Smarter Digital Realities: gauging impact of technology on city life via art
A collaboration between Sandbox Collective and Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, the online exhibition is starting this evening, with a gig and talks to follow on December 4 and 5
By Reema Gowalla
Covid-19 saw the art world hurriedly, yet hesitantly, explore digital alternatives to stay afloat. With the tangible becoming less of an option, technological literacy became an important prerequisite for artists to express and exhibit their craft. But it can be otherwise too. A one-of-its-kind project — conceived and conceptualised by Bengaluru’s Sandbox Collective in collaboration with Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan — is now traversing the tacit aspects of the online space to understand how we communicate and perceive things in urban locales through our devices.
Called ‘Smarter Digital Realities’, the hybrid residency project saw 21 participants — from Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Dhaka — reflect on digital change and its impact on city life — be it the way we live and work or the manner in which we communicate with each other and the world. Created in an online-offline model, the project consists of a series of workshops guided by facilitators and experts.
“It’s often believed that one needs to be a pro in technology to showcase his or her art in the online space. In ‘Smarter Digital Realities’, however, you’ll find a variety of artists showcasing their work within and outside the realm of pixels,” says curator Padmini Ray Murray, adding, “Participants of this unique project are reimagining their cities through writing, music, maps, dance, storytelling, animation, film and sound. They are trying to look at how their relationships and creative practices are being intervened by technology.” Padmini is also the founder of tech-design arts collective Design Beku.
The gig economy, smart city, start-up culture and surveillance are among the themes explored as part of the programme. Meanwhile, writer-researcher Nadika Nadja; photographer Sarker Protick; artists Jonny-Bix Bongers and Johann D Thomas; architect Rupali Gupte; filmmaker Vishal Kumaraswamy; and writer-educator Sarover Zaidi also shared their experiences with the participants.
So, how does one access the works of these artists? Through an immersive space. The online showcase of ‘Smarter Digital Realities’ is launching this evening at 6 pm, on an online platform called ‘Gather Town’. According to Pune-based architect Anokhi Shah, who has created the interactive space and is also a resident of the programme, the concepts of ‘threshold’ and ‘playfulness’ were kept in mind while creating this realm. “One who enters this city can see the iconic buildings of four different places. They may walk, run and jump over to explore the exhibits, while they can also fly high to touch the sky or simply sit by a lake. There are no restrictions of physicality or the fear of a controlled narrative that one may experience in an actual space. It is about being free, playful and enjoying art through different gateways,” she elaborates.
Najmun Nahar Keya — a visual artist from Dhaka — is thrilled to be part of this project as a facilitator. “I have curated shows in India earlier, but ‘Smarter Digital Realities’ is my first online arts collaboration with an a collective in the country. Looking at the city of Dhaka through the lens of the digital has been a fascinating experience for me. Stories of the city overlapping with our personal experiences are finding expressions through photographs, installations and even animation. For this project, I am working with three local artists — Sadia Marium, Faiaz Rafid and Jewel A Rob. We are even planning a physical showcase of the works they have created at an exhibition here on December 13,” sums up Najmun.
The launch will be followed by talks and a music performance between today and December 5. David De Menezes and Ria Rajan will present an inter-city musical collaboration, while Jean Peters — founder of the media tactical collective Peng! — will share his thoughts on investigative interventions, subversive campaigning strategies and tactical media.