Masterplan sketch, imaginary landscape.
Reimagining the Intersections between Nature and Urbanity
Studies into the river Yamuna in Delhi
ational Institute of Design
The project commenced in an investigation of the histories, philosophies and cultures across the subcontinent in search of thematic content that would facilitate the creation of a firm museum narrative. During this process I was introduced to the idea of 'logocentrism' (Derrida, Of Grammatology), a term that illuminates the idea of interiority and exteriority in terms of various dualisms (mind/body, thought/expression, speech/writing) where one quality is made exterior to the other, minimising the otherwise complex inter-relationships possible between them. I began to view the idea of a comprehensive museum on a theme as vast as India as a logo-centric devise that would necessarily entail an oversimplification of the multiplicities that inhabit this space. I then considered a variety of structures of information narratives such as the spiral, the labyrinth and the rhizome in their effectiveness in engaging with multiple perspectives simultaneously. Breaking past the idea of a cohesive museum space, the proposed narrative was conceived as a series of temporary exhibits that appeared from and within the public domain over a period of time. Celebrating and transforming public spaces within our cities, these exhibits would be co-authored and co-created by the various citizens of our cities to challenge established stereotypes that exist within the country.
Logos as spirallic.
Logos as Labyrinth.
An exhibition on India requires a play, a defiance and a subversion of super structure. It requires the designer to take stand as individual and citizen, rather than mere artist. Engaging thus with the conflicted, incoherent and fragmented spaces of the public realm in Delhi, my work here proposed 7 individual exhibits that facilitated thought and reflection within daily life in the city, introducing metaphysical perspectives within the everyday frameworks of our lives.
Exhibit Audiobench: Setting up audio benches in public spaces for strangers to hear each other’s thoughts, opinions and situations, and also express themselves anonymously. The bench provides an uncensored forum open to anyone, to be used for any purpose, and thus depicts some aspects of public interest.
In an anonymous location an abandoned house awaits the weary traveller. The room is unoccupied, empty, unlocked, furnished with everything a traveller would need. How many would pass by without looking? What would one do with such a space? How would one use it? Would this space provide sanctuary? Would the contents be stolen? Would the visibility of a surveillance camera deter one from such a basic instinct? Would one behave differently with its presence, unknowing of which abstract watchtower one is being viewed from?
Exhibit Physical Blogging
Engaging with education in a public forum, a street exhibition of works of government school students through temporary and rotational exhibits of student work encourages not only students to perform, parents to encourage, audiences to empathise, but also teachers to envision. Located in Connought Place, the cultural and business centre of Delhi, the temporary exhibits would have large, varied audience.
In a forest which only emits sounds, lights and shadows of creatures that we have not and cannot see, perpetual predators; we are perpetually escaping our final hours. Using sounds and lights among the trees, the lakes and the caves, the exhibition here is the modern day virtual wilderness, one that evokes a nostalgic longing for the forest space.
The exhibition not only invokes the need of a dream of a wilderness within a space of urban chaos, it also produces a new kind of cultural commodity: a directive towards conservation and protection of the natural habitats that are fast losing their place in the midst of this human activity worldwide.
Exhibit In the Subway
I sat in the metro. Look at the others. All different. Ages. Colours. Clothes. Expressions. Perceptions. A dark tunnel and the sound of the train that is moving these masses of life. Imagine. Moving bones. Bones on the train. All the same. X ray people.
In his book The Order of Things, philosopher Michael Foucault offers an archaeological perspective of the history of human knowledge. Comparing the histories of the pure sciences – “mathematics, physics, cosmology”, with the histories of the social sciences – “languages, economics, and those that concern living being”, he posits that whilst in the former, “one can observe... The almost uninterrupted emergence of truth and pure reason”, the latter are “considered too tinged with empirical thought, too exposed to the vagaries of chance or imagery, to age old traditions and external events for it to be supposed that their history could be anything other than irregular.” Foucault goes on to suggest that perhaps “the history of non-formal knowledge (itself had) a system,” presenting those ideas that govern empirical knowledge. Connecting the field of design to Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge, my investigation traced its trajectory through various times, spaces and cultures.
This investigation was motivated in three parts. To situate the domain within a global context, I engaged with its broader situation from the 1940s onwards as it developed in Europe and the United States. Thereafter, I looked at the contexts within which the modern Indian idea of Design has been established, including the historical and cultural frameworks leading up to the creation of India’s first design school, the National Institute of Design, in the 1950s. The model of this premier institute, I believed, would illustrate the frameworks that most modern schools of design subscribe to in India, a process that allowed for a de-mystification of the ideas, perceptions and promotions of contemporary Indian design.
In the second phase of my study, borrowing from Darwinian perspectives, I situated the act of design within the natural world, studying its postures and emergences in a state of nature, in the crow, the dog, and the creeper. I looked at primal desire as a source of design thinking, and the body as its site, drawing comparisons between a designer and a wolf as he seeks to make sense of the mysterious forest space. Through my work I made a case for the idea that the field of design contains within itself certain particular perspectives and an approach to information and knowledge that is unique, evidencing examples through the history of innovation where such a perspective was used to find new solutions. I referred to the Mayan conception of time, as a design approach, where the two hands were used to count in a 12 x 5 format. (12 periods, 5 beats).
In the last section of my investigation, I made a proposal towards the creation of India’s first museum of design, arguing for a new space where hitherto undescribed facets of design may be experienced and communicated through comprehensive strategies for design learnings at both primary and secondary school levels. Outlining this strategy, I also made a case for the diversification of the field beyond traditional craft and industry-based works, using design perspectives to fill gaps of knowledge within other sciences.
Design, in its primitive sense is a state of pure arousal. The prickling of the ears, the simultaneous sniffing of the air. It is a state of being present, to filter through large packets of information using every faculty at hand to sense a danger, a change, another. It is a state of wholeness, in the degrees to which wholeness may be apprehended. It searches for signs, for ebbs and flows. It is the continuous re-ordering of data perceived at each instance - the doors of perception are flung wide open; and in his natural state, the designer, like the wolf, will rearrange the same signs in a million different ways, searching for that one arrangement where suddenly, a single element from the outside space will reveal itself in the foreground, as an oddity, a series of conspicuous entities, a composition.
Design knowledge forays into the fields of culture, science, sociology, history and logic. This knowledge stems from an understanding of the body, of sensuality, perception, desire, experience and emotion. In its deepest sense design is a heightened consciousness towards environment and all things. It can evoke a sense of wonder, devotion, and bliss, and here that it is transformed into an art sublime.