Matias and Rahul push it one step further on Airoots (one of my favourite blogs), questioning the informal-formal conceptual binary when describing and thinking about spaces such as Dharavi.
"We feel that the word ‘informal’ has now become another catchword that can be affixed to all kinds of terms to give them a superficial edge: informal settlements, informal networks, informal cities, informal design. The term has not been adequately thought through and glosses over many dimensions of lived reality.

If we want to describe the cities of today, especially the parts that fall out of the grid or creep through it, we need to invent new terms that express not so much their form but rather the way they evolve. That is why we would rather describe MG Road as being constantly ‘in-formation’ rather than informal.

Saying that a habitat is ‘in-formation’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is incomplete. Instead, the term echoes Kevin Lynch’s description of cities as “evolving learning ecologies” (1981 p.115) and seeks to capture the capacity of certain urban spaces to evolve continuously and adapt to the context. The hyphen between ‘in and ‘formation’ is there to emphasize the dynamic production of urban forms and its perpetual incremental improvement and conservation."
This is something I have been thinking about too of late. How do we think about the non "rational" / "official" city (that "grid of discipline"), without resorting to a binary opposition and yet account for difference? One way is to not think of this other city as a "lack" or somewhere prior on an imagined time-line. So, non-capitalist not pre-capitalist economies. Or a-modern medicine not "traditional" medicine. And, further, the purity of such categories is always questionable. Conceptual and everyday borders are constantly transgressed. Which is why I like Airoots' "in-formation" habitats. It doesn't foreclose different directions and possibilities.

But, I do sometimes wonder if we are beginning to privilege the economic (Dharavi is always celebrated for being economically vibrant) over the cultural and social. I wonder what the implications of that may be for cultural spaces that are not so economically/commercially as vibrant?


On Certainty...

Jim Ballard the cyborg keeps me happy as I vacillate. Can't believe it's been a year; I'm still in mourning...


Kill Descartes

"At first, it appeared simple: to gain an overview of Paris, one needs to find a suitable viewpoint. But where from? The top of the Montparnasse tower? No – the crowds there would distract. The top of Montmartre (where one would have the advantage of not seeing the Basilica Sacré Coeur)? Perhaps, but the view would be too oblique there. Maybe a satellite photograph? But then only one plan would be obtained . . . The balcony of the office of the Mayor of Paris, in the Hotel de Ville? An empty and cold place, surrounded by ugly fountains: one would see nothing of the vitality of the metropolis. So, is it impossible to comprehend the city? Not if we keep moving! Let us circulate, and then, suddenly, Paris will become gradually visible."

- Latour and Hermant


Le Monde Magazine Shoot

Some outtakes of Chor Bazaar from an editorial shoot I did for Le Monde in March. 

Certain Indian magazines really need a lesson in "how-to-treat-your-photographer-both-as-a-human-being-and-as-a-professional" from them. Also, foreign publications have this wonderful habit of actually paying their photographers on time and not six months after the shoot.


Ghosts, Futures

"...the debris of shipwrecked histories still today raise up the ruins of an unknown, strange city. They burst forward within the modernist, massive, homogenous city like slips of the tongue from an unknown, perhaps unconscious, language. They surprise."

- Michel de Certeau, from Ghosts in the City


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 



"I want to speak for the small, invisible acts of human spirit: so subtle, so small, that they die when brought out under the clean lights. I want to celebrate the small forms of cinema: the lyrical form, the poem, the watercolor, etude, sketch, portrait, arabesque, and bagatelle, and little 8mm songs. In the times when everybody wants to succeed and sell, I want to celebrate those who embrace social and daily tailor to pursue the invisible, the personal things that bring no money and no bread and make no contemporary history, art history or any other history. I am for art which we do for each other, as friends.

- Jonas Mekas