Posts tagged bombay
Creating the Jugaad Dishwasher, The X-Way

The X-Way was a 2 day workshop sponsored by Nokia and Microsoft that focused on ideas, strategies and discussion around improving Mumbai city. Ben & Andrew moderated the workshop, keeping it challenging as twenty creatives and innovators came together with many, many city ideas.

One of the interesting exercises was listing things we love and hate about Mumbai. It was heartening to see that the 'love' pile was so much bigger despite Mumbai's numerous faults.

When discussing Mumbai's numerous problems, traffic cannot be ignored. Everything to do with traffic and way-finding is contextual. Signage is missing in a lot of places. When pedestrians give directions, the meaning may be different depending on the tone of their voice, how they stand, hand gestures and language. Honking has varied meanings depending on frequency, tones, loudness and the length of each honk. The city is a hotbed of large scale issues and topics of interest.

My team eventually looked at pavement ownership as a microcosm of health and sanitation. How could we encourage and create value in a public space such as pavement. We were in posh areas of Mumbai, and even here we found street hawkers taking ownership of pavements (in a good way) keeping them clean and ensuring their part of the pavement was maintained. Eventually we focussed even further and came up to a sugarcane vendor. Could we come up with something to help him wash the glasses in his stall while he was busy doing a million other things like making the juice, serving and cashing. A lot of times hygiene and proper washing was way down in his priorities while multi-tasking.

The final concept after two days of guerrilla research and quick prototyping was the 'jugaad dishwasher' - a mechanically automated machine that washed glasses saving the vendor time and effort as he ran a one-man operation. The washer connects to the juice machine itself so it doesn't need electricity to run. Soap is optional here since most vendors do not use soap. Overall the 'jugaad dishwasher' concept could also work for other street hawkers, juice vendors and with a few upgrades could even save time in someone's kitchen.

Check out some photos of the prototype we made. The video below has a few shots of us talking to sugarcane vendors.

The rotating juicer translates into the up and down movement of the simple washer, which repeatedly rinses the glasses. The trough can be easily refilled and cleaned and occupies minimal space.

We made several quick prototypes using found and re-usable materials. Above is an image representing the juicer wheel. A simple mechanical addition to the wheel as shown above allows it to connect with with dishwasher out of frame.

More about the X Way here and here.

Arduino Yun Workshop

The two day workshop by Ankit Daftery was a great way to dig deep into the possibilities of the Yun. As an interactive artist, I'm already aware of various options available. Trying them out was empowering and surprising. You can make complex interactions with just two to three days of effort [as a beginner], especially at an affordable price.

This example converts two fruits into a drum kit, sort of a very basic version of the famous Makey Makey. Below is a short video of the test.

Mumbai's First Comic Con

Mumbai's first comic con was crowded and full of enthusiastic fans and artists. I even met several NID alumni and graphic designers, so I'm hoping there will be another one next year. Amongst the notable independent graphic novels being sold, the ones that caught my eye were Hush: A Silent Scream, Twelve: Prelude 0.2, Milk and Quickies and The Itch You Can't Scratch.

Hush by Pratheek Thomas and Rajiv Eipe. Manta Ray Comics, India.

Detail, inside page.

The preview of the book is beautifully illustrated and literally breaks the silence on a socially relevant and taboo topic with a depth of understanding. It gave me so much hope for the future of independent art like this in our cities.

Twelve: Prelude 0.2 by Jasyot Singh Hans and Prabha Mallya. A collection of short stories.

Wonder Bai by Abhijeet Kini, a hilarious series. Others such as Wolver Anna, Angry Moushi etc. were also sold.

Sound Test

After reading people's comments and feedback on street sounds from Mumbai, research into the meaning of urban noise and visiting a few sound installations I decided to test the recordings. Phil helped me set up using an m-audio firewire box, a set of speakers and Logic Pro. The software is great to control specific channels of sound and play with traffic rumblings in real-time. The test helped me understand how such software can be used to make a room feel larger or smaller than it is. I also realized that the sound project was massive and needed another three months before it could move into a room on its own without visuals. I may still set up another test after the final show and record the results for the sake of experiment, since I loved mixing the noise together.

The test inspired me to begin learning the Quartz Composer, especially after seeing this work by Japanese artist Zugakousaku:

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Reflection
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The first turning point was a discussion with Phil Beards about focussing my topic of interest for the MA. Based on Phil's suggestion, I ended up brainstorming and created a mind map which outlined the proposed area of study.Initially I was uncertain about which bipolarity I should study and looked at several opposing factors within Mumbai such as ugly and beautiful and poverty versus luxury. During the course of my research on Mumbai's architecture, I stumbled on an article by Ashraf K. Kazi (2005) where he mentions the concept of elsewhere and it's relation to the evolving architecture of Mumbai city. This conflict between the elsewhere and the here was the perfect example of bipolarity; juxtaposing the luxurious pseudo-greek high rises of Hiranandani with the crowded squalor of the Tunga slums.

A brainstorming discussion with Liam Birtles helped expand my thoughts on the final installation work. We discussed several ideas and technical possibilities, hidden cities, the use of shadow, and how time could also be a factor within the installation. Eventually the most important event was the installation test in December which helped me see my work in it's intended medium for the first time. Several issues needed much more thought such as the use of space, time and sound and how these could in turn interact with the audience while flowing with the theory and concept. This first experimental installation and the consequent discussions and findings helped clarify my concept and goals for phase 1.

A string of events in the last two and a half weeks of phase 1 helped synthesize my aims and theoretical framework. A peer critique encouraged me to continue using real shadows and a group critique steered me towards the works of Kit Wise and theories of heterotopia. While creating the presentation for the group critique I also analyzed and listed the technical limitations of my current installation experiments. And a final tutorial with Phil helped me start planning for Phase 2 and the use of interactive sound.

Phase 1 was an experimental phase, just like the final work from Phase 1 is an experiment and not a formal installation to be placed in an art gallery. Several factors will be taken into account for Phase 2, based on the findings of the installation experiment conducted on 20th of January. These will probably include research into the history of shadows, use of sound, technical details, coding, the 360 panorama and how these additional layers could affect the audience experience. Most importantly phase 2 will not be an experimental phase, but a project phase which will focus on the dissemination and application of my practice.

Reference

Ashraf, K Kazi. (2005) Masala City: Urban Stories from South Asia. The New Mix: Culturally dynamic architecture, Sara Caples and Everardo Jefferson, Architectural Design. Vol 75, No 5 Sept/Oct 2005, pp.67-68.

Documentary: Bombay Railway

Bombay Railway is a two-part documentary by BBC 4 that paints a picture of an overcrowded train system pushed to its limit by 6 million commuters a day, full of people who strive towards their goals tirelessly, in the city of dreams that is Mumbai. I was a frequent traveller myself, so it was interesting to watch the documentary which is from the point of view of an observer rather than someone who has lived the experience. What we call "Crush" is the super rush hour that's also mentioned in the film, and the statistics and video footage is more frightening than actually travelling in the crowd. As an observer, the sight of 5000 or more people getting into trains meant for 1200 people within 30 seconds is a spectacle. As a participant it's an exciting, thrilling, and somewhat harrowing daily reality. The fact is that the local trains are cheap, charging about 1 penny a mile and the trains are always on time with a 97% efficiency, so despite the odds the system is dependable and vital to the normal functioning of Mumbai.

In the first part of the film, the stories about runaway kids living on Mumbai platforms sounds sunny and positive, giving the audience hope that things could turn out well for these children that have escaped abusive families. However describing a railway station as a "family" where you get to "be yourself" is overly optimistic and misleading. Most of these runaways end up being abused, drugged and treated badly. I have seen them being thrashed by cops or others on more than one occasion. Life for kids in such places is rarely a happy place.

Various other issues such as illegal hawking, crossing tracks, and the terrorist bombings are also mentioned. Below are a few screenshots from the film:

Documentary: Shot in Bombay

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/6735583] The documentary uses a lot of "typical" shots of Mumbai, shots of the streets, children, and film sets, with catchy Bollywood music in the background. The opening sequence above is especially successful in creating a rich, romantic atmosphere. Here are some screenshots from the sequence which best represent this slice of the city:

Related Posts that study the city's representations in the media: Bombay Cinema, An Archive of the City | Elsewhere Places | Bombay Book Cover | 26/11 Attack | Dharavi Documentary | Places we Live

Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City
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Initially the concept of the "elsewhere" that inspired my focus on the conflict between the real and the ideal in Mumbai came from an article by Ashraf K. Kazi about the "Masala City." He went on to give examples from Bollywood movies such as Mein Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, where the entire movie unfolds in an imaginary Indian town called Sundarnagar. This lead me to look into Bollywood and the ways it represents Mumbai. The movie-making industry in Mumbai has come of age - now more than a 100 years old, and it reflects the city's conflicts, politics and desires as much as its people. Excerpts from the book Bombay Cinema by Ranjani Mazumdar:

"The Bombay-based film industry resonates throughout the world, in places where the Indian diaspora has settled and in places where nonnative speakers appreciate its unique choreography of music, melodrama, fantasy, and spectacle. Much of popular cinema’s success can be attributed to what many in the industry refer to as a “techno folk” form, which combines folk traditions with new cinematic technology."

"Drawing on various visual, literary, and artistic traditions, each with its own distinct history, popular Indian cinema is an evolving, unabashedly hybrid cultural form that narrates the complicated intersection between tradition and modernity in contemporary India. Film production started in India almost simultaneously with other filmmaking countries, beginning in 1896."

The author also mentions the Indian street, as a place which contains Indian life and all its related conflicts. Although I am currently focussing on building a virtual Mumbai skyline, creating a street could also interest me in the future.

"In a rare piece, Arjun Appadurai describes the Indian street as the space where “India eats, works, sleeps, moves, celebrates and worships. The street is a stage that rarely sleeps” (1987, 14). Through a vivid visual anthropology (across different cities of India), Appadurai traces both the historical formation and the function of the street, as well as its present location in the cultural and social life of India. The multiple activities and events of the street are a clear reminder that the “sharp demarcation of public from private spheres is a recent addition to the Indian consciousness” (1987, 14). For Dipesh Chakrabarty, the modernist categories of the public-private divide were challenged by the street in India where “People washed, changed, slept...out in the open” (16). But neither Appadurai nor Chakrabarty refers specifically to the presence of women in the street. The Indian street as described by these writers is ubiquitous and peopled by all types engaged in different forms of activity in an almost genderless space."

Reference:

Ashraf, K Kazi. (2005) Masala City: Urban Stories from South Asia. The New Mix: Culturally dynamic architecture, Sara Caples and Everardo Jefferson, Architectural Design. Vol 75, No 5 Sept/Oct 2005, pp.67-68.

Mazumdar, Ranjani. Bombay Cinema : An Archive of the City. Minneapolis, MN, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. p 18, 19, 120. http://site.ebrary.com/lib/aib/Doc?id=10206194&ppg=18 Copyright © 2007. University of Minnesota Press. All rights reserved.

26/11 Attack: Video footage
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Documentary footage from the 26/11 attack on mumbai where 9 gunmen left more than 170 people dead over 3 days, and targetted the Taj Mahal hotel, Oberoi, Cafe Leopold (which I still frequent), CST and Cama Hospital. Created by Dan Reed, Terror in Mumbai uses CCTV footage and recorded conversations between the gunmen and their handlers in Pakistan to create a realistic picture of what happened that day.

(Image: BBC Source)

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/15290936]

[Video Source: Channel 4, HBO: Dan Reed]

This is an important aspect in creating the cityscape that shall represent the "here" rather than the elsewhere, the reality of what Mumbaikars have to face everyday.