, served right out in the open main covered-verandah on the ground-floor, where we could begin to break into sub-groups in regard to different aspects of the shared coming hours and days.
In the afternoon, those who were actually to perform took over the occupation of the auditorium from Ruchira, for sound-checks and set-up, freeing her up to post discreet notices all over the place saying, "CeC & CaC 2008 is Here!", along with a sketchy schedule. A full schedule was also by now posted boldly up on the main IIC notice board, as a full 20"x24" of pretty small print. Catalogs with the schedule and other text material were strategically positioned in pick-up stacks. Conference Room #2 was reconfigured for full-day screenings over the next two days. The exhibition-segment was given final touches.
And then, with everything and everyone in place, it all began to run by all of us like an incredible, and inexorable, living kaleidoscope! Nothing that was to happen was really up to me any more.
Ashhar Farooqui (a.k.a. ToyMob) was first off the blocks in the first evening of performances, along with Prashant Yashpal (a.k.a. VJ PixelTweak) and Praveen Venugopal, with Ashhar driving live vocals over sampling, to which the other two responded live by flying video, images and 3D artifacts across the screen.
Bettina Wenzel flew the audio system next, taking straight off into her incredible vocal aurobatics first, and then augmenting that with an incredibly still image gradually jumping into incredible life in response to her voice, before moving on to overlaying and processing voice alone, and finally coming back in to land with an elegant tour de force wherein Lawrence Casserley stepped in to process her live vocals live.
Matthew John Davey (a.k.a. Hardoff) then came on to close the evening at last by live-bashing all sorts of raucous clubhouse-junkhouse dance music from out of his little laptop, even as he pumped up the inimitable performance by shouting at the damned thing, flipping his puny belly about at it, and then even almost levitating his way out of the situation.
On Day-2, February 16, after just a wee bit of babble by me, to get us off the ground, and also to share that Arun Jethmalani had not been able to make it in, for understandable personal reasons, Lawrence Casserley formally took over the first public morning of the occupation, as Chairperson for the presentations segment in the auditorium.
Dhanya Pilo (a.k.a. VJ DeCoy), who had zoomed in from Mumbai for the circus, was an obvious and perfect choice to fill the slot, and so, off she went with the first full presentation of the 2008 sessions. And, being as she was a pretty unique e-Creative Practitioner, as a live video-jockey in India, no surprise that she was actually someone whom I had invited in earlier to be a participant in any case. Which means that she positively lit up the screen for awhile for all of us, with excerpts from her 36KHz work, evoking a young girl's ride on the Mumbai suburban train-system.
Standards had been set, and they weren't to be let down as Avik Chandra and Naman Thakar, of NID, then took the floor, to introduce us to the new paradigms that they were evolving for interactive gestural-control by webcam.
Thomas Munz then came on to speak of the Transmediale experience, in Berlin, as well as his own experiences and insights as a programme curator for the festival.
And, Matthew John Davey followed on after that, to explain his behaviour of the previous evening, which he did with great good cheer, even carrying us all through some live-coding on the spot, for a spot of spontaneous junkhouse on the back of a single, almost random, audio sample.
Meanwhile, screenings of our incredible collection of collections, and also a few independent work/artists, had begun to be screened up in Conference Room #2, smoothly on schedule in the hands of Hoshiyar Singh through both days, with occasional support from some others amongst us.
After lunch, Martin Gotfrit took over the chair from Lawrence, in the auditorium, and immediately launched us all into collectively weighing up the equipage, preparation and modus operandi of the performers scheduled for the same evening. And so, Aparna Panshikar traced her explorations and findings through the course of the first two iterations, as well as the UK diversion with Seknsak in the summer of 2007. Curtis Bahn spoke of the new ground covered with his own work since the last iteration. Ansuman tabled insights and inspirations from the works he'd been doing since we'd last met, as well as from some of the works he had seen of some others. And of course, young Ajay Kapur, with us on such an incident for the very first time, was obliged to let it all hang out, in regard to the what and the how of much of that fascinating ongoing saga of hardware and software that he has continuously been modifying, creating, and performing with, over the past few years.
All were of course unanimously sanctioned by the gathering, without hesitation, to take over the evening entirely, as had been proposed. And so, after just a brief break for them to set up fully for performance, and for others amongst us to variously powder our noses, or quickly scoff down some snacks and beverages, or just network intensely, while I did the rounds of checking up on the exhibition, and shutting down the screenings segment for the night, we reconvened once again for the music of the evening.
And what an evening it was! (Just like, and yet unlike, the others of course~:o)
Memory can often play tricks with oneself in revisiting such extraordinary evenings, but if I do remember right, it was Ajay Kapur who launched the magic; his e-Sitar in full attack mode, augmented with intelligent software, as well as patches controlled via an accelerometer strapped to the back of his head, which he swayed about to absolutely electrify the music that flowed from his fingers. Then Curtis segued in too, with his sensuous e-Dilruba and sensor-empowered bow. And, somewhere along the way, the incredible MahaDeviBit subtly stirred up into life, and gradually jockeyed into everyone's consciousness, eventually clattering out an incredibly complex, intelligent, and incontestably elegant array of percussion accompaniment, beaten out of all sorts of drums, castanets, bells and almost-whistles.
But there was more, much more, for Ajay then yielded the stage to Aparna and Curtis, who wove together a beautiful aural canvas that gradually drew in Ansuman Biswas, with second vocals, sarod and percussion, and also Lawrence Casserley, with his inimitably expanding Signal-Processing Instrument, to complete the Seknsak ensemble tha had so beautifually actually grown out of CeC & CaC itself, since 2006!
Momentum was by now obviously smooth and fulsome, with not a single serious bump in sight as we swung finally into Day-3, Sunday, February 17.
Ansuman Biswas assumed the chair for the morning session, and immediately called upon Arun Mehta to deliver his presentation, which carried forward from the work that he had presented in 2007, in regard to single-click text-communication for the physically-challenged, with insights and observations from his more recent explorations into deploying off-the-shelf products, such as game-devices, for such empowerment.
Florian Thalhofer followed that up with brief clips from the unusual documentary films that he has been making, using the 'Korsakaw System' software he has developed for database narratives, which he also then proceeded to explore a bit for all of us to understand it better.
Ruchira Parihar took the next turn, was provided with a step-up so as to be able to look over the lectern, and cheerily launched into an overview of her recent independent work, leading up to the lovely images that she had juxtaposed with poetry to produce her exhibit, out in the Gandhi-King Plaza. But of course, forgetting to mention along the way that the two vertical flags flanking the stage itself, one of them towering right behind her even as she spoke, were her works too~:o)
But bright young spirits continued to light up the morning nonetheless, as Darshan Duggar and Jags Sandhu came on with a performed presentation, headlining the potential for almost any and every object that might come to hand to become another uniquely empowering tool for creativity.
But Bettina Wenzel, who came on next, was obviously much more finessed, in regard to her incredible explorations into the limits of a single given instrument, her own voice, as well as the horizons beyond that that it could possibly also be extended over, with the creative use of technology.
Post lunch, Brinda Chudasama Miller took the stage to speak of her practice as an artist, of the annual week-long Kala Ghoda Street Festival of the Arts that she has been associated with organizing for several years in Mumbai, and also of the unusual collection of short-creative-videoworks that she had coordinated into the festival for the first time in 2007, which we too had just screened up in Conference Room #2.
Shrikant Agawane then had his turn, speaking of his experiences, inspirations and aspirations as a student, and now also as a recent graduate, of one of the finest film-schools in India. Along the way, he spoke, and showed brief clips, of his works slotted up into the screenings-segment, and also fully screened a couple of other short works, including a sort of activist-religionist piece that had apparently never before been accepted for public screening anywhere in India, for reasons that seem to be entirely obscure in an actual viewing of the undoubtedly peculiar, and yet excellent, funny-serious film itself.
And, with Rishab Parmar and Nitin Bal Chauhan having finally opted to keep their presentations and presence slightly undercover on the sidelines of the Gandhi-King Plaza itself, for just small groups at a time or on one-to-one bases, all that was left for the afternoon was to bring aboard the Computational Poetics Group, to delve into their explorations of the year since we had last had them amongst us, and also to investigate their proposed performance of the coming evening, in both technological and conceptual detail.
But of course, all systems were Go, so, as with the day before, we then broke for awhile to attend to our different individual affairs, only to reassemble once again in the auditorium, for one last time as a full gathering of participants and public, to collectively enjoy one last glorious evening of the occupation.
Things began gently, with just Kenneth Newby, Aleksandra Dulic, and Martin Gotfrit all coming first together to present their latest composition in-process. Kenneth deployed his wired violin once again, and also various littler artifacts. Martin had his beloved 11-string fretless guitar, which he had actually disassembled to sneak it in from Canada, as well as his elegant electronics. And, Aleksandra was into exploring selectively automated live animation this time, synched by wireless-field to the two others, on top of her live-processing.
And then, things began to morph into new, and larger, shapes and sounds, as the improvisational collaborations took off. Aparna came aboard to lend her voice to the different currents of music and processing already underway on stage. Then Curtis slipped in with his e-Dilruba, and also further processing in the background. Ajay took on the tablas, along with his e-Sitar. Ansuman pulled out the entire arsenal that he'd brought in this time, even rubbing vibrations out of the very stage itself along the way. Bettina popped up in a corner, pitching in her extraordinary voice. Matthew jumped up onto the lip of the stage to start sampling and cycling and tweaking and twisting and turning bits and pieces of the found-sound flying around into driving beats and grooves. Lawrence also suddenly appeared, at his broad table, grabbing bits and pieces of the sound-cloud out of the air to drive vast movements of the entire ensemble. Even Krishna Pillai, via the electroacoustics workshop, was seen to be pitching voice in at one point in time.
At some level, a sort of pure creative anarchy was unleashed upon the primary proscenium of the IIC that evening my friends. There were troughs of near-chaos; peaks of brilliant synchronicity; sometimes an overload of density threatened collapse; sometimes scintillating solo sketches shone through; sometimes moments of pure creative ecstacy flashed by.
Everything could be gambled now; anything could be attempted.
Our evacuation of the occupation was secretly already underway in the background. Several participants had checked out, even fled the city by now. Many more would be gone before midnight. I'd be out the next morning myself; the exhibition would disappear within hours; Conferene Room #2 had already been yielded, with our incredible collection(s) of videoworks all publicly screened by now; and, the last amongst us would be gone within days.
But of course, we were triumphant, strong, and there had to be celebration. Thanks flew back and forth amongst all.The performers very kindly gifted me a lovely sort of repeater for my personal arsenal, before we all took up the courage to venture out of the IIC as a group for the first time during the 2008 incident, for a raucous last meal together in the Dilli'O'Dilli restaurant of nearby India Habitat Centre.
And then, it was all over, and we were gone.
Near two weeks have passed since the occupation, and I am almost fully recovered, albeit deeply buried in the back-log of other affairs, as well as direct follow-up on CeC & CaC 2008 itself, such as writing out this internal report, vetting and posting up the pictures, and pushing our video-documentary through post-production.
Note: I have earlier proposed that a constructive primary target for all of us going forward with this work might be to concretize a home for it to evolve and grow as an aspect of a "properly" institutionalized Academy of Electronic Arts. A monolithic approach is of course the most obvious possible course, but we also invite all to study and consider association on possibly carrying forward the concept that we floated last year for "Research & Innovation Ashrams". And of course, as with all of our proposals, all are also most welcome to go ahead with your own manifestation(s) of such things without us, if you like. We'd be glad to help out in any way we can.
Finally: I record my heartfelt thanks to our partners, our advisors, our participants (and their respectuive supporters), our well-wishers and also our public for their goodwill, association and support. I also very specially record my thanks to my family for enduring this peculiar work that I give so much of my time and my life to.