On Surfaces & Gadgets

The surface-level expressions, however, by virtue of their unconscious nature, provide unmediated access to the fundamental substance of the state of things. Conversely, knowledge of this state of things depends on the interpretation of these surface-level expressions. The fundamental substance of an epoch and its unheeded impulses illuminate each other reciprocally
- Siegfried Kracauer 

TROIKA: In a world saturated by functional objects, and gadgets pretending functionality, do you think that creating objects that address more psychological needs, being intricate ones or mere entertainment, is the only way forward to sustain production and ensure market leadership? In this case, could we witness a systematic exploitation of psychological weaknesses of the consumers?

Dunne & Raby: Addressing new or neglected psychological needs is definitely one way forward. Gadgets already do this and that's why they are so amusing and interesting. A look through any gadget catalogue paints a fascinating portrait of modern life and what it means to be human today. All our fears, anxieties and obsessions are manifest in wonderfully strange products


New Directions, New Worlds...

As most of my close friends and colleagues know, in early 2011 I began to take concrete steps towards embarking on a career in design (IxD). In August of that year I was super fortunate to be accepted into the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design's (CIID) ’12 IDP program. Later in the year, I had the opportunity to spend two months at Spike Island in Bristol as the Charles Wallace India Trust's artist/researcher in residence, where I used my time to begin cursory research on the current state and trajectory of critical and speculative (interaction) design.

A couple of weeks back, I arrived in Copenhagen to embark on what promises to be an extremely challenging, fun-filled and life-changing year at CIID. Although it is hard to narrow down what exactly leads me to IxD, it perhaps the combination of the desire to participate in the shaping of the near-future, an eagerness to develop a critical artistic and professional design practice (inspired by speculative science fiction, social theory and user-centered design) and a keen interest in human-technology relationships

It's heartening to know that at CIID they encourage a multi-disciplinary atmosphere, where my skills in image-making (photo,video) as well as my social science background could be put to use in what Bill Verplank in a lecture last week called, without a hint of jest, “designing the future.” No pressure, right?

CIID ’12 Group Picture

So, Peripheral Vision will take a slight detour with me as I head down the rabbit-hole that 2012 is going to be. My plan for the blog this year is to take stock of what we have learned in the course as and when time permits, begin to share some thoughts on IxD (some of which I began compiling late last year while at Spike) and also to begin sharing early research on a project that aims to look at speculative and critical science fiction as a source for gaining insights on “designing the future.”

Join me!


14 Proper Nouns

Here's an ad I made earlier in the month that appeared in Frieze magazine for the upcoming “14 Proper Nouns” discussion between the artist Hassan Khan and curator Nida Ghouse, who is a DELFINA/FICA curatorial/research fellow. The discussions will revisit Khan's “17 and in AUC” work.

The event (?) begins from the 21st October to 3rd November at The Delfina Foundation in London. Promises to be a fun event, be there!


This is Not Fryslân

A sneak peek at some images from last year's commissioned residency in Fryslân, a northern Dutch province. The project, curated by Feico Hoekstra, invited 6 photographers to explore the province for a month from an “outsider's perspective”. The other photographers invited were Martin Cregg, Derek Henderson, Anna Kahn, Lisa Robinson and Bukkie Dos Santos.

It was quite challenging and a completely different experience for me as I am so used to being in India when I make pictures and work on projects. That said, being thrown into unfamiliar territories forces you to really think about what it means to photograph and re-present a place, familiar or unfamiliar. The series became an exercise in thinking about constructed representations and the identity of a place on the one hand, and the intermingling of value—cultural, economic, personal and representational—on the other. The images below are an introduction to the project.


“Of Blind Men and Elephants Show” in Dubai

The Cinemas Project is part of a group show that is on at the The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai. The show is curated by the ever-awesome Hester Keijser (one half of Keijser & Beierle and of Mrs. Deane blog fame) and features the works of Mahesh Shantaram, Priya Kambli, Michael Bühler-Rose, Neil Chowdhury, Vidisha Saini and myself.

The show is on from June 14 - July 31, 2011 so please check it out if you happen to be in Dubai!

Here is an excerpt from the exhibition note:
Anyone attempting to offer a comprehensive survey of contemporary Indian photography will soon resemble the mythical blind men who were unable to comprehend the entire form of the elephant. The vast Indian subcontinent simply defies an all-embracing view, and can only be celebrated in its dazzling, kaleidoscopic plurality of visions. 
Like the blind men, who ultimately rely on communicating to one another their tales of the same beast if they ever want to arrive at any kind of insight, so do we rely on the many stories told of India by the photographers in this group show. Each of them offers the viewer an intuition of the mutable, living entity that is India, a country and culture that exists most of all in our imagination.
To see some images fromt he show, click here. Press release here. A review here. A short note by the curator here.

Here is a small selection of my images featured in the show:


“This Is Not That” show

If anyone happens to be in Paris, we have a group show of ten photographers from India being hosted by the Duboys Gallery till the 19th of June.

The show is curated by Dominique Charlet and Fabien Charuau; and the photographers showing their work are Binu Bhaskar, Brijesh Patel, Dhruv Dhawan, Fabien Charuau, Pradeep Dalal, Swapan Parekh, Soham Gupta, Mahesh Shantaram, Neil Chowdhury and myself. I will be showing images from my Cinemas Project series for the first time and it's quite exciting to be part of a show with several photographers whose work I admire and respect.

A friend who visited the gallery last week was nice enough to take a partial installation shot for me...

And here are a few shots from the opening, courtesy the gallery (you can see the whole set here)...


“Nature as Image” show

Happy to be a part of Subuhi Jiwani's group show “Nature as Image” at The Loft gallery (opening this Friday). I will be showing some images from my stay in Fryslân. Do come if you get the time, it's on for two weeks (April 15-May 3). Other artists showing are Neha Choksi, Priyanka Dasgupta, Munir Kabani and Shambhavi Kaul.

Here is a peek at two of my images from the show...

More work from this series coming soon...


Say Nothing

A poster / cd cover that I made for Mumbai's own Slow Down Clown, a wonderful band fronted by Vitek Goyel. I tried a few versions that didn't really work and then scoured my library for old political pictures and posters for inspiration. Found this one in Kajri Jain's fantastic Gods in the Bazaar, which is a book about India's mass-produced bazaar art that I had read for a class at CSCS.

The image that has been cropped and appropriated is from Indira Gandhi's notorious "Garibi Hatao" campaign, a campaign that helped her sweep into power in the 1971 election. If you look closely, and if you're one those (at times annoying) people who believes that images should always adhere to the conventions of realism, you might quickly notice that the picture falls short in terms of its verisimilitude.

Both the mic and the baby exist in a visual regime that has no intention of adhering to the codes of realism. These babies, often of ambiguous gender and race, were extremely popular in the political iconography of the time. They were projected repeatedly to symbolize the paternalistic and transcendental authority of the incipient secular state. Jain writes of the  original poster, which proclaims to us “Garibi Hatao” in both English and in Hindi, "We as viewers are invited to identify with the adoring “masses”, but at the same time, to the extent that we can read the slogan, to distance ourselves from them and identify with the infantile citizenship... made available for us within the realms of a transcendent and patriarchal yet democratic state.”

I appropriated it here, perhaps problematically, but mostly facetiously, as I felt it worked with the album's title “Say Nothing.”

P.S. The font used is Atelier Carvalho Bernau's recently released Jean-Luc typeface.



I've been researching the connections between design (aesthetics), politics and culture lately in relation to some upcoming projects planned for next year. I’m particularly interested in the ways received notions of “design” are intertwined with their cultural contingencies. I'm currently in the “death by hyperlink” phase of my research, where one realizes that there is just so much stuff out there (though not all of it critical enough) that it is time to systematically organise the intake of information or drown in the flood.

If anyone has some interesting readings and links on Indian design and design culture, please send them over either here or by email.

Watch this space. Till then, this little gem found at  imprint cracked me up a good deal.


Minimal House?

From an interview in Cluster with the always fascinating Lebbeus Woods:

"Housing meant ‘mass-housing’ for masses of workers employed on factory assembly lines, originally in the form of ‘company towns.’ Later, housing ‘projects’ were designed and built for masses of lower-income urbanites, an underclass that still exists but is much too diverse to be massed together and in effect ghetto-ized.

Today’s increasingly service-based economy, one fragmented by computers and internet niches, has created a need for an entirely new typology of living quarters and their groupings, one that has yet to be invented and tested."



"The accepted function of the designer has become one of providing a service rather than generating ideas to be communicated; this self-definition discourages explicitly political expression." 
- Maud Levin, from her book Clean New World: Culture, Politics and Graphic Design.