Thursday, July 31, 2008

mid week review

post party- ateya and vinita playing fortune teller with the tarot cards and sonal on sunday morning.

celebrations as the fifth year are delighted with the 100% result. cake and ice cream all around!!! congratulations!

from monday onwards new entrants to the school. the bachelors course writes detective stories while the masters is bombarded with the idea of rituals in the city through intense discussions with george, sandeep, nidhi, chitra, paro and ateya.

yesterday two sweet kids from rizvi came to the school to talk about their thesis. azeer's integrity to his search for space for street kids i loved; while ashutosh was sincere but his thesis was muddled up by the unfortunately default 'cultural center' programming.

Monday, July 28, 2008

dance dance

i will never understand why mithun was considered to be a great dancer- he cant even moonwalk smoothly and has no- absolutely no- grace. energy he has in spades but still is hilarious when he tries to look all intense (see above). if i was him i’d be mighty pissed that the big hit ‘zooby zooby zooby’ was picturised on his mother before his entry as a 'super dancer' (“zindagi mein halwa khana hain to dance karma padega.. dance dance!”)- i.e. before amrish puri molested and imprisoned his mother as one of his harem. later on smita patil the devoted maa jaisi behen is beaten up by shakti kapoor and stays the long suffering wife until she is killed along with her unborn child and forgives her husband who naturally later repents with his life. mandakini wears nothing and does a bappi version of ub40’s ‘don’t break my heart’.. ‘dil mera todo naaa.., dil mera todo naa.’

Saturday, July 26, 2008

image post - three frightening ways to live

below andheri flyover

rehab colonies at parel. 14 stories with 10 feet in between

peninsula towers


phoenix rises from the flames but not in glorious bursts of sky like peninsula park nearby where the white and blue glass reflects off the clouds until they are all that remain. instead it is a subterranean world of schizoid surfaces and streets buried under layers of dust. the sky is only felt as dim light filtering from the top.

this is what is bigness. large flat areas that overlook nothing except more of the same. once in a while, if you do manage to step into one of the scooped out courtyards, knife like spears or monumental behemoths loom over you. the dungeon is the only place where you can feel safe from the prying eyes of the men in the towers. and here order collapses in incoherent madness. new surfaces clad on older ones, gleaming escalators leading to rotting corridors, grey concrete puddles in car parks as far as the eye can see and policemen at every corner telling you not to stay. the souk would be the medieval islamic parallel. but this lies outside even that. a labyrinth of only the neglected in betweens. even outside the confines of the mall, below the flyover real life carries on in the shadows of concrete.

the science of sleep . riyaaz . and i still don’t understand anything

the fantasy world of the strange but lovely gael garcia bernal is one of the dream worlds of michel gondry’s bjork videos. cardboard cartons and duct tape become the props for a brilliant show about the dream life of a weirdo. the hand crafted becomes beautiful. in the music videos though there is no particular rationale for the flights of fancy and were somehow more convincing. here the careful characterization of bernal as a dreamer-boy with a strange fixation for his neighbor seemed like a plot device to allow gondry to have some fun. the playfulness thankfully does not bury the sweet sentimentality of the story.

whatever one may call it ‘prayoga’ or experimental- the reasoning behind making the difference is beyond my understanding- something about western and eastern philosophy with lots of italicized sanskrit thrown in; the fact is that i did not like it much. the installations in the lobby of the ncpa were deified into holy objects by the low lighting and the silence that seemed to descend on the awestruck audience. ‘riyaaz’ depoliticized and gawked at the spectacle of a steel plant. all very gorgeous until it was intercut with more slow shots of a village and a historical monument. then it revealed its emptiness. ‘and i still don’t understand anything’ purported profundity regarding human relationships or at least regarding film itself and unfortunately for me it felt like commonplaces were being bandied around in very ordinary ways. we were being asked throughout to raise our own consciousness to such extraordinary levels that the ordinary was to become sublime. and if we did not get it. tough. the question answer session did not help ease my unease about the pretentiousness.

just before going to town for the show mukul and me sat and saw some experimental films from the 20’s by man ray. the difference between the former and the latter was remarkable.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

le marche

on an island of asphalt, concrete and sewage rises a new mall between the rehab colonies and slums of oshiwara and the high rises full of tv serial wannabes is the new knife like silver and frosted glass clad le marche. the atrium is a cold multi reflective surface whose volume seems to increase the further up you go as escalators offset outwards and the terraces of different floors are revealed. above is a heavy undulating steel truss on steel columns and a glass roof making the upper floors unbearably hot and that bathes the whole mall in a carpet of criss crossing shadows. the food court is all wood-finish laminate warmth and the basement is the supermarket labyrinthine with digital blowups of fruits and smiling faces on any blank surface.

the entire thing is terribly made when compared to the glitz of the oberoi mall. the paint is peeling, the laminate chipped. it feels like its on the edge of ruin already- and it is brand new. this is the way the world is going to end. with hollow hot buildings precariously keeping up appearances as the cheaply bought floors begin to crack under the feet and the space frames gather cobwebs. the battle against desolation is fought everyday by uniformed sweepers and cleaners.

random rant on architectural drawing

i am sick of repeating the clichĂ© that all representation is inaccurate. that it involves a distance between the object and its signifier- the drawing or model. this distance is a necessary but difficult distance, as we are learning in both architectural design and graphics in the second year. for architectural design (the cyborg project where a locust and a light bulb are to meet at the dindoshi sra) the struggle is to be able to look at the concrete fact of a site through the act of mapping and representing a phenomenon. in graphics where flats in rehabilitation projects are to be drawn to understand them as homes,on the other hand the concrete has to find its accurate mode of representation. the presence of the object in its reappearance in another medium (what is the medium of experience?) is naturally fictitious. it’s a fiction whose codes we seem to have agreed upon depending on the utility of the representation. like a working drawing is useful to make a building. the codes are inbuilt within our culture and allow only knowledge of a certain kind to be represented.

but back to the gap mentioned earlier between the real and the represented. i think we are now quite comfortable with this gap. however, when the gap between the real and the represented increases beyond a certain point the representation devolves into an illustration. these illustrations have very little value of their own as independent knowledge generators. they merely replicate information that already exists in text or at the most as a diagram- (and since we are talking architecture- it ends up being abstracted aspatial information) these abstractions are useful, but only as generic understandings of the phenomenon we are trying to map- i.e. pin down to specifics.

after all, doesn’t every phenomenon differentiate itself into specifics when played out in particular space and time. and that has to be drawn. the particulars. somehow the language that is to emerge for this representation does not seem to exist and has to be created- especially if one has to intervene because the intervention exists within a conceptual apparatus working in the concrete- or vice versa.

privileging the concrete would be reducing the complexity of experience down to some base empirical data, while sitting on the ivory tower of abstract thought seems irrelevant to the world. for architects drawing is to help bridge the gap.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

'the dark knight' . '32 short films about glenn gould'

in the history of batman films this is a new level of darkness. while the tim burton versions and their clever po-mo self referential repartee was playful and wicked, this reboot of the franchise broods more classically over classic batman themes- good within evil, the dark within the light, the complexity of moral choices. in between them batman films had degenerated into too clever by half camp with joel schumacher where george clooney wore a batsuit with nipples. its good, this new version. somehow the disconcerting seriousness seems like it addresses current paranoia and madness of the world- call centers and cell phones; terrorists and iraq. it is in the character of the joker more than the batman where the change is most apparent. jack nicholson was wicked and witty- an entertainer who dances to prince as he wreaks havoc on an art gallery. heath ledger's joker is anything but entertaining- his humour is vicious. his is a madness that threatens all notions of order – merely because order exists. it is arbitrary, violent and sadistic. his masochistic laughter gets more and more manic the more he is beaten. and this gotham city, for a change not bathed completely in darkness deserves it. although ledger amost eats up the whole film with his smeared lipstick and whitewashed face, christian bale as batman, or even aaron eckhart as the attorney gone (almost wrong) harvey dent are also great. the action is electrifying, the special effects fantastic and the plot, in spite of being full of so many subplots that it was difficult to figure out what exactly was going on, was scary as hell. i know i am partial to superhero films, but this was really really terrific.

mukul showed ’32 short films about glenn gould' for the film club yesterday and though the masterpiece theater idyllic childhood shots or the deification of its central protagonist to superhero maestro who cares more about nature than people was somewhat grating; the music was terrific and so were the parts in which the movie dwelled on the the nature of music and image. dance, animation, nature, speech, image, movement, stock markets, bodies in and as music, where my search for context or narrative in music was defeated by form until form became context or narrative.

coincidentally kabir came to college yesterday to talk about the event next thursday at ncpa regarding his films and spoke of film as sculpture. it is a seriousness about form for the sake of itself that i think will be good to reintroduce in the school to have some tension filled debate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

can ad campaigns get any more offensive?

shouldn’t we be angry? this is the new times of india campaign. ‘teach india’ they call it and these are the images.. it’s a series where obviously privileged young men and women take time off their busy schedules and ‘help’ the unfortunate by educating them. this is in today’s newspaper. a wide toothed fair young man takes time off his busy exercise schedule (note the orange track pants and the hurdles in the background) to teach a darker thinner and thus marked as such - underprivileged man to count - the hurdles perhaps. there is an ipod headphone dangling from his left year and a towel in his hand that wipes his sweat with. but the real difference is in the body language and the eyes. the difference between the two looks to the camera is amazing. while the yuppy teacher reeks of smug satisfaction, the reluctant student seems shy and even resentful beneath the apologetic slump as he raises his eyes to meet ours. the ‘u’ ties the two men together across sparkling white t shirts. while one man fills his up the others hangs limp around his skeletal body. the image is carefully assembled with signs that make sure that 'times of india' readers don't even begin to identify with the wrong man. we all know which one of the two it is addressing. disgusting. incredibly offensive.

more books

sonal came back from delhi with a three volume pack of ‘a critique of everyday life’. i have been interrupting reading the first volume as he hacks into surrealists, existentialists, pseudo marxists, stalinists and anyone else he wants to with venom and passion, with novels- the cool noir of dashiell hammett’s ‘red earth’ whose story does not really matter as long as the blondes have long legs and the dialogue snappy enough; then the beautiful seamless journey in and out of decades and continents of ‘the shadow lines’ by amitav ghosh; and now as i wait in one of the few down times in college from the library is j m coetzee’s ‘boyhood’- a childhood that took place many decades before mine in another continent but yet seems so palpable.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the rachel papers . the hungry tide. pinjra

when you are at home ill there is nothing much to do but catch up on reading and watching films that you have always meant to but never had the time to. between some bouts of heavy heaving cough and glasses of piping hot water, as the clogs play gorgeous monsoon atmospherics on the system in my room and it rains outside, i read martin amis’s ‘the rachel papers’ whose narrator is precociously self-aware in the seduction of an older woman. what came to close for comfort and made me laugh and cringe was the language adopted by the storyteller- arch, full of flourishes and self conscious attempts to make himself sound oh-so-clever to an intended audience. something like the way I feel I write this bloody blog. how come as soon as i start writing an overweening artifice takes over? great book. but not really one for the romance of monsoon gloom. ‘the hungry tide’ is better company with its hallucinogenic landscape of rivers and islands teeming with crocodiles and tigers. if ‘pinjra’ wasn’t so self righteous towards the tragic end regarding the destructive power of pleasure i might have liked it more. this, in spite of the fact that a large part of v. shantaram's energy seems to have been spent in composing item songs for his wife. the lavanis are sexier naughtier bitchier than anything bipasha basu might lip synch to. the dancing was terrible in spite of the hyper expressive eyebrows. ‘hichki’ with that shot of an exposed shoulder and upper breast close up; and ‘disala ga bai disala’ where burning torches light the stage from between her breasts were the highlights. shreeram lagu is terrific as the upright schoolteacher done it by music and dance.

Monday, July 07, 2008

jaane tu.. ya jaane na

this is not going to be a popular post. i tried to like this film, i really did. and i did like watching some of the supporting cast. the lead pair is also sweet and good in parts and there is nothing really wrong about the film except that it begins in sweet nothingville and ends up pretty much as a ride around the block with nowhere to go. i wish the characters had more to do than be nice. i was also annoyed that i was supposed to identify with the girl who screams excitedly as the story is told to her while waiting at the airport. with her getting all worked up about silly pointless details of a wafer thin plot, i was also supposed to work up a sweat about ‘why does he not just say it?’ or go ‘how sweet’ and wait with expectant ardor at the next nothing in the story. and honestly i just did not get it. get the fluff, the comic timing, the clever writing, or fall for the chocolate boy hero; or the perky girl (i did actually). not that it is in any way offensive or annoying. in fact it goes out of the way to be as nice as it possibly can. understated to the point of bland. and though ‘pappu cant dance’ is a cheap crowd pleaser (and fun as that) the hit song is ‘kabhi kabhi aditi’. the rest of the music is 80s english pop with hindi words. the ballad (not the faux jazz title track) is like a hindi reject from a chicago album. the blandness was so overwhelming that even the sexual frission of a teenage love story between two fairly attractive people was sapped of all energy- the looks across the dance floor were more vapid than longing and when the boys girlfriend walks into his bedroom o find him sleeping and shirtless- a great situation for some stolen looks and shy glances away- he puts his shirt on like she is an aunty visiting. mostly boring, sometimes funny, rarely charming- and all because it tries so hard with its ingratiating niceness that you feel like giving it one tight slap. where has old tasteless tacky bollywood gone?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

blanket statement - i like... because...

compulsive cross-indexer of everything under the sun that i am, i find, in spite (or because) of my organizing urge becoming more and more fascinated by the atypical - not that which is so unusual that it completely breaks the system of organization completely; but that which with its line of flight away from type reveals a way outside easy categories. they type is not destroyed but this line of flight but is instead revealed to be a construct. i am not so fascinated by simple contradictions between opposites- like when darkness and light or rich and poor collide. these in a certain way are expected collisions. it is the release of the unexpected in a gesture of freedom and individuality reaching out but not quite outside the ‘order’ that i am taken up with. these movements can never be captured to become mainstream or marginal. they resist slotting and indexing.
as a corollary to that, i don't seem to like work that is too competently resolved. here, resolution might mean a competent assembly of parts to achieve a pre-stated objective. like joining the dots. the residue of what lies outside/ because / in spite of the competence of the assembly and does not fit is what i enjoy. thats not to say that i like things grungy or dusty because there you can feel the 'grain of the wood'- a supposedly transcendental experience in itself. but honestly there is a little of that too. if there is one thing that angers me though is the reduction of the experience of the work to being merely an example of some meta-narrative regarding its political content. like it represents something in a larger historical graph and actually has only existence within the tight boundaries of that frame of reference. i love it when the work resists this and slips through revealing other realities.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

srteet shots - morning rickshaw and night bus stop

workshop weekend / pune / on beauty

i am too exhausted to describe each of them so i will just list the june workshops for this year. surabhi’s double displacements of migration stories, nancy’s art theory/criticism and mansi’s performance/installation/conceptual art. all interesting and the students did seem to enjoy them.

then there was pune where the 6 groups working in developing 6 different approaches for the improvements to slum areas were at loggerheads within as philosophies and work ethics clashed. confidence was interpreted as arrogance (and it often was) while politeness was interpreted as stupidity (which also it often was) meanwhile in that fairy tale bubble of a school where everything is ‘pinky-ponky and girly girly’ (according to a faculty member) blue curtains with yellow flowers sway in the studio space while inspirational messages on mirrors prod the young girls to a future married to nice upwardly mobile young men preferably in the us of a. stars on a map list the places that these international alumni have reached. the girls unfortunate enough to still be in india don’t get such a pride of place on the courtyard wall. as faculty members and students play pool in the courtyard all day romantic and uplifting bollywood tunes blare from a set of speakers.

ben and me went on an eating spree between getting traumatized by the frictions in between the kids at the usual haunts- good luck cafĂ©, german bakery, zamu’s and one new Bengali place.

zadie smith’s ‘on beauty’ kept me company in the little time spent in the room provided at yashada. i spent all of today as it rained madly outside with her characters - full blooded and alive on the page. new resolution as a result of the weekend or blanket statement number 35 – less irony, more faith! (considering what I have written earlier I don’t think I have been very successful so far)