This incident has been successfully concluded
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
At one level I feel elated and exhilarated. At another I feel a whipped dog.
But I am finally able to at least answer a very simple question that a dear friend put to me just a few weeks before the event, on basically why in the heck was I putting so much of life aside to do this?
Well, it now seems that I need to but just draw upon the single core teaching of perhaps India's most highly respected ancient scripture for me alibi here, to the effect that, "A man's got to do what a man's got to do."
And as with that scripture, this too was about war, sort of, for which I deployed a bit of ole Sun Tzu, as well as (in my usual ham-handed way) rather a larger dollop of a wild old Japanese swordsman I've read from sometime about the 12-14th century, whose many various wisdoms on swordplay all carried the same single jewel in the lotus that every single thrust and every single stroke and every single parry must be issued as though to cleave the subject's head in two.
And, boy'o'boy, it was incredible to have pulled it off and actually lived it ~ together with a mind-boggling gathering of some of the most fascinating, and wonderful, people from the cutting-edge of e-Creative Practices, Practitioners, Events and Entities of perhaps a half-dozen countries and also so very many fabulous unaccompanied presentations sent in by a much wider circle of other magical e-Creative Practitioners from all over the world.
I certainly could not have asked for better than we managed in serving our central agenda of the whole thing from the very beginning, which was all about gathering a *studied* broad canvas of excellent participation and content that would be widely exploratory and inclusive, to general public benefit.
And I am therefore deeply grateful to all who so supportively participated from all over the world, either in person or by proxy-presentation.
We had the top Mumbai film-director Pankuj Parashar fly in to make a presentation in pretty much the same forum as Sonya Singh showing her first attempt at making an 'e-movie'.. in the form of a Power-Point presentation with images, graphics, texts, audio and animations. And yes, there were also dozens of other video masterworks and experiments from all sorts of different segments of all sorts of different societies from all sorts of different lands, all running back-to-back in the Annexe Lecture-Room like some incredible steamroller of immensely variegated and shimmering beauty. And we thrilled to put art-videos and short-films and still-image compilations and project-overviews and even cutting-edge collections of straightforward TV-Commercials all into the 'same' mix, as-for us-all shared this in common that today all are essentially just slightly different sectors of the 'same' broad stream of e-Creativity.. and that the whole of it is now rapidly spilling entirely into the public domain in any case, as so well represented by Sonya.
We had Hannes Leopoldseder, co-founder of the globally iconic Ars Electronica, make two generously sharing presentations on how e-Creative institutions can serve communities in so many useful new ways, when symbioses with administrations are sound. And in the same forum you could also meet Chandita Mukherjee for a chat on her experiences with having founded the 'Comet Media Foundation' in Mumbai/India at about the same time,.. some 20-25 years ago (but earlier doubts about her being able to make it into Delhi at all for the event precluded her preparing, or us scheduling, a formal presentation).
We had performances from e-musicians across the generations, ranged from the amateur 18-year old college kids, Bacchus, Chayan and Kriti, with their rocking rhythms and harmonies, all the way through to rich abstractions and extreme explorations by the legendary Lawrence Casserley,.. performing solo and also in experimental collaboration with the inimitable Aparna Panshikar (launched by HMV as a 'Voice for the New Millennium" a few years ago), who in turn boldly put a young lifetime of education in rigidly magnificent ancient traditions entirely into the master's hands to explore new horizons for her special talents and heritage. Meanwhile, our young adults Amaar and Ashhar did all of us proud by most excellently melding the edgy urban youth culture of contemporary India with other ancient traditions of the land and also the most cutting-edge of international influences. And for the next generation up, Ashim Ghosh generously shared the sort of work that has won him such high international regard in representing the cutting-edge of Indian e-Creativity to the world.
. and of course, our delightful Slovenian guerrilla fighter friends Igor Stromajer and Brane Zorman gave us all a most excellent education in something of what is meant by their sometimes seemingly gobbledeegook descriptions of the fascinating work of their Intima Virtual Base, with regard to research into "tactical emotional states and traumatic low-tech emotional strategies" and so on. Boy!, even I personally felt a deep twinge of doubt and worry for a moment as they rushed along through their wild jamboree. And when a similar sort of doubt, or worry, seemed to covertly emerge within an almost querulous question of a young member of the audience after the performance, it was unmatchable by any event anywhere in the world, as far as I am concerned, to have Igor and Brane settle down to a hugely comforting, inspiring, intimate. and absolutely hilarious illustrated chat about it all! And yes, they'd beamed out over the wwweb for live viewing on 812 terminals all around the world, including at least one within the auditorium itself (just so we'd know you weren't bluffing us guys~:o). Here's a post-edited version: http://www.intima.org/oppera/oib
And what of someone like Ranjit Makkunni flying in for a day to be with us in at least the CaC peer-forum, to generously share an overview of a range of his unique works and also a glimpse into his fundamental creative philosophies, just 2-3 days before his own vvvvery major exhibition was to open in Mumbai's National Gallery of Modern Art? Or someone like Sanjoy Roy pushing back an important trip to the US so as to get us off to a good start by chairing our first public segment in the auditorium, and promising even closer association and support next time? Or what of dear ole Mohit Satyanand so gravely, so graciously, so warmly and yet so cold-bloodedly keeping such a tight grip upon what was potentially perhaps the most volatile roomful of creative maestros that I've ever known to have gathered in this city, as the Change-agents Conclave?
Ah! Great stuff!!
And no less was it so to learn firsthand of, and better understand, the gentle Curtis Bahn's fantastic work with his very funky S-Bass, and his incredibly talented wife Tomie Hahn, and his students and colleagues and so much else. And to have him so generously share precious hard-earned knowledge with regard to how we too might attempt what he did, with full details on sourcing circuitry, switches, sensors, papers, software and so on. Or to have the gently unassuming Swiss triumvirate of Marc Lee, Beat Brogle and Cristoph Storz share with us so much about their variously insidious and ingenious plots to subvert or subject, in most wonderfully well-meaning ways, systems that have lately been taking such a tightly overweening grip upon so many aspects of so many of our lives. And it was great to have Beat very kindly fill a gap he'd perceived in the event-content profile with 35 metric tons of concrete 'rock', and to then also have the brilliant young Vishal K. Dar present visually somewhat similar and yet conceptually so very different creations to fill the same gap with, and so much else!
There were lessons too in seeing, for example, the pure single-mindedness of purpose of someone like Nitin Donde carry him through from leading animation-workshops for children right up into a faculty position with the very prestigious IIT-Delhi. Or how Osama Manzar's Digital Empowerment Foundation goes about its various good works, including publications and also the first major awards for Indian 'e-content'. Or how someone like Prasanto Roy, at the head of 12 business and IT publications, presented Google as being so iconic of the technologies of our times and the near future,.. while his boss Pradeep Gupta chose to talk of his 'School of Convergence' project rather than anything of the substance or focus of his media empire.
Then there was magic in being privileged to have an incredible artist like Zazie agree to come in and present a veritable mountain of fantastic still-imaging in the form of a brilliant video-compilation of just 8min. And hey!, it was rather more than absolutely fantabulous to be able to respond to a request for workshops to be built into future iterations of the event by just pointing out that Zazie was right there to directly and most immediately request such from, as was Lawrence, both of whom accordingly led impromptu workshops, on still-imaging in the IIC-Annexe Lecture Room and on e-music in Committee Room #1 of the main IIC campus respectively.
Meanwhile, Aditya Dev Sood gave us a little glimpse into how much there was to see everywhere around us for eyes wide open, with teasers from his Doors of Perception Conferences and also his incredible work with vernacular/ethnic technologies (V-Tech?) and rustic Indian e-Creativity. Nathalie Boseul Shin shared how established systems could be and should be brought to bear upon works important enough to the public at large, as with so much of what she does,.. and also how wise it is to have a 'healthy' failsafe in the background, just in case. Basak Senova shared just a bit of the immense and immensely varied amounts of work that she's been doing to network, represent and promote e-Creative Practices and Practitioners across Turkey and also parts of the EU and Middle East. Ashok Mehta moved all with an inspired insider perspective on TV advertising, with outstanding examples. Hridayesh Deshpande brought to the table the rich experiences and perspectives of a serial entrepreneur-educator now touching upon creativity, art & design. Madhureeta Anand shared a wealth of knowledge drawn from conceptualizing and curating 3 annual iterations so far of what is rapidly now becoming a major international digital-film-festival. as well as her own latest visual poem.
And I think I can safely say that every single one of us loved having young Milindo Taid and his wonderful post-graduate group of New-Media students from the National Institute of Design travel all the way from Ahmedabad to be with us, exhibit with us, present with us, and also even generally help us out a lot.
In my book, the brilliant work they separately showed in the gallery and auditorium, if taken all together, added up to something rather more exciting than what I have twice seen of the annual NID Showcase itself in Delhi, even though they could not really fetch in anything in the round, and also even though I freely admit to having not managed to break out of the Cavern of Magic Musical Mushrooms in one of the interactive projection thingamabobs they positioned in the IIC Main Gallery.
and then there was the mountain of wealth of all of the incredible unaccompanied presentations that so many so wonderful people had sent in, on invitation, to be shared amongst all of us, from so many different places all over the world.
While through it all shone the India International Centre itself as an inimitable venue, participant-residence and partner: bringing everyone together into cozy bonhomie. with all systems whirring smoothly in the background.
I could perhaps write an entire book upon each and every part and participant of CeC & CaC 2006, but it seems so entirely unnecessary to do so about folks who are actually writing such fascinating histories, and also futures, in so many different ways themselves.
And yes, I already have all sorts of clues to all sorts of new mischief that several are already up to with all sorts of wonderful new friends they made from CeC & CaC 2006.
And so, I will take this opportunity to hopefully calm down some of the various crabs said to be frantically raising claws here and there about it all, with reassurance that we could never have drawn together such marvelous participation and content on the back of fishing with bulk-emailings. For the record: (a) the entire event at our end was based upon a total of about 3,424 individual emails sent out against some 1,742 received specifically on this account all the way from March 19, 2005 through to January 26, 2006, (b) 2-3 of the outgoing emails were announcements, not invitations, sent in to a moderated online chat-group that published just one, about April '05, (c) less than 100 letterheads of The AeA were used, mainly to stuff down the bottomless bogs of bureaucracy, (d) no more than about 40 very carefully targeted good people, or entities, from all over India and the world were ever specifically invited to participate *in person*, and 'Caveat-1' was of course deadly for us all the way from the very beginning on this account.
Here are some basic sums on the magic:
[i] Of the 1,000+ event-catalogs that we'd had printed, about 50 went to participants and partners, 50 were positioned in other public Delhi venues, 100 were held back for archiving and mailing to folks who'd sent in unaccompanied presentations, and other uses, while 800+ were lifted from pick-up stacks at the event venue(s). Postcards and posters were also variously posted and distributed before, and lifted during, the event.
[ii] There were four no-shows from amongst participants listed in the printed catalog: One informed us 5 days before the event of having to urgently fly to Chennai on duty; another suffered a medical-emergency in the family just 2 days before the event; a third sent in an email begging off on the very eve of the event on account of "unfortunate and unforeseen personal circumstances," and; the last was sort of anticipated, and even hinted at from the beginning in our catalog and web texts.
From our end, I will place just two items under this head, and while both are important, the second was actually sort of anticipated and even somewhat prepared for:
[i] Visitor traffic and general publicity was a bit thinner than expected, but I will add here that average visitor quality was, perhaps therefore, a lot better than expected, so no complaints really. Our reading is that this arose mainly on the back of the fact that a very-very important partner fell dangerously ill for several weeks right before the event, and I found out about it just too late to fill in all of the several cracks that opened up as a result, partly because a good part of that period coincided with the individual's pre-scheduled vacation from Christmas into the new year. So, this eventually hit me bang in the middle of a madly busy time, when I was coincidentally also fire-fighting a rash of maddening file glitches with regard to print-materials, and also 12 virus & trojan attacks that I finally discovered and dealt with only about a month later (Feb. 20), which left me with not even a few MB of spare mind-space left to really realize that there were matters at hand to take up the miserable 2 last wasteful hours of sleep that I was so greedily grabbing for myself every night at the time ~:op. (for the record, the individual recovered just in time to be able to robustly hold together much of the actual event, in the background)
[ii] We took a whack on the funding front. This was anticipated ~ albeit not the sharpness of degree. Preparedness took various forms to preclude any impact this might have had on participation and content, including: (a) the deadly 'Caveat-1' of all of our plan-documents and invitations from the beginning, (b) the "modest first iteration" qualification prefacing all of our announcements and public documents, (c) my family and I wrote off almost ten months of my own work-time from the beginning, budgeted to cover notional lost-incomes and real costs along the way, and also held a predetermined extra amount of personal funding in the background as a failsafe. By an interesting coincidence, this was exactly as much as was eventually raised from our two very gracious external supporters, hungama and Airtel, but amounted to just over a third of our *minimum conceivable* cash-budget for the actual event itself, or about one-sixteenth of our *minimum ideal*! Nevertheless, all of item (c) is why Poonam and I are listed as supporters at the bottom of these pages under our marques "Pamasia" and "The IDEA" respectively!!
To Poonam Barua, my wife, for holding together so many of the strings that I had to let go of.
To Lalsawmliani Tochhawng "Teteii", of IIC, for perhaps putting her entire career at risk in the intuitive belief that I am not entirely the nut that I might often seem to be.
To Anuradha Pathak for believing from the beginning, and for coming through a true trouper.
To Niru Singh & Gandi for being the sorts of friends I'd wish for everyone I love.
To Milindo Taid and his wonderful students from NID for bravely taking on and brilliantly coming through with an entire precious segment of the event.
To all of the Participants & Presenters for gifting such rich inspiration and also education to me, and so many others.
To Alexander Ehrlich-Adam and the Austrian Embassy in India, Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Foreign Affairs Ministry of Turkey, Intima Virtual Base and NOMAD Project Channel, for Participant Support. And also the Italian Embassy Cultural Institute in Delhi for coming through to bring in a Participant (and associate) who eventually could not make it.
To the Advisors and my co-Trustees of The AeA for guidance and foundation.
To Suresh Pal, Jugal Kishore and their colleagues in IIC for being such firm rocks to build upon.
To Werner Hornung for the image that became our web-logo on CeC & CaC 2006 (top), and also 2-3 other images that will be deployed in time.
To hungama and Airtel for bravely going where others feared to tread.
To Pankaj Sethi for walking the edge, on faith.
To those I have forgotten to mention here.
It seems to me that every single individual involved in any way at all with CeC & CaC 2006 is firmly of the opinion that we have got something tremendous going, and that we should most certainly look to punch through the annual future iterations that we've been threatening from the beginning.
And, as things stand right now, we are in fact already looking towards very probably doing CeC & CaC 2007.
However, the full picture on this into the longer term must inevitably and unavoidably include The Academy of Electronic Arts if any of it is to ever grow beyond me ~ as all of it must to have any real value and wider meaning into the future.
And there are three crucial touchstones to the general background in so far as I am personally concerned:
1. I first tried to put together a "Festival of Electronic Arts" in Delhi almost 10 years ago, and would have done so too if not for the ASEAN financial meltdown of the time. And I have been pretty actively networking all sorts of e-Creative Practices, Practitioners and associated Individuals and Organizations all over the world ever since, most obviously with The IDEA series of CD-Gazettes.
2. I have been proposing to all and sundry since 2001 that *someone other than myself* should launch and run something along the lines of The AeA, with my assistance if required, to do stuff such as CeC & CaC and much else towards general public benefit with regard to the burgeoning creative-empowerment of individuals that is increasingly implicit in the development and spread of technology. And there is no secret here that one part of this passing-the-buck has had to do with my long-standing abhorrence for large segments of the NGO sector in countries such as India, with which I will always be reluctant to be identified.
3. And so, I eventually felt both obliged *as well as compromised* to establish The AeA myself in January 2005, as a public-benefit trust along with a few kind friends. And, by an interesting coincidence, the first anniversary of the first public announcement to this effect fell precisely in the middle of the first CeC & CaC, on January 28.
Which basically means that I'm in right up to my neck.
And my personal vision from this very awkward position is that The AeA absolutely has to come down to bricks and mortar sooner rather than later to have any firm foundation upon which to evolve and grow itself and also allied entities such as CeC & CaC properly into the future.
Accordingly, there are three possible starting gates I see in this direction, as things stand presently:
1. We *entirely shift* The AeA and also CeC & CaC to some one of 2-3 places in India where my little family and I already own adequate (size-wise) pieces of *land* that we might hand over to the trust. Of these, the notional best option is an acre plot not 10km. from where I am presently, just over the border from Delhi, in Gurgaon/Haryana. BUT this is presently part of a very large "un-demarcated" block, so any precise timing and planning is impossible unless we win special assistance from the local or state administration (which is probably quite iffy since very powerful people who also hold land in the same block must obviously have already tried all sorts of jiggery-pokery before us). Nevertheless, I mention this here (a) as straightforward bait for anyone who might want to lend a hand to grab a piece of the pie and be involved, (b) to remind myself to follow up personally, and (c) to put this on record as an institutional statement-of-intent to the Government of Haryana, just in case~:o)...
2. We *entirely shift* The AeA and also CeC & CaC to some appropriate city in India that will offer us fair and attractive institutional incentives to liquidate real estate elsewhere and instead relocate with them.
3. We *entirely hand over* the whole kit and caboodle to be carried forward by someone else.
And as always, we invite all possible good guidance from, and all possible good association with, all possible good quarters on any and all of this going forward.
Keep well ~ Shankar
February 22, 2006
Anuradha Pathak (Artist & Arts Researcher / Delhi)
Devyani Arya (Student / NID)
Shweta Grampurohit (Student / NID)
Basangauda Inamdar (Student / NID)
Pallavi Kulkarni (Student / NID)
Lakshmi Kumar (Student / NID)
Ruchira Parihar (Student / NID)
Ruta Potnis (Student / NID)
Arul Prabhu (Student / NID)
Gayatri Sathe (Student / NID)
Abhishek Shrivastava (Student / NID)
Eva (Student / NID)
Hitesh Gusani (MD, Cybertec Studios / Mumbai)
... & others