Presented by:

The Academy of
Electronic Arts

and:

India International Centre

Exploring the Edge

of Experimental Creativity

@
India International Centre, New Delhi

Conference Room #1
Saturday, January 06, 2018
10am to 8pm
~.~

A dense and intense one-day conference,
of Primary Participants drawn from
different streams of human endeavour,
to each deliver a brief presentation,
and also field questions from the gathering.

*Possibly including spontaneously collaborative
experimental music performance/s.*


~.~

EtE 2018 Report


Background:

It didn’t pan out quite the way I’d been a bit worriedly sort of anticipating it might this time, in that we did not pack Conference Room #1 of India International Centre (IIC) all the way to overflowing.

To be honest, almost all of the Primary Participants whom I have somehow had the good luck to be able to draw into these mad little incidents that I have perpetrated over the past few years along broadly such lines are of a sort who quite often draw enough public to fill entire venues on their own, respectively,.. when I am not involved.

Nonetheless, what was in fact manifested once again this time, to my delight and that of at least several others, was that my incompetence in never being able to draw real ‘crowds’ of public into these various separate efforts, was actually precious for the simple bringing together of the actual Primary Participants themselves each time, along with just a few other special people, within a structured and empowered matrix of dense and intense creative interaction, sharing, and exchange.

And so, whereas I am certainly always surprised, I am also always gratified.

That’s the real magic that had originally allowed me to be quite confident all the way back in 2008-‘09, about shifting The Carnivals of Creativity & Change-agents Conclave up into the boondocks of the Lower Himalaya of Kumaon, after 3 years of playing it out together with—and in—IIC, right in the heart of Delhi. (However, the incidents that had been known as CeC & CaC through the time at IIC, were subsequently renamed as just CeC, for simplicity’s sake).

CeC & CaC had been, previous to this particular incident, our last engagements with IIC, through 2006-’07-’08. Each of those annual iterations of that series of incidents took up 3 of IIC’s venues ( Auditorium, Seminar Room, Exhibition Space) over 3 days (Friday-Saturday-Sunday). And, when the program office sought leave of us for the following 2 years, while an entire building on campus was to be demolished and reconstructed, we could not identify another institution in Delhi that might have served as well.

It eventually took us about 10 years to finally get back to IIC, with the entirely new paradigm of ‘Exploring the Edge’, which was to a great degree distilled from 11 years of experience playing out 10 annual iterations of The annual Carnivals of e-Creativity, which, after the 3 first years in IIC, we did for 5 years in Sattal (Kumaon, Uttarakhand), and then for 2 years in Shillong (Meghalaya).

And, it was fabulous to be working once again with Lalsawmliani Tochhawng (Teteii), Premola Ghose, and others of the IIC Program Division, Suresh Pal and his Operations team, and of course, the hidden heroes of the Catering and Kitchen departments.

Thank you all.

Program Day:

Saturday, January 06, 2018, began with my son Bacchus and I arriving at iIC about 8:30am, to rendezvous with Suresh Pal, with whom we were to set up Conference Room #1,.. only to find that Ashim Ghosh had beaten us to it, and was well into setting up the exhibits he was to include in his presentation.
Everything about setup went as smooth as silk, as I have learned to expect of IIC. The room had been properly cleaned; the conference microphones, sound system, and projector, were all in good order. Name plates of the Primary Participants were already in place around the table, with each set beside a bottle of drinking water, notepad, and pencil. The curtains over the window-side length of the room darkened the room just enough for good projection onto the automated screen, without making things pitch dark.

And, so we began, just a few minutes after the scheduled 10am.

The Morning Session had Chintan Kalra, as the very gracious and humorous Chair, lay down the ground rules of the entire incident, that, (a) every presentation would be timed down to a maximum of 20 minutes, with a buzzer, followed by a maximum of 5-10 minutes also timed for follow-up Q&A and discussion with the gathering, and, (b) every item of recorded media playback in the course of a presentation would be limited to a maximum of 2 minutes, with a bell where necessary.

Shankar Barua, that is I, was first up to present, essentially just to get things going, and to serve as a bit of a buffer for the other presenters to be dealt with not too many latecomers.

As such, my presentation was just a very broad overview of some of the creative work I have personally been doing over the years as a curator, a writer, a visual artist, and a photographer, and nothing else. The screening material of my presentation had been put together over just 2 hours of time that I’d scrounged together for it just 2 days before, after which I had not had the time to see it again. And of course, as usual, I was too stressed out—as curator—by the time of the actual presentation to remember 50 million things I’d wanted to say. O well.

Riddhi Luthra, together with her fellow students Yash Jain, Vatsal Jain, and Sumiran Bhasin, all
 from Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology (NSIT), delivered the second presentation of the morning, which they began by having Ashhar Farooqui light up an electronic ‘matchstick’, with which he was then invited to light up the  multiple flickering electronic  ‘diya’ flames of a full-scale traditional brass inauguration lamp. They then followed up with screening of a brief animation film made with photographic light-painting. And, to cap that, they then demonstrated perhaps about half of the devices they had brought with them that had been developed in the electronics lab of their college, including a reactively palpitating wearable LED ‘heart’, a set of electronic birthday candles that could be blown out with one’s breath, a batteryless television remote control that was could be charged with just a shake up, and so on

Ashim Ghosh came after this, to speak about some of his various exhibitions, installations, and inventions; the last including a quick overview of his ‘Shabdkoshish’ Hindi word game, as well as a demonstration of the fascinating ‘Deliet’ (Digital Light Induced Entrancement) paradigm he’d recently developed, for which he deployed several large prints that he then colour-shifted startlingly with an RGB LED floodlight, alongside a delightful signboard, with built-in lights for programmable colour-shifting, that he’d made especially for just the ‘Exploring the Edge’ meet itself. He ended with screening of a video he’d made of a performance by himself in which he spoke in a most peculiar manner, that turned out—upon playing the video in reverse—to be something he’d said backwards; a new paradigm he’d been exploring for possibly larger live performance by professional actors.

Leenika Beri came after this, to speak of the delightful ‘Jaipur Kala Caupal Arts Collective’ she’d launched some time ago, and to share some of the magic that had gone down through the course of the recent first arts residency and exhibition she had organized under the banner, in Jaipur, which saw a select group of artists gather together from around India and several other countries to get up to some quite excellent creative explorations over a few days, addressing some of the many issues to do with water in our times, especially across drylands such as much of the state of Rajasthan, of which Jaipur is the capital. This was all about empowering different arts, exploring their relevance and place in communities, and also the compulsions, responsibilities, and opportunities for creative and collective social interventions and action towards the greater common good.

Neha Dixit, being a travel journalist and filmmaker, knew quite a bit about several of the social issues and opportunities that Leenika had brought to the table. She’d travelled the world on assignments, immersing herself into different situations everywhere she went, to come away from it all with a wide vision and broad range of insights and learnings. And, after talking all of us through a bit of that, over projections onscreen of a lovely series of images, she finally shared some of the startling experimental video-work she’s lately been independently doing, hinged around the music work of her partner and companion Ashhar Farooqui. This was careful camerawork mated to rigorous and tight post-production, all the way through augmented imaging and animation.

Ashhar Farooqui came on next, and surprised us all not a little by talking just a bit about the pathbreaking music he’s been doing ever since he formed the breakthrough cult band Envision with friends in the early-2000s, and the performance path he’s taken after that, both independently, as ToyMob, and also collectively with others as the music acts Ija, Teddy Boy Kill, and Passenger Revelator, while at the same time producing music for films, commercials, and television. What he was making time for in his presentation was to share a bit of the fascinating experimental personal journey he has taken over the same period of time, to establish a life for himself and Neha in the Lower Himalaya, where they have together built a lovely complex of cottage and studios constructed almost entirely of mud, in a modernized version of the vernacular Bengali style that one finds in the plains of the Uttarakhand Terai region. This was about experimentation with efficient ecological living, and, what they were proving in building a lovely life together in such a way was that it is something that is doable, and also beautiful to do.

Arsh Sharma had rushed back to Delhi for just a couple of days specifically to deliver his presentation, from Mumbai, where he has been looking to resettle over the past few months, for professional reasons. The quick visit was, however, entirely in keeping with the life he has been leading over the past few years, which has seen him peripatetically moving all over the country and the world to gig with his bands The Circus, Fuzz Culture, and POV, in between doing studio work deep into most nights with his Studio Fuzz partners for films, television commercials, and experimental music collaborations. Studio work was in fact specifically what his presentation gave us all a bit of a glimpse into, with him talking us through the process by which he independently developed an elementary recorded chant into a lavish finished work for an art installation due up from an arts collective in NYC. This was about meticulous editing, deconstruction, and reconstruction, which saw the voice-track he began with transmogrify into additional voices and instrumentation across multiple tracks to make up full orchestration.

And so to lunch for everybody on the inside track of the conference, which turned out to be a delightful continental spread.

The Afternoon Session was chaired by Amiya Kumar, who brought all of the gravitas he had attained through a full career in the public insurance sector to a finely humorous head every time he spoke.

Bacchus Barua was first up after lunch, serving partly as a buffer against latecomers, just as his father Shankar Barua had done for the morning session. But, what he brought to the table was something entirely new that he’d made especially for the occasion, going far beyond his normal preoccupations as a full time economist with a think tank in Vancouver, who played grunge music with his band The Belief Experiment most evenings. Beginning his presentation with a walkthrough of the object oriented programming language Pure Data in which he’d made the offering, with some live coding to demonstrate how it worked, what he eventually presented was an ‘Ideas Machine’ music software patch that he’d designed to automatically generate ever new and unique rock music structures, with drums and several instruments, every time it was started up. But of course, what he made quite clear was that, rather than being based upon artificial intelligence, this was purely about carefully premeditated creativity being given some autonomy.

Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar, being the first chef we’ve ever included in a program to do with experimental creativity was expectedly full of delightful surprises, amongst which, one particularly spectacular one actually came to our attention a few days after this incident, in the form of an unique scooter she’d devised over 7-8 months from off-the-shelf bits and parts. Her presentation was in fact directly related to that scooter in a way, in that she took us all though an intimate behind the scenes look into how she routinely deconstructed various recipes into different bits and parts that could be quickly reconstructed into single servings of a finished dish, on order, in the 6 restaurants whose different kitchens and cuisines she manages every day as Head Chef. This was about structured creativity geared towards invention and re-invention for precise and customizable replicability.

Mandeep Reikhy, in turn, shared a bit of his personal creative focus and journey as a dancer, choreographer, dance administrator, and dance educator, who, besides developing and performing his own finished works on an ongoing basis, is always at the same time driving creative empowerment for other dancers and choreographers, by running one of the most progressive and exciting modern dance forums in India, and, by also building diverse other dance communities around themes and facilities both traditional and unexpected across the country. Working with, and choreographing for, ensembles large and small, his personal creative expression has often to do with addressing gender politics and stereotypes, particularly in the Indian context, but also extends to diversely inspired abstract expressionism from which audiences are expected to draw their own meaning. He is also currently engaged with developing curricula for Ambedkar University in Delhi to offer the first Masters in Dance in India, beginning later this year.

Akash Sharma has been quietly doing quite remarkable work with sound for some years now, along with his associate Thomas Jacob. But, although he did share a little glimpse of how they’d been also creating and networking an experimentally creative sound community in Mumbai via regular meetings, presentations, and performances, in different venues, and also the extraordinary synth room he’d recently created with Thomas in the course of an arts residency with the Kyta program in the Himalaya, his presentation had mainly to do with the primary theme of their Sound Codes sound research lab in Mumbai, which is largely about mapping and cataloguing the acoustic signatures of heritage structures across India. The latest highlight of this effort is about these acoustic signatures now being deployed as applications that can render any sound as it would actually be heard in such places. And of course, they are also continually creating software solutions for artists, producers, DJs, engineers, students and sound enthusiasts alike, while also providing sound consultancy for various clients.

Rahul Dutta surprised some of us in the gathering by beginning his presentation with a series of remarkably complex and detailed pen-and-ink drawings that he’d done over time, of sci-fi and fantasy structures, environments, vehicles, and whatnot. ‘Surprised’, because he is professionally most highly regarded for, and primarily practicing in, the Virtual Services and Augmented Reality spaces. Needles to say, he did come around to some of that after the drawings though, again surprising and impressing us all with the incredibly varied range of work that his Trimensions studio puts out on a daily basis, from web-design to experience and perception design, for clients ranged all the way through individuals, shops, institutions, and establishments, through the Indian Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO), with whom he is actually involved in even hyper sensitive work that cannot be shared publicly. And, in inviting everybody gathered to feel very welcome to come in and try out some of the technologies in his studio, it eventually came as no surprise that that included products and technologies of tomorrow that they’re beta-testing for—or otherwise involved with—some of the most advanced companies of the world.

Chintan Kalra rounded off the afternoon session in his inimitable manner as one of the most advanced and influential rock stars of India, but, surprised all no less than anybody who had presented before him, by particularly focusing upon some of the video-animation work that he has lately been doing. We actually shouldn’t have been surprised at all though, for here was a man who has always been full of surprises, which means that’s just what is normal with him. Over the years since he abandoned touring the country and the world with one of the top rock bands of India as a bass guitarist, to instead follow his own light, that light has led him to become an independent studio-producer for both audio and video, a video-film director, a phone-app builder, an impresario, a web-designer, an interactive audio-video expert, a member of several experimental bands, a solo musician and electroacoustician, a singer, a mentor to other musicians and artists, and much else. It was all too much to include in such a brief presentation. But, he did nevertheless give us all a little glimpse into a wee bit of it all, amongst which one highlight was an ‘endless’ strumming technique that he’s developed over the past one year for playing the ukulele; an instrument to which he has dedicated—and limited—his latest music album release; aptly named ‘Endless Strum’.

And so to the tea break, with IIC’s excellent tea, coffee, and cookies served for all.

The Evening Session had been set aside for informal music interactions and performances, essentially just because we had the venue to ourselves till 9pm in any case, and also because some little frisson was only to be expected of an empowered gathering of the sorts of musicians who either presented or otherwise participated in the whole madness of the day. But of course, it had already been a very long and exhausting 8 hours for everybody, which means that not very much could really be expected of the session, as we had known from the beginning. Nonetheless, it did provide opportunity for a pretty funky drone takeover by Nishant Gill, on two of his homemade synth modules, along with some guitar and bass by Bacchus Barua and Chintan Kalra. But everybody was just about ready to collapse by about 8:30pm, which allowed just enough time to pack up before calling it all a wrap.

For the record, feedback has been fantastic so far, and, as has most delightfully happened with every broadly similar incident that we have perpetrated in the past before this one, a small sort of sub-community has coalesced from within the gathering, that has already begun to creatively connect with, fraternally collaborate with, and inspirationally feed off, each other in various ways that are bound to grow into the future.

As I’ve always said about such things, the real magic comes after.

~.~

Shankar Barua
January 22, 2018


Organizers
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The Academy of Electronic Arts (also known as The Academy of Experimental Arts) is a private entity that serves as a learning, sharing, mentoring, networking, benchmarking, empowering and broadly inclusive, but non-educational, institution.
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India International Centre, considered one of the country’s premier cultural institutions, is a non-government entity widely regarded as a place where statesmen, diplomats, policymakers, intellectuals, scientists, jurists, writers, artists and members of civil society meet to initiate the exchange of new ideas and knowledge in the spirit of international cooperation. Its purpose, stated in its charter, was ‘to promote understanding and amity between the different communities of the world’.
~

And of course, all possible goodwill, association and support
is invited and welcomed from all quarters
~.~