Ghosts in the Machine and other Tales
Video, sound, animation and interactive media

Dates                      16- 17 Sept, 06

Curator                          Pooja Sood


Concept Note

‘Ghosts in the Machine' and other Fables is an exhibition in 2 parts. Situated in the complex terrain of urban culture, the ‘stories' range from gender and identity politics to the mysterious and whimsical exploration of the machine itself.

Part one confronts identity issues which range between the claustrophobic and the exhilarating.

While the single projection work N ew Friends leaves one guessing the identity and context of the ‘friends', the video piece The Interview , insinuates how highly sophisticated corporate tools can recreate the destiny of an urban migrant, reflecting as it does on the crass circumscribing of identity through narrow categorizations - a prominent characteristic of the metro culture of today . On the other hand, the video documentary Aliya looks at the memory and imagination of a certain segment of the Mizo community which lives a suspended life: feeling acutely displaced although living in their own physical environment as they wait in silence to return to the promised land, Israel.

Feminine fables such as Communig with urban heroines , extols the feminine, creating characters based on folk, mythical and popular who possess larger than life-size images. In a complex overlay, the video essay Of body ,borders and other things , in which the “ naked” protest of the women of Manipur construct their own image using their naked bodies as text to define their position which may be read as an act of reconstructing their identity as a collective, defining themselves against the hegemony of the state..

Part two tells stories of the mysterious possibilities of engaging with the machine itself.

CodeWorks looks at code tangentially, and attempts to refigure it through narratives and images that allegorically amplify the very structure of its formal logic ; Ghosts in the Machine seeks to explore how complex structures and forms are generated from initially random processes that evolve into morphologically rich integrated relationships. Employing video feedback as a generative system, many of the forms appear to model biological processes of growth and evolution echoing neural networks, biological tissues, capillaries, plant structures, and embryonic forms, all of which were arrived at by pointing a DV camera at its own output ; ?. ....and how it rained.. .

an experiment at exploring music composition as an aspect of software engineering while, you, me... . is an attempt at explicating the unpredictable behaviour of algorithms in handcrafted electronics and handcrafted software with the intermingling of the poetry of the audience and the prose of O.V Vijayan and Donald Barthelmew.

A random mix of science, technology and identity politics, the exhibition seeks to replicate the diverse mix that constitutes urban culture.

Ghosts in the Machine and other Fables is an exhibition in 2 parts. Situated in the complex terrain of urban culture, the ‘stories' range from gender and identity politics to the mysterious and whimsical exploration of the machine itself.


The artists featured include:

Artist                      Surekha

Title                         Communing with Urban Heroines Part I and II

Based on the survey of unnatural deaths in the city, I have created characters based on folk, mythical and popular who possess larger than life-size images and act as real, symbolic and metaphoric characters. These characters play a very intimate role with fire, water and Sky.

Though these are deliberately chosen from the folk and mythology, the situations are located in the present time ; In this case the urban women and their dreams also act as metaphors for the domination of water, fire and death. I am concentrating on domestic elements and also relation between the body and fire, water and earth .I have tried to touch upon some of the basic sensory experiences and its connection with the body and an expansion of an incomplete body. It is the desire of the body to expand, metaphorically.

•  Janaki crossing 8 seas – fire and sky ( dyptych),duration 1.28 mins
•  The boiling concept / The burning concept (diptych), duration: 3.32 mins

Artist                      Mriganka Madhukaillya and Sonal Jain

Title:                       About body, borders and other things, 2006

The women of Manipur in this “naked” protest, constructed their own image using their naked bodies as text to define their position . This was an act of reconstructing their identity as a collective, defining themselves against the hegemony of the state. Establishing their self empowered status and ending the lost history of construction of their identity by a small selection of sanctioned images, which serve as tools in representation for the “other” which objectify the subject and relegate her nakedness to a site of consumption.

Artist                       Mriganka Madhukaillya and Sonal Jain

Title                         Aliyah, 26 mins, 2006

In a remote corner on the Indian -Burmese border, in Mizoram state, thousands live a suspended life. Most have left their schools and jobs , some have even left their families. They wait in silence to return to he promised land. Israel . The Mizos believe that they are one of the ten lost tribes of Israel, Bnei Menashe, descendants of Menashe, Joseph's son. The waiting unfolds as a religious ceremony, an endless ritual of prayers and a labyrinth of memories. In the midst of these lonely gatherings of the scattered people, their myths, imagination and experiences emerge as a historical fact of singular importance. This visual essay looks at the memory and imagination of the community, displaced though living in their own physical environment. It thus combines personal memories and myths and rituals associated with these together with the larger political context in which the Misos live.

Artist                        AnupMatthew Thomas

Title                          New Friends, single channel projection, Lahore, 2006

The posed images keep one guessing the identity of the protagonists.

Naazish Ataullah, Rashid Rana, Gwendolyn Kullick, Huma Mulji, Masooma Syed, Salima Hashmi, Kyla Pasha, Sophie Ernst, Samar Ataullah, Anwar Saeed, Afshar Malik, Razia Sadiq, Imran Ahmed, Quddus Mirza, Mohammad Ali Talpur, Nilofar Akmut and Ali, Farjad Nabi.

Artist                          Gigi Scaria

Title                             Interview

The video is an attempt to understand the way in which we categorize people and their identity which has become a prominent character of a metro culture. This video shows how highly sophisticated corporate tools can recreate the destiny of an urban migrant.

Artist                          Yashas Shetty

Title                               ...and how it rained..., sound and software installation, 2006

(collaboration with Vishal K. Mehta, Cornell University, Ithaca New York)

..and how it rained... is an experiment at sonically and visually exploring a database -The database in this case is whether data collected over a period of ten years across forty two stations across India. In effect it is also an attempt at using the weather as a compositional tool - Will the cyclic aspects of the Indian weather - it's monsoons and its summers have any effect on the composition? Will they show up as rhythmic patterns?.....and how it rained...is also an experiment at exploring music composition as an aspect of software engineering.

Artist                         Yashas Shetty

Title                         you, me, donald, vijayan and the virus/Jazz for the 21st century, interactive

Handcrafted software guided by unpredictable algorithms trolls through a database with text collected from the works of famous/not so famous writers(me). As an “artist” I've been interested in exploring the computational process as a means of transcending my own artistic limitations, you, me.... is an attempt at realizing these experiments.

Artist                              Rohini Devasher

Title                                   Ghosts in the Machine, single channel projection, 2006

'Ghosts in the Machine' explores elements of self-organisation and emergent temporal structures of pattern distribution born of self-reflection. The work seeks to explore how complex structures and forms are generated from initially random processes. These evolve into morphologically rich integrated relationships offering insights into the complexity lurking within nature's processes.

Employing video feedback as a generative system, many of the forms appear to model biological processes of growth and evolution echoing neural networks, biological tissues, capillaries, plant structures, and embryonic forms, all of which were arrived at by pointing a DV camera at its own output, they are entirely self-generative… ghosts within the machine.

Artist                                  Abhishek Hazra

Title                                    CodeWork, animated short film in two parts, 2006

I am interested in how the world of Information and Communication Technologies alter the everydays of our lifeworld. For the end user/consumer the working of the technology per se remains opaque. CodeWork then is a project that lies in between the practices of art and pedagogy. At a fundamental level, it is an invitation to engage with the technologies of software that undergrid the practices of our everyday life: sending and receiving e-mail, using search engines to ferret out information, sharing mp3 playlists, etc.

However, the question of engagement is not exhausted by mere didacticism. Engagement here would also include negotiating the contours of one's imaginative universe and refusing to view these technological processes as mere instrumentality. An engagement becomes that much more poorer if it defers the lyrical and the whimsical for the instrumental and the efficacious. As a visual artist who is interested in science and technology, it is also about being able to stake a claim for the legitimacy of a plural mode of engagement with a discourse that is framed by a highly technical language: solving encryption algorithms cannot be the only way of engaging with the mechanics of secure communication on the internet. CodeWork, therefore looks at computer code tangentially, and in refiguring it through narratives and images that allegorically amplify the very structure of its formal logic, attempts to find fresh ways of engagement.

I see this essentially as an ongoing project, of which the works displayed here are but one part. In the current version on display, I have looked at a very simple piece of PHP (a scripting language widely deployed on the internet) code that enables a user to subscribe or unsubscribe to a mailing list. Through two small narratives, I formulate speculative scenarios to attempt an expanded annotation of this code. Though the code at hand is the primary focus, I also try to tentatively reflect on some of the larger implications for our cognitive understanding of the world.