More and more knowledge is accumulated online, such as the compendium Wikipedia, “a free, open community, united by technology, where increasingly vast amounts of content are actively written, reviewed, and debated for public consumption”. In this prospective scenario we can freely use and reuse ideas, but we can also change the information. Are we already constantly recycling knowledge? The critics of recycling claim that this process implies a slow degradation of quality over time. However, information that is recycled has a specific function in its first life and a new function after it is recycled. But, what role is played when this process of re appropriation, using and reusing knowledge take place within cultural processes?
These questions are addressed by the “Used in
India” exhibition, presented by Aditya Dev Sood at this
year’s PixelAche festival in Helsinki. “Used in
India” creates knowledge. The project originated from the
idea to transfer the model of the applied art museum to India. However,
‘Used in India’ sympathetically leaves the
well-trodden path of categorised historical displays and instead takes
into account the vast subcultures and economic realities found in
contemporary India. Very specific local production processes are going
hand in hand with techniques of modifying, reverse engineering and ways
to personalise technologies.
“Used in India is a multimedia installation, which showcases both media devices and narratives of their use, to illumine the nature of street innovation, technology production and social exchange in India. Used in India has been conceived of and produced by CKS, a research and design practice in Bangalore. Our collection of actual devices and inquiry into user practice suggests that local users are infinitely well versed in innovatively re purposing, repairing, reworking and refurbishing technology to suit their social practices and contextual needs. Be it the use of LED (light emitting diodes) to adorn pictures and idols of local deities or the creation of a mosquito-repellent-cum-mobile phone, India abounds with examples of ‘jugaad’ or street innovation. Such user creativity thrives on informal knowledge networks of production, consumption and transaction, and has largely remained hidden from the view of technologists, product developers and designers in the mainstream.”
Fig. 2 Mola shirt with “embedded” graphics from global culture [Photo credit: ©Vanessa Gocksch]
The PixelAche festival opened with Erich Berger’s performance “Tempest”. Tempest, is a US secret intelligence programme created to explore potential surveillance techniques based on the Van Eck Phreaking (VEP) phenomenon. VEP allows us to decode the electromagnetic fields of electronic devices and the Tempest project aims to use VEP to eavesdrop : for example providing an EM-field fingerprint of any image that is displayed on a computer monitor can be decoded. Erich Berger has used the VEP phenomenon for his audio-visual performance Tempest, named after the intelligence program. In the performance he plays a program that generates abstract graphics and picks up the EM-field from the visuals with four analog modulated radios (fig.3), which are attached to the screen. The audio signal is exposed through a standard analogue filter, to be played straight back to the audience. The graphics are in black and white, to create a sharp contrast and to maximise on the colour of sound. (fig.4). This together with the inherent feedback loop of the graphics, their speed, acceleration and the corresponding sound, creates a highly structured rhythmic experience, where audio visuals inter-relate, without beginning or end.
In tempest there is an instant synchronous relation between sound and image that ties them together in an immediate manner - it becomes a very bodily experience. The bodily experience is a very important factor for me and that is why some parts of the performance might be a bit harsher. I want that the sound can be also felt when people wearing earplugs and even if you close your eyes you still have afterimages from the high contrast graphics. I was very pleased in Helsinki when the 85 year old relative of mine told me how much she enjoyed the show, she turned off her hearing aid but she still could feel the sound vibrating in/on the body”.
In transposing cultural values into our own observations, ideas and forms we always inteprete and shine our subjective light on what we use. CKS from Bangalore, Vanessa Gocksch from Columbia and Erich Berger from Norway treat their subjects of observation with a great personal curiosity and respect. That is why their investigations are so engaging, because they remain objective, but are very sensitive to intimite forms of exploration at the same time.
What will we use and reuse in the future? Most probably
the past. The PixelAche 2006 festival will be in Paris, until then, we
should better recycle.