ITF 2nd Theatre Seminar: Spaces of the Future
Duration: 02:43:07; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 23.623; Saturation: 0.083; Lightness: 0.298; Volume: 0.287; Cuts per Minute: 1.355; Words per Minute: 139.843
The 2nd national seminar held by the India Theatre Forum
intended to address the overall theme of "Spaces of Theatre, Spaces for Theatre" in a wider and holistic manner. It was held between 14 to 18 March 2012 in Ninasam, an extremely special theatre space in Heggodu village of Karnataka which has served as a community centre for over 50 years. The seminar intended to cover a gamut of related topics ranging from the relationship of performing "bodies" to space, to the actual physical spaces of performance, to the politics of the spaces in society , to the new virtual spaces opening up and to the future of Spaces. In other words, the seminar built on the understanding that the act of theatre is always more than simply an act of theatre. To think of theatre and its processes is, ipso facto, to think of its temporal and spatial specificities. However, the main approach of the seminar was not to develop an academic theory of the spaces of/for theatre but to sketch the contours of a "spaciology" of theatre as perceived by its practitioners.
Welcome to the first panel discussion this morning. The final day of what has been a long, and sometimes relentless, conversation. There almost seems to be a kind of (?) to look into the future as you come to the last day of the seminar, and that is what we are going to do in this particular session too.
Ninasam, Heggodu, Karnataka
In a sense, if one were to kind of zoom out on the deliberations we've been having on this seminar, it just seems - if I were to use a spatial metaphor - the seminar has been somewhat of a sprawling landscape. It has tried to cover considerable ground, from, the first day when we were talking about the metaphysical spaces to yesterday, as you know, exploring various kinds of physical spaces. Today, we are going to speak about spaces again, but I imagine, in a more conceptual manner. And especially because in this sense space is abstract, it also poses a set of challenges. How we visualise it, whose space is it, and so on.
So this panel today is going to be about Spaces of the Future, and we have a stellar panel that will actually speak on this particular theme this morning. I will introduce the speakers in a moment.
I just want to think about what it means to talk about the future. And my sense is that in recent times it has become increasingly difficult to think about the future. As you know, in the late '80s for instance, Francis Fukuyama (?) wrote a short provocative essay that later became a book, The End of History
. And in that facile celebration, Fukuyama inaugurated for our time, the notion that the future is here. Hereness has been discussed more than once these past four days, and it is a trifle troubling to recognise that the valourisation of hereness has contributed to making the future irrelevant and insignificant. I think this is something I want to think about. I want to recuperate a way of thinking about the future, of talking about the future that is responsible, that speaks directly to our concerns in the present.
At least in the realm of politics we are on the back foot as far as the future is concerned. Extremely deffensive, always having to provide additional justifications for looking into the future... And this has led to some very curious kind of consequences. I mean, I was using Google the other day to look up what is thrown up if I type in 'the future of theatre' into Google. And among the first pages that comes up is a blog on the venerable Guardian
. And The Guardian
reports this particular survey that they are conducting where they ask a set of theatre practitioners, "what will the theatre be in 25 years time". I'm not going to name the practitioners, but these are very well known names. And one of them actually hoped to experience a performance on the moon in the year 2034. So a veritable Space programme for theatre and the arts.
So there is this kind of a trite and somewhat (?) way of thinking about the future, of talking about the future. And I just want us to think about why is it that there has been a sense of inadequacy in terms of the resources that we have in terms of thinking about the future. The future is a science fiction almost, or the future is not something we want to relate more directly to concerns in the present.
There were other responses, somewhat more interesting, but at the same time pitched in too general terms for us to actually engage with it. And i'm just going to give you a couple of examples of that. Another respondent suggested that the real contest for theatre practitioners would be about economic survival of the theatre and not over artistic integrity to the theatre. Theatre over the next 25 years will become smaller, less consequential, highly undervalued by society, but this will give it the time it needs to formulate and nurture itself to get ready for what the following 25 years will bring. Obviously we are talking in the context of theatre in the UK, but also there were a couple of practitioners from the US who were part of this survey.
Now it is in this context that I think it becomes very important - especially in the kind of gathering that we have here today - for us to think about what is a relevant vocabulary for us, and how do we go about developing a vocabulary to think about the future, to talk about the future. It is in that context that actually the disagreement that Sanjna and Akshara had yesterday when they were on the panel here talking about institutional spaces, was something that I found extremely valuable. You will recall that there was this discussion yesterday about the vision statement. And you will also recall thaty Akshara was talking about how he finds it at times embarrassing, at other times difficult, and also wondering about the necessity about developing a vision statement. To which Sanjna responded saying she found that a very important kind of exercise. To me what was interesting was that Akshara was representing, for instance, an institution that - in this very room I know Rustom Bharucha, Sadanand Menon, Manu Chakravarthy, and I'm only now talking about the English language - people who have been talking about Ninasam and its work for at least two decades or more.
There's been a kind of an accretion, a thickening of the way in which you can think about an institution. And I would suggest that that becomes a very important resource to think of a vision statement. So I would imagine that one of the things we need to do when trying to think about the future is actually contribute to a thick description - to borrow (?) term - about our own work. And howe to we continuously enable this generation of a vision statement that would then also perhaps help us resist the magagerial impulse which is what Akshara was, in a sense, alluding to. That every time we talk about a vision statement it seems to be some kind of a trite management kind of language that Rustom referred to on the very first day that we met here.
For me, the act of thinking about the future is both irreduceably collective and inevitably political. It is something that we have to do together. It is not something that we can say, it's not my business to think about the future. I think in doing that we really opt out of a really vital ingredient of what each of responsibilities is. As you know, the universal acknowledgement that our destinies are inextricably intertwined, does not make the international deliberations on climate change, for example, any less combative. So although it is irreduceably collective as I suggested, it doesn't make it less contested. In fact, on the contrary. It becomes that much more contested. It becomes that many more perspectives that begin to kind of jostle with each other when we are thinking about the future. And so how do we pick our way, and how do we make our solidarities in thinking this future. That for me is a vital, vital question. And in many ways I imagine that is what this panel is seeking to do.
Thinking about the future is also a moment of immense possibility, but also for that reason perhaps, frought with many risks. Jean Guy spoke about the manner in which he listens to a young theatre director sharing his vision of a production with him for the first time. The thought upper most in my mind, Jean Guy says, is I should be careful not to say or do anything that will shatter the beautiful dream of this young artist. We also need to recognise that when we think about the future, it's a particularly vulnerable and fragile moment. That vulnerability and fragility has to be respected. As theatre people, as people in the arts it is something that sometimes we take for granted. We think we have, in some sense, a kind of a prior right, to think about vulnerability and fragility. But many a time we are not as sensitive as we ought to be to what are the demands of the vulnerability, of that fragility.
The morning keynote, in a sense, already inaugurated one of the key conditions in this future which is our urbanising condition. Almost inescapable, we are told. So in many ways, the city and what is the meaning of the urban condition becomes a kind of a key aspect of what we will be deliberating on this morning. And in fact the first speaker on our panel - Romi Khosla - will actually be speaking about 'What Happens Next?' in relation to the city, in relation to urbanism, in relation to the urban condition.
Just a final thought on this urban condition. There's a Dutch architect and theorist (?) who has been leading a project called 'The Harvard Project' on the city in Harvard University for the last ten years or so. And one of the cities that this particular project has been studying is the city of Lagos which is the erstwhile capital of Nigeria in west Africa.
Now Lagos is very much like the city that I belong to - Bombay. A city that is teeming with population. 24 million in the year 2017 will be the population of Lagos. A city that really demands a certain kind of attention. Kulhurst (?) has written a book-length work on this, his students and have contributed to the making of a very controvesial film which is available on You Tube on Lagos.
He talks about the continuous, almost surreal traffic jams of Lagos. He talks about the rivers of yellow - and yellow is the colour of the public transport buses of Lagos, that seemingly don't move. And they are called 'go-slows' in Lagos - you are in a go-slow. You go from one go-slow to another go-slow. Kulhurst (?) begins to celebrate this moment of the traffic jam. For Kulhurst, the key to understanding a city such as Lagos is the realisation that it is not, as he says, a controllable result of western planning. He says, "Anguish over trhe city's shortcomings and traditional (?) urban systems obscures the reasons for the continued exuberant existence of Lagos. These shortcomings are generated in generous critical alternative systems."
So there's a sort of celebration of Lagos and the energy and excitement it holds. And more importantly for our panel, when he was asked about the future of the city, Kulhurst (?) and his team suggested that Lagos is a case study of a city at the forefront of globalising modernity. Lagos is not catching up with us: rather, we may be catching up with Lagos - he told an audience of American students. He was in fact suggesting that Chicago adn new York not look at Lagos as the primitive past that they only dream about in their nightmares, but in fact as a future which awaits them.
Now this kind of an understanding of Lagos has, in its turn, been critiqued, for instance, by Mike Davis who calls this the new Orientalism. He says, if Kulhurst had talked to Abani (?) who is a very important political activist in Lagos, Abani (?) will tell him about the sleaze and venality of Nigeria's ruling political elite that has led to this condition that Lagos is in. This is not something that we need to celebrate; in fact, it is a condition that should call people to justice. And it's important to suggest that people of Lagos do not deserve the go-slows that Kulhurst suggestively celebrates.
With those notes, I will introduce the speakers as we go along. I know that Romi has spread considerable confusion by introducing himself as Romila this morning, but I still do not feel the need to re-introduce him. We all know Romi, and we all know the four ways in which he conceptualised space on the very first day for us. Romi is today going to speak on the urban condition. He's been interetsted in studying the urban reality of India, and he will today talk to us about 'What Happens Next?'
Let me just preface this with... the presentation that I'm going to give is not really... work in progress, not something I can really share. But when Sudhanva called me and said, would I present something on the future of the city, something I had been working on the for the last two or three years, not for purposes of publication or anything but because there's a need for deeper understanding of what happens next. I will here slightly give a divergent view to Iain Mackintosh who said, I don't spend mt time worrying about the future because we get it wrong again. In a neutral debate, that's fine. The problem is there's a whole lot of other people who are talking about the future and making it happen. So if I see the history of satellites in Arthur C. Clarke's (?). If I see the creation of the European Union which is a completely synthetic get together, I realise that - particularly in the North Atantic world - you do visualise the future and then you go ahead and make it happen. And it's in the context of that that I say why is the future important, and for me , it's not something you deal with in abstract terms. I think we have to be very precise about what we want in the future. And I think we have to be... I'm very clear that I can impact it. Not as a megalomaniac, but in terms of discussion. In terms of research. Becaause it comes out of the past. It comes out of what other people are doing. So it's not, for me, a mystery.
I'm going to talk about the city, because the city in the next four or five decades is going to transform radically. And is going to affect all our lives. We shouldn't underestimate it. If ten years ago somebody had told me that a bottle of water is going to cost you ten rupees... unheard of. Water has got privatised... really. Drinking water is now privatised. And I think this is like a slow change that actually is a very fast change, and we have accepted it. But I think we need to question some things.
Where we start. We know what's happening with the dynamics that 55% by 2050... we are talking in terms of millions. It is the dream of the Corporate world which is sketching our future out that 70% of the GDP will be generated by cities. I'd like to talk about events that have influenced us, that have transformed us. India, like any country during its history, has experienced momentous events that have changed our identity, our culture, the way we work, our profession... This has happened in Europe, it's happened in Africa, America. But I'm just going to talk about the last 150 years.
The first event that shook our civilisation in this premodern-modern period was the 1857 rebellion. This gave the British Government the incentive to change our identity radically, and become a loyal part of the English speaking world which continues today. I think the events in those 50 years, between 1857 and 1900, the cultural activities, the commercial activities got split into the English speaking and the non-English speaking world. So this was a very radical and sudden change which totally changed our future.
The second event that occurred in 1947 when we became independent. And once more our identity and culture received a jolt and we became democratic and proud and corrupt. The question is therefore, it's just a matter of history... we've had some 65 years. We've slipped through the crack, nothing much has happened. But it's not going to continue like this, because history doesn't work like that.
I think that we are once again on the verge of an experience of upheaval. That's going to reform our identity - it's already doing so - our culture, as well as our occupations. The difference between this third event which I've given here a tentative date for, is that it's not like a sudden event. '47 was a sudden event, 1857 was a sudden event. But this is going to be like a tidal wave, and the radical changes that are going to take place are connected with the expansion of the Corporate world of the north. I'm very clear it's only one thing.
Major transformations have occurred in the domain of technology, and the economy is changing very rapidly. But the three characteristics of this tidal wave which will reach I think a height in about 2030, distinguish it from the earlier two events. First of all it's self-inflicted on our own people, by our own people. It's full of deceptive promises. And also it is obsessed with being guided by growth and greed. It's like describing something lying in front of you. There's nothing new about this.
I'm more concerned about the rosy furture that is being offered to us in the guise of everybody can live liek they live in North America. That's the tanpura playing in the background. That's what's in the air, that's what's in the articles, that's what's in the critique of our civilisations. It doesn't have this, it doesn't have that... The Chief Ministers come out with, I will make this city into a Dubai, into New York. This has happened in Gujarat and Delhi.
So the early symptoms already visible. The tidal wave has already begun to form. I don't think (?) are independent of this. If we are uneasy with the changes that are going on, if we feel we don't agree with the changes that are happening, I think we can develop some alternatives for this. And the question before us is why have our own people deceived us into believing that they can deliver us a future light in our urban centres. It simply is not possible. If 60% of the people who live in the metropolitan cities of today are inmates and felons - they don't live legally, 60% - you can't expect that to be the raw material for this great life.
Basically the problem is because we've selected the models of the North Atlantic, and we've accepted that the poor can be made rich. But we haven't accepted that we have to re-distribute. So now what has happened is the last three or four years, our future is being written about by research institutes that are funded by the Corporates - NGOs and research institutes. So actually they have already written our future. They have brought it to us, it's signed, it's delivered. And I am just going to give you an example of two of these. Every year - wonderful guys - they come with their brief cases and suits.
Each one of those reports - what does it have. We have no infrastructure, we need to reform governance, our corruption needs to be seriously dealt with, we are not strategic thinkers in India - you have to learn to think strategically, let me tell you how to do that. You don't know what economic growth is.
One such report - the McKinsey Global Institute - has projected the future of India for 2030. It says that 70% of the GDP... now my contention is, that if you do this, the cultural space that is already pretty well narrowing is endangered. Because - let me quote from the report. "India should renew its focus on the larger cities." We haven't even begun to solve even one problem in these larger cities. "India should seek to unleash the ability of these cities to fund their growth." Unleash?! It's my application to the World Bank. I'm not being ideological about this, but that's how we are borrowing money to make our metros. "The case for a renewed focus on India can deliver a high GDP per dollar." These are the statements that have gone to the Planning Commission. And "we need to create 25 new world class cities". The terminology in the reports... to have large metropolitan areas is to have great captive areas to advertise and for sms protests. We are protesting about certain things - Tahrir Square, Anna Hazare - smses.
I'd like to just explain to you what the danger is. We are going in for mega-projects. Because we cannot handle our cultural divergencies and our problems of economic growth, we've opted for mega-projects. The first of these completely bizarre projects is to link 30 rivers together, which the Supreme Court two weeks ago has cleared for implementation. What does the Supreme Court know about these things? So here's a mega-project... don't forget, China and Russia have been devastated by their mega-projects.
This is the establishment of industrial estates on the Mahanadi river in Orissa. The upper slide is 2001 and the lower one is 2011. And that river is going to run dry. But GDP will rise. Now, the most notorious of these, the most dangerous of these is a project that has been put up by the Scott Wilson (?) - another consultant - called the Mumbai-Delhi Industrial Corridor. 1500km which is going to blaze through the countryside of 6 states and build 24 industrial nodes and several new cities. but what is important in this thing, in the report - and this is a page from the report - if you notice the last bottom column, it has projected that 33% of India's population is going to live in this territory. You just have to sit back and realise what has been said by them and what the Planning Commission has commenced. For two years they have invested in this project. That's the catchment area, and the rivers from which this industrial corridor is going to pass. In red are the areas which are acute water shortage - where the ground water has been poisoned already. But we are going to move one-third of the polulation of India to this area.
What does the satellite tell us? Grey's Satellite (?) records the condition of underground water. That's the picture of the condition of the aquifiers below the ground in India. This is the area where one-third of the population of India is supposed to move to. And I'm going to take the case of Delhi to illustrate the point. This is the growth of Delhi from 1950 right up to the... from the green to the orange to the red to the grey is the future of Delhi. Now how do these cities survive, how do these metros survive, how do Bombay and Calcutta survive? They take drinking water from enormous distances - these are the sources of water coming into Delhi. Dotted in the centre are two blue lines, which are now the new damns, because Delhi still doesn't have enough water. They give you a calculation that Delhi has enough water, but actually 30% of the poulation has piped water. 70% has to go to a common source. The ideal mount of water that you require in Indian cities is 75 to 100 litres per person per day. And Delhi has nowhere near that for the population of Delhi. Gurgaon is getting 40% of its water from the recycled sewage water of Delhi.
Poor old Sheila Dixit - her dream of New York, getting distant more and more - asked the Himachal government, paid out 2 crores and said, build me two dams and send the water to me to Delhi across 350km. This was ten years ago. They haven't solved this problem. What happened was, the farmers got up in arms, came to Delhi and said (?) you're not getting any more dams. So she's stuck. This is what the Chinese (?)
I think it's important to remember that we cannot do what the Chinese do - we don't live in a totalitarian society. People who are corrupt are shot in China. This is the new urban landscape of China - the mega-city landscape. So, this is the GIDIPI City. These are the mega-projects and this is the model. This is how every Indian citizen is going to look by 2030.
And then we are told how much we have to spend. Of course, we don't have this money. We have to borrow. So hidden in the report, when you look at how do you fund this thing, you look at the current capability and potential. Of course, if I go to the bank and borrow 5 crore rupees, I have great potential! This is the $12million potential.
So we suggest an alternative. Because of this situation which is personally very alarming, I'm just going to give you an idea of what I feel is actually the solution to the problem in the long run. A series of cities called 'Natural Cities', there are many, many of them, but the population of each one of them does not exceed 1 million, because you can self-sustain a city of a million. But it's work in progress.
Ideally, if I look at it diagramatically, the city consists of - symbolically, a chess board - with alternate squares which are urbanised and have agriculture. It's 15km by 15km. From the point of view of calculating the population and sustainability. And if I look at the area which is surrounded by the red line, in white is the dense urban fabric and in green is the agricultural. And that's a close up of it where you can see an overview of the blocks that exist and then agriculture. we've done a considerable amount of work on hwo the farmers are actually part of this whole (?). You don't buy the land for this. They are actually part of owners of the real estate and agricultural land. The kind of building material we would be using are recyclable and primarily you would move in this city on bicycle. It's possible. We've done the test checks. And there's a whole issue of reducing the temperature of the building zones by a blue and green convection. If in the upper portion you have the built white portion and the agricultural land, it actually does set up some currents across from the river.
What is important in all of these cities is that they are located on the edge of the flood plain, and their water comes from the flood plain. What happens in India is 80% of our water comes down during the rainy season. So we are very different from most other places. The river linking project is a bizarre project which is trying to take water from a flood area to dry land. But essentially what happens is, if you take the flood plain - which sometimes streches 2-3km outside the riverbed, it consists of sand inevitably. We've done a number of bore tests and that sand is almost 150-200 feet deep. This actually holds water, it holds the flood water. And you can tap it. So we did some experiments in Delhi with the Jamuna and it is possible, the reults are very good. You have to be careful because you're drawing water along the garvity (?) so it goes right up the river. But it is possible to isolate an area which would supply a city of a million or 700,000 or 500,000 - you can actually supply them completely with drinking water. So you've got a natural store, it doesn't cost you anything. So that's an important...
We looked at the cost of living. Rustom said he can't afford to live in cities, because it's three times what the cost of living in a small town is. It's just not practical in the long run. And we have to question it. So this is now some of the very early forms of this, it would look not like a grid, but something in this nature, or perhaps different formats of it, and maybe something like this. So it's not a spectacular city, it's a green city. We're using the term 'natural' for it because I think the word is a very important one whether one applies it to an institution, it's work, or to a building or architecture. In other words, it's sustaining itself with no wastage. I think that as a principle of conducting yourself through the 21st century is going to become very important.
(?) note of the tanpupra playing in the background. But at the same time a very intriguing model of what could be a sustainable city has raised a number of questions. And also that observation you made about the shrinking space for culture and the arts in this particular model of urbanisation, that is probably of great interest for all of us. What really is the relationship between, let us say, theatre practice and this model of a city - whether the GIDIPI City or the Natural City. I think both tend to evoke very interesting provocations. Many people out here have been thinking of a sustainable city. Vijay Padaki talked about how we cannot afford to think of a spectacular future for ourselves, and Romi repeated that suggestion this morning. So thanks very much, Romi. And now I'm going to invite Professor Satish Alekar. I'm really indebted to him because he's stepped in on very short notice into this panel. Alekar as you all know presented this fascinating portrait of Pune University yesterday and I really was completely taken up by his description of his work in Pune, because for many of us, looking at the current condition of the university system, it is quite overwhelming. And just the inventiveness and the enthusiasm with which Alekar drew out an impossible present, I would imagine, out of that particular condition is something that was fascinating to listen to. And for that very reason, it would be wonderful to hear how we can nurture what Alekar has already achieved into the future. And I would love to know from Alekar what his viw of the future is. Because that kind of Guerilla tactical moves that he outlined, where the exception to every rule, in a sense, was the mantra around which he would kind of engage with the bureaucrat. What is the sustainability of that practice? How do we continue to nurture that way? What is the way that we can defend that model - I hesitate to call it a model - that Alekar outlined yesterday.So with these brief notes may I invite Satish Alekar.
Thank you, Romi, for a wonderful presentation. You projected some images of 2030 to 2070. And I am not going to be there in 2030. Anyway, I am a substitute. I have not given much thought to it, but I shall try and present some points - very local points - and tell you some very local stories.
Future spaces. As one can see... I am not a scholar in Politics. But whatever the kind of a... my gut feeling is, hereafter, more and more regional political parties are going to be very active and all the local problems are going to be very burning things. And I find this: a lot of unrest is going to take place in urban areas in the near future. And there is all sorts of conflicts (?).
I am a puka Pune-kar. I live in the bank of the Mutha river. My house was submerged in the 1961 great floods of Pansher Dam. And since then whatever opportunity was afforded by nature to develop the city, has been destroyed by all the political parties. And in my childhood, even till I used to go to college, we used to have water for 22 hours, 24 hours. 24 hours water supply at Sharwarpet (?), Sadashivpet. Becasue we were on the gradients, even though the Municipality closes the taps, the gradient water comes to our home. Last week onwards, Pune Municipal Corporation has taken the decision there will be only one time water supply. There is huge unrest in the city. They don't know how to suddenly change from the two-time distribution to one-time distribution. What is the pressure, what are the designs of the underground water pipes, what air pressure will be accumulated in the pipes - so on and so forth.
The question is not primarily because we don't have enough water - we've got abouot 4-5 dams, just for one city. But the thing is that the distribution is very faulty. Distribution of water is a very primary thing, and it's faulty. Because one of the dams water has been totally siphoned off by a private city known as Lavasa. And Lavasa is existing because some new legislation is coming up. So then the Gram Panchayat doesn't have any kind of a legal say in that area which is a very dangerous proposition. So what kind of a future we have in the cities?
It is impossible to cross the street even. The Fergusson College Road where we used to have a merry time is now reduced to a street of restaurants. We counted - there are more than 75 eating places, good or bad, in a small area. On top of that there are mushrooms of auditoriums. Auditorium after auditorium is adding up. Auditoriums constructed by Municipal Corporation, auditoriums constructed by (?) Municipal Corporation, auditoriums constructed by several organisations like Karnataka Sangha, Karnataka Education Trust, Symbiosis Education, MIT Education, Bharatiya Vidya Pith Education... auditorium after auditorium is coming up. Must be more than 50 to 60 auditoriums. In addition to that auditoriums are constructed by the IT companies - in Hinjewadi, Bimannagar area (?). So what we are going to do with these kind of auditoriums, wonderful performing spaces. I don't know.
In this kind of a scenario, how we are going to function? And before that we must give some thought to what could be the futre developing sensibilities in theatre. That is more important, because we have to cater to our resources to fulfil these emerging sensibilities. There is a lot of talk of people migrating from outside states to Maharashtra. But more migration is from rural Maharashtra to Bombay and Pune, from rural Maharashtra to the cities of Maharashtra. As against that, the population migrating from northern Indian states to Pune is lesser in number. The local problems, the local political parties, they are going to matter. And unrest is going to take place, restlessness will be there.
And the local political parties, they are extremely mature in sensing these future anxieties in the city. Future restlessness in the cities. So what they are doing, all the regional parties. They are employing budding actors, budding theatre groups to suit their goals directly or indirectly. They are asking them organise cutural events - it may not be political events. They are asking them to conduct several short play competitions with enormous amounts of prize money, they are asking them to organise the popular dance events in their cities, they are asking them to manage their political propaganda, employing lot of media students to make their media productions - tune the songs, and so on and so forth. So this is a new thing that is happening. And all the emerging young theatre people - they are at a crossroads. Because this population is not that politically motivated like our generation. They say that they don't have money, here is the money that is offered them. It is not a political thing, they have asked me to conduct a workshop or event in that local area and they pay me. So very easy money coming and going. And it is going to be reflected somehow in the politics.
In contrast, the elected MP of Pune was in Tihar Jail for nine months and he was responsible for creating the atmosphere of implanted festivals in the city. Festivals out of community necessity. But he has successfully organised his resources over the years - last 20-25 years - and he has implanted a tradition of starting festivals in the name of Ganesh Festival, in the name of Film Festival... The Film Festival is very successful, that is a very positive aspect of this lopsided kind of thing. So this is the kind of scenario in which we are operating right now. So what will be the emerging sensibilities in the field of theatre?
Going back to our Lalit Kala Kendra days, I was very closely associated with the youngsters coming from the rural areas for the last 14-15 years. Two or three common things I found. They come from rural, very modest areas. Students coming to performing arts invariably I find that, many times they come from broken families, separated families. That's one thing. The second thing is they come from families where either father or mother were amateur actors or singers, or mother wanted to be a singer but could not become a singer due to marriage so she wanted her daughter to learn music, etc. And the other problem I come across is that these students are very restless at some point. Restless on two social points. One thing is that even though a large population of them come from the rural area, not necessarily that they are economically backwardr. Second thing is that even if their parents have got modest jobs, the lifestyle of that particular student is not that modest. This is new kind of thing.
Why is that? Because his father may be in the police force, or father must be working in a particular area of the government bureaucracy where they may be having some kind of an income. And when they come to join the institute because they try to understand and come to terms on their own. And at one level they become very stubborn. They say this is my life, I have a lot of money, I will spend it. And secondly, they become restless because there is a sense of guilt in them. Because the kind of lifestyle being offered to me may not be legitimate and my father must be having some additional income or source which I can't question. May be the thought of corruption. So it becomes a sense of guilt.
So there is a kind of a disjointedness between the families and the students we come across. My point was how to ventilate them. So I introduced a course - Text to Performance - in the second year. Every student has to write his own text - maybe ten minutes, five minutes - with zero budget. He has to direct his own script. Their anxieties are coming out through these small skits, small short plays they are writing. So these are the sensibiities.
In my generation we used to think in the terms of spoken words, but these students have come to the terms through seeing the television. They have not seen a play even in their small area, but they have seen good film or bad television prgogrammes. So their imagination is through that image, not through spoken words. So that is a new thing, they think in terms of image all the time. So the sensibilities hereafter will be developed along these lines.
So when we have to provide a future rehearsal space for the evening (?) groups or the subsidised groups, what kind of rehearsal space we will provide them? And these students are very close to music. They are all the time listening to music. All sorts of music. So I find that the rehearsal future space should be a kind of a mixed thing - a rehearsal space combined with some kind of a video camera, equipment, rudimentary video equipment, plus a recording studio and internet connection. So this is I think a must.
Because the music will fetch them some money. They are not going to get offered jobs. All the time they will be on their own. So while doing theatre, they have to seek some opportunities of how to get money without compromising their artistic goal. So music will come to their hand. All my music students, what they do, they buy a keyboard and they keep on composing ringtones. And by email they keep on sending ringtones to the companies. Everyday. Once a ringtone gets accepted, depending on the future possibilities, they send Rs. 5000, Rs. 10,000 even Rs. 25,000 per ringtone. That's how our music students sometimes make money.
How the theatre students make use of the mobile phone? Every telephone company has certain convenient numbers to auction - 22222, 88888. So they do the bidding. This is a very complicated thing, I am trying to understand. And they make good living. Rs. 10,000, Rs. 15,000 per month. This number is bidded by the theatre student and then his father will put a small advertisement in the local newspaper - following numbers are available, if you are interested in having this convenient number, kind ly contact this number, the student's number here sitting in Pune. Then he gets the call, and he says, ok I will pass on this number to you. You go to (?) my father will be there and he will give you the code, you pass on the code to the company and that number will be yours. And he gets the money through his father. So this is the kind of use of a mobile phone done by theatre students. And he is paying the fee out of it. I didn't have any clue that this (?) So this is a kind of a future space taught to me by my students.
Secondly, how to update the training courses? The training courses are available everywhere, how can we keep on updating the courses. We have to integrate the courses. So science courses and arts courses, this kind of a division is not going to work. We have to find out some kind of an intermixing. There has to be a collaboration between the science courses and arts courses somewhere. That we have to keep in mind. Our theatre students who are good in science, they should be encouraged to take some courses in science or some foreign language, etc. So this is one kind of a thing which we have tokeep in mind.
How these auditoriums could be integrated? As more and more local political parties are going to be a problem, then we have to tap the local governments. Because the local government has got some resources, they are going to be powerful, they would like to provide some spaces to ventilate the anxieties of the younger generation. So we have to make some suggestions to them, that why don't you start the part-time repertories. Part-time repertories at the auditorium which you are constructing. Because not all 30 days the auditoriums are busy. Every auditorium has got some space for rehearsal. Pune Municipal Corporation has got a artistic (?) of its own (?) festivity going on. So you go and perform in your... So part-time repertory. And we have to sell it. This part-time repertory is exisiting, would you like to support it? Maybe an IT company will support, maybe some big company will support.
The auditoriums existing in IT companies, we have to intervene. IT companies are investing money for the welfare of their IT engineers. And many of the engineers are interested in theatre. So this intervention is very important. Private education institutes, they have enormous money. Unheard of. Especially the medical colleges, dental colleges, engineering colleges. But I have experienced after my retirement, they asked me that since you are retired why don't you come and suggest. So I went to Bharatiya Vidyapith, I went to Symbiosis College, I went to MIT. I gave them a two-hour presentation that if you want to start courses in performing arts, how you should be willing to lose the money. It is very important, you have to take pride in losing money. Because you are getting a lot of attention by having these courses. Having these courses, all the artists will come to your institution. But you have to lose the money. And how much money you have to lose? So I provided them the statistics from the Pune University. How much Pune Universty is losing money when we conducted the courses at Lalit Kala Kendra. 57 lacs is the total budget out of which 18 lacs come from student fees and rest of the money the university is spending from its own pocket, not from the UGC. The Department is not recognised by the UGC, it's a self-supporting department. So the university is willingly making loss of maybe 47 lacs. And this the University is earning from running courses of Computer Science, Biotechnology courses, MBA etc.
Another point is that how we - as policy makers in the field pf performing arts - could intervene in MBA courses and IAS courses. To intervene in the IAS course is very important. These are the bureaucrats (?). The MBA students go into Corporate offices, but they must have some kind of understanding of the serious art. There has to be some kind of a mangerial course in the understanding of the serious arts for the MBA. In larger terms they may be helpful to us - at least some of them.
The health insurance. Health is going to be a very big problem. Health expense is going to be a big problem for all the artists working anywhere. There has to be some kind of a thinking in starting a big group insurance for the theatre artists. Theatre Health Insurance, because there is no health insurance available to the people who are working backstage, small artisans... I worked in the (?) Hospital for 23 years. Every week you'll find some Tamasha artist is coming to us for help. Tamasha artists, artists from rural area, elderly artists with no support... so we should have an insurance for them.
Another thing to keep in mind. What will be the impact of the higher education of performing arts once the Private Universities Act comes into effect. The Private University Act will come into effect in some months time, maybe. It will be totally private funded university, state of the art university, maybe some corporate office function... is this going to be another deviation in disparity? So how will we deal with that problem. There will be totally lopsided kind of things. Students coming to Pune University and students going to FLAME private liberal arts programme paying 8 lacs fee. So these kind of diversions we have to keep in mind. So these are the few points I wanted to raise. I'm, as I say that I'm a substitute I was not well prepared. Thank you.
George Jose: Uh, thank you Alekar Sahib, for that wide-ranging kind of...uh...set of issues that you outlined, both with regard to the city and with regard to education, field of education pedagogy.
One of the other buzz words of our triangle is of course, this term, creative cities, and there are various kinds of organisations that are talking about the ways in which we can go about building creative cities and that is, of course, linked very centrally. The other term that came up in our discussions earlier ..uh, the creative economy and what is being called the media entertainment sector, which ties in then with the SMS ringtones that Professor Alekar talked about.
So it's a, it's a very dynamic and changing context, very difficult to kind of, really make sense of it and trying to, trying to hold these fast changing advances together. And of course it is in this context that we are seeing a, kind of a reinvention of the festivals that, that you referred to - the cultural festival and how cities are, also in Mumbai for instance, and Delhi I mean you can see more and more monies being made available for cultural festivals.
Now what is the nature of these festivals, how do we kind of understand it? What should be our engagement with it, if at all? Is it, is it more in keeping with our understanding that we should resist..uh, these new [indistinct]..uh.. forms in which we are being asked to engage with the new city. These are, these are I think questions for all of us to think about.
As I said, I mean it would be, it would be great if you can note down your questions for Professor Alekar and for the panel and Praveen reminded me that it might be a good idea for you to also note down your questions for the session that will follow, which is going to be an open session, where we are going to kind of try and have an open discussion on the proceedings of the entire seminar. So it might be a very good idea to start bringing together your thoughts inclined to try out many of the concerns that you may have had, many of the ideas and thoughts you might have had so that we can bring them up in the open discussion in the afternoon session.
Okay, the final speaker for this panel will also extend, I think, many of the themes that Professor Alekar brings, because he's also going to speak about pedagogy, and that is Sundar Sarukkai. Sundar, as probably many of you know, is a physicist, he is a philosopher, very interested really in the interface between humanities and philosophy, on the one hand, and between arts and science, on the other. Sundar is currently the Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Humanities at Manipal University. And before that he was at the, at NIAS, the National Institute for Advanced Studies in Bangalore for close to two decades. He is, as I said, trained as a philosopher, trained as a physicist, sorry, but works as a philosopher and is, is now running a kind of an inter-disciplinary module, a Master's program in philosophy and humanities in Manipal University. Um, Sundar?
Sundar Sarukkai: Well it's a great pleasure to be here, always, at Ninasam. Um..I think Akshara and Sudhanva have taken revenge on me by asking me to speak of some philosophical topics at the end of five days of long sessions, and Professor Alekar has made my problem little more difficult by his comments on private university, I come from one. But of course, the humanities is also the cheapest course Professor Alekar, I'm glad to share with you that we charge less than many B.A. programs, for what we think is a very good quality philosophy and humanities program.
It is in this space of contradictions, that I will be speaking for the next twenty minutes. It is this idea of engaging today, very different notions, expectations. Um.. I was a little bit tense, worried about what, how I'm going to communicate what I'm going to speak but as happy when Romi entered his talk, the, today's morning talk, with his definition of historians. And the definition saying that historians answered questions nobody asks. And I, I, when I heard him I said, oh this is exactly what philosophers do, but then I thought a little more and I said, no, it's exactly the opposite of what we do.
We actually answer questions which everybody asks, but sometimes are hesitant to ask. Saying what everybody wanted to know about spe..uh, about sex when they're afraid to ask. That's what philosophers do and so I take a little bit of courage from what Romi said. And then also what both, Romi and Alekar spoke actually ties in very well with what I have to speak about. So I'm very glad that they've set the stage for what, what will follow in my brief presentation.
And I'm going to begin, uh.. I'm supposed to address this question of spaces of the future but like perhaps many philosophers, what I'll do is I'll address something on space, something on the future and you can then tie them up and see if it makes sense to you. I begin with this constant confusion, this comes from the discussions I've been having with many of you outside on what is it that the people here in the conference are talking about.
So, everybody was talking about space and that's what we all gathered, but what is this thing called space that everybody was talking about? So I'm going to begin with that question, without making it too theoretical, I hope, because I want to begin at the fact that we, uh.. the kinds of spaces we've talked about here began with physical space, mental space, spiritual space, aesthetic space, political space, public space and so on. What exactly is the task of the word space doing in all these references? What exactly are people talking about when we're invoking these ideas of space and why are we invoking the idea of space?
So, to me, the motivation also begins in what I'm going to say right now, the first part of what I'm going to say. Motivation also begins from listening to the many of the other, other speakers here. One provocative one was Ms. Zuleikha, when she was talking about de-centralling the performer. There are different people who want to take centerstage, performer, director. You know the cinegrafists and so on, so I want to now place something else in the centre of theatre activity and that's humanities.
And you might say, what is humanities have to do with theatre practice and theatre. I want to make a very simple argument, that the spaces in which you talk about depends on the fact that theatre can only function in a social space. And I think both the two panellists who talked about the state..uh.. the cities of the future and also about the educational system, actually indicate towards a very important aspect of establishing an environment and atmosphere in which theatre can function.
And I believe that for theatre to function very effectively as a social phenomena, not as individual practices, you need to a have a very well established environment, a culture, for lack of a better word let me use culture of liberal arts and perhaps the greatest challenge for us, in the education field has been in establishing a relevant liberal arts and humanities program in the country.
So, to me my small contribution to this, problems of discovering places or environment where one can have these discussions on theatre and art begins with my difficulty in a, setting up a humanities space for it because a good program that people can actually do, a good B.A. and M.A. program in liberal arts and humanities. And what Akshara said in his talk about the cultural vacuum of the B.A. is a phenomenon which all of us know across some of the best programs in the country.
Earlier I was at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, as George said, and this was an institute which was inspired by J.R.D. Tata, that was his last institute and his hope was that there would be some kind of interface, perhaps between social science and humanities, and the larger world. Um.. I don't know what went wrong but, I mean we have our own radius of the situation, but the point is that it, is that it was extremely difficult to carve out an arena where you could do social science and humanities in a science institute.
This is symptomatic of a larger national problem, the national problem of building these kinds of spaces of promoting theatre in cities is not limited just to the fact, you know, that you don't have money to build it, the government is not giving you money. It is a fact, it is related to the fact that you do not generate the set of large number, a army of young people who are actually sensitive to concerns of what constitutes art and what constitutes art practice. And none of our B.A. programs are doing anything of that kind.
I mean there are, you know, people would tell you what, where we've actually gone wrong with our B.A. programs. But what is interesting for me is not just about the problems that there are there, but my own struggles in trying to set up a space where we could do what I thought we could do in the context of having a good liberal arts program, with sensitivity to different traditions, including art practices.
And, fortunately or unfortunately, it was a private university which came forward to suggest, or to enable this particular place where we could do something of this particular kind. A very innovative inter-disciplinary program, but more interestingly my own shift into this possibility of creating such a space, happened because of my engagement with two, I think very important groups, both of which have, have been represented here.
One was Attakkalari, whose artistic director, Jayachandran spoke about here, and I still remember from very, many years when uh..when Attakkalari was running from rented sheds, even now they're in a rented shed, a bigger shed.. um.. the difficulty in even organizing their dance program. I remember the time when they did the first biennial..um.. some of us, two or three of us used to sell tickets, collect tickets at Ravindra Kalakshetra doorway, make sure that all the, performance starts, engage with all the administrative work.
In that sense, it's what Sadanand said, you know, the kind of people who actually, you know, help in making a production possible and that was a very important task for us. And it was also interesting to note that for many of the dancers at that time, to them, doing any of these tasks was very a difficult task. They didn't want to do these tasks, because they were supposed to be performers.
But this was a challenge of, in establishing a particular kind of this..uh.. institution called Attakkalari and to me it was a great learning experience of actually bringing in the space of philosophy and liberal arts into dialogue and conversation with a particular practice, art practice.
And the second major influence for me was, of course, Ninasam [inaudible]. Many years I've been coming here and in fact, it catalysed the possibility of my move to Manipal and thinking of establishing this kind of an inter-disciplinary program. Why I'm saying these two, why I'm giving you these two examples is that, spaces of anything only occur in collaboration and consultation with different kinds of spaces.
And to me, I often, I'm surprised at the larger art community in India, we're just not restricting to theatre, does not have this larger engagement with pedagogy and institutional possibilities of creating such spaces and supporting a very good liberal arts program around the country.
So, um..I have another very important ad.. I mean to me doing philosophy and, in the context of art, uh..and theatre practice illustrates another important aspect of human philosophy itself and to me essentially it's not about theorizing, which is a word which I find many people were very problem..uh you know, had lot of problems with, in the last few days - to me it's not just about that it's a way of thinking theatre. And I'm reminded of Rustom's wonderful book 'The Politics of Cultural Practice', where the subtitle is 'Thinking through Theatre in an Age of Globalization'
What does it mean to think theatre and why should all of you work? You know many, of you are very eminent theatre practitioners, would you'll want to take a kind of a pee of this kind on book? Why should it matter to you, why should the larger question of studying philosophy, teaching philosophy and humanities really matter to people who practice theatre?
Let me just give you an example, I'll use so the fir.. I'll use this occasion to just give an example of how I think about the idea of space. Just to illustrate what is it that an engagement with philosophy-humanities does when you start asking the question of space. So, I began with this very simple thing, that we are, we invoke in different kinds of spaces and after asked a very similar question, what is common to the idea of space in all of them, you find there is actually very little common to the idea of space.
Physical space, and I think Romi might, you know describe it very well, where he talked about space as just being a relationship between objects, that what characterises the notion of space are just a set of objects. Physical space gives you ideas of extension, possibility of movement, and as the Indian philosophical school of nyaya very nicely puts it - it also gives you an idea of far and near. Otherwise you'll never get, you'll never be able to have a cognitive sense of near and far if you did not invoke the idea of space.
So this notion of this physical space, is actually translates into some sense into a notion of emptiness. That there is no hindrance to movement, for example. So if you're living in a big solid world, you would immediately realize that one of the prime possibilities with space opens up is this possibility to move. And that of course is a very interesting characteristic of physical space, which I could have as well called as emptiness, which some, many philosophers have referred to as emptiness.
And then when you come to mental space and you ask what is the space of the mental we are talking about, what is, what characteristics of space are present in mental space? Mental space does not give you experience of the near and the far, it does not give you an experience of movement in the sense of enabling movement. It has, it seems to have very different characteristics.
I'll just come to that, I'll try and clarify that a little bit when I go down the line. Similarly political space, what exactly, what is common to the idea of the larger physical space to the notion of political space and aesthetic space? Is there a notion of these experiences of near and far, enabling of movement in aesthetic space?
But yet, in our own use of language and in descriptive capacities of certain experiences we feel very comfortable using this and we are almost pressurized. We feel this is the best way to talk about it. There were in many occasions over the last few days when there were references to metaphysics and the suspicions of metaphysics, which I think is very correct. But what I want to point out here is that every invocation of these notions of space is, has certain pre-suppositions behind them, and to me that act, that pre-supposition behind the use of space in all these terms is a very politically erodent term.
I'll just give you, just the contours of that argument. So one examp..so one way we can understand this constituents of space across different characters, different genres is to say that perhaps we are using space as a metaphor. Obviously, you don't mean met..political space and aesthetic space is like the physical space. Perhaps it's a way of talking about things a shorthand for it, metaphorical sense.
But then the problem with this kind of metaphorical ideas of space is that this kind of metaphorical ideas of space is that you can't design solutions for metaphors. If you say somebody is on fire you don't want to throw a bucket of water on him, or of course more importantly if you say it's raining cats and dogs you don't want to build a net over this auditorium thinking on catch cats and dogs.
You cannot come up with solutions to the problem of space if space is used in this shorthand term, in metaphorical sense. So what really is the problem? And I'm, I'm going to suggest you what really is the problem in the use of space betrays all our pre-suppositions about space and through that I want to point out to you that perhaps different cultural traditions think about it differently.
The idea of space that we use, that we talk about and why the word space is so easily usable across different categories is because we think of space as an inert yet passive, loosely perhaps a container that, Himanshu was referring to, that one idea of space. It is unchanging, it's not causal, you can't experience it and I think Romi began his talk by talking about how space is not apparent. You can touch it, taste it, smell it etc., but you still feel that there's a notion of space.
This particular idea of an inert, sterile, passive space which allows its use across different categories without a problem is based on a particular view of space, which interestingly even in the western tradition comes after modern science. It particularly comes after Newton, the belief in the kind of space that there is. Most cultures do not have this notion of space and I'm, I want to use this example..um, just to illustrate very briefly about the Indian usage of the ideas of space to indicate to a completely different framework of entering into space.
And how Indian language terms will show a great..uh, you know an inertia, a resistance to using mental space, spiritual space, aesthetic space, physical space and so on. Because the, pardon me for using this word, the metaphysics of the idea of space in these different traditions are very different.
So for example, the worldviews are very different. Um.. one of the discussions we've been having again with the others outside was again about the fact that many times when people were using space here, perhaps the proper term they were referring to was place and I think Himanshu also talked about that talk on space and place. The idea that you use place to distinguish from space in some sense.
But what exactly, I mean the, is the work of place as against space? Interestingly if you look at most of the Indian language terms, and I've been going around asking different people, different languages to give me words for space which they use. Pralayan's thing, production of the itham..uh, jaaga, sthala and so on - all of them actually translate better to place. They don't translate to space.
The common term for space would be akash but you know we don't use manasakash or whatever to talk about mental space. There are very different invocations of these terms which you use when you want to talk of space. You know, all these categories and what is interesting about them, I won't go through it in detail, but I'm sure in many of your languages you'll see that all the references are to particularities, local to the idea of place and not as this very sterile kind of a container called space in which anything can happen.
And this, um.. actually you know reminds us of some other formulation of space which is so fundamental to Indian thought. Very problematic, I think it's extremely problematic in, both culturally and philosophically, but very fundamental. You know this idea that there is this inert thing called space is what is fundamentally the causal problem about space. If space can act on me, if space is causality and that's why I asked Meena Pani you know, when I was responding to her.
In this experience of space do you feel that the space can be, do you have any kind of a feeling from space, in that particular sense. Most of these modern ideas of space do not allow for that possibility, that space cannot act on things. That's it. It cannot modify, create, do thing, thing..it cannot do something to a thing.
In Indian traditions, best exemplified by vaasthu and, uh.. very few friends of architect friends I have here will disown me after this...um, what is the implication of the idea of vaasthu? The implication, whether it is right or wrong, is not even a question which I am willing to enter into here, but what is the implication of vaasthu? You might, as Naresh was telling me that, one can of course find principles behind vaasthu which makes it sound rational and say, "Oh east, west, wind is blowing here etc., etc." but that's really not, I think, of significance.
The real significance of the fact is that space has a material agency. It can affect things, not just affect things it can affect your life. I mean it seems so dangerously absurd to say, that space in this kind of a me..way can actually influence the way we live our lives or what can happen to you in your future or what will happen to your business. The reason why the modern mind has a problem with it is because we don't understand what it means to have, for a space to have causal influence on us.
In fact, again there is one Indian philosophical tradition where as part of its metaphysical characteristic..uh..categories it doesn't use space but it uses direction. Dhik is one of the very important metaphysical character..that is, it is something which exists, it exists at a very fundamental level. Direction is real.
There is the other very important thing about time in Indian thought. This is again about good time and bad time, which, marriages are fixed on muhurthams. You don't start jobs in raavalkaalam and so on. I mean, perhaps most of us here may or may not follow that but the larger world is completely immersed in this narrative and discourse about time. Time, which time you join a job influences how you will do in a job. What does time have to do with your job?
What does space have to do with how you function? The only way you make sense of it is to recognise that both space and time have this potency, a power. And this again is something which I think, I'm just saying this because it allows us a completely different way of understanding the notion of theatrical space, which I will tell you at the end.
Because, if you invoke this. I'm talking to many people, um.. I'll just invoke the two-three examples. Now when, if I ask the question, in theatre what kind of space do you want? Sadanand began, spoke about this centering, you know searching for that centering. He said walk all around and there's some kind of a thing which you might, experientially or whatever, you know, in a sense you would discover.
And that space is not this neutral, passive, non-causal space. There is this notion of that kind of a space, when Geiss spoke about this thing he was con..often invoking the idea of energy in space. Some, some sense of having energy in this emptiness, that, th.. you just can't say it is space of this particular kind.
And when I was talking to Rajiv outside he was pointing abou..he was pointing to the very important fact that when you enter a space you say, "Oh, this space is good or this space is bad." I mean how can you use these categories of good and bad for something as inert and passive as space, and if you really ask what, to what categories do you really use good and bad you'll find that good and bad are either aesthetic or ethical terms.
Space in our experience and imagination is fundamentally an ethical and aesthetic term and I want to come back to the question of ethics, because I think the way we have formulated space and talk about space in art and theatre betrays a far greater problem, which is between art practices in general. The very idea of art.
So, uh.. one way to understand this therefore is that though however our invocation of space is just a metaphor or shorthand and though they have a very important function. They have a very important function and one of my fir..uh..you know metaphor which many of us really used to enjoy earlier was about two people kissing on stage, in the films. We of course have, know this very well, you have these two roses touching each other or two birds coming towards each other. Unfortunately we don't see such images now.
But when you see two roses touching each other you don't ask questions of, I mean it does something, it does a great thing and I have seen this wonderful phenomena of a very awkward moment on stage when you're sitting with grandmothers and large families and everybody starts giggling. Old women start giggling when they see two, two roses coming together, but you show them a liplock like it happens now there's a lot of embarrassment. You don't know how to deal with it, that the larger space when we watch that.
So that ques..that point about some functioning of these kind of images and metaphors are very important, but what I'm going to suggest to you is that when all of us have been using the word space in these different categories, we want to say something else but we are not saying it. So I'm going to make you say that, I'm functioning the director. I'm going to make you say that because I think that's really what is at the back of it when you're not talking about spac..you know something else and you're hiding that fact and just say, talking about space, space, space.
So it's provocative I'm sure we'll disagree with this but let me say it, what I want to say is that what you mean by theatrical space is actually the time of theatre, that's all. Now you will say now I'm behaving like a philosopher making a simple problem far more complex, but taking space which itself we're worried about and actually saying that what you're actually talking about space is actually the time.
And I'll just give you an illustration which I hopefully will convince you that the real problem about talking about what we call as theatrical spaces is actually about understanding art's engagement with time, and to me that's a very enduring question. You know, many years back the, [indistinct] when I gave a couple of lectures at NCP on trying to define the contemporary. I actually ended up trying to think through it, ended up with only one basic theme - art's problematical relationship with time.
There's a long history of it and so on, you know [indistinct] questions you talk about it, but I'm also glad that that idea of time is right at the back of all our minds when we spoke about space and I think Sudhanva in his introductions ended, If you remember Sudhanva, you said it's now time for some audacious thinking.
There is this point about time which we need to engage with and I, and what happens in the ques..context of art is this question of how does art engage with the context of time. How does theatre engage with the context of time. I'm just going to..uh..I'll just point out why time is far more difficult in contrast to this artificial idea of space that we're creating. Space is passive, inert, non-causal, etc. Time is the best example of an idea which is constantly chaotic, over which we have no control, which is constantly unstable. Time is something, it's not just in theatre, in human conceptualization we actually don't know how to conceptualize time, and very often when we talk about time we end up talking about space or talking about it in spatial metaphors.
And this is something which is very well known to linguists and cognitive scientists. Almost any way expression of time invokes spatial metaphors, I'll give you some examples. Of course, we talk about past is behind and future is ahead. Whether it is the..uh..the uses of the words ahead and behind or even saying he's ahead of our time. An expression like looking forward to tomorrow, falling behind schedule - all these are actually spatial metaphors. Our difficulty in talking about time, we escape it by talking about it in terms of spatial categories and there is a far more deeper implication between space and time, which is about the prepositions.
Those markers which talk about location and space, you know, book on the table, watch on my hand etc. The prepositions if..uh.. for example if you look at three very common ones - at, in and on. So I'll say things like at the office, at work, in library, on train, etc. Now what is fascinating is that in our languages prepositions for time are exactly the same. They're spatial prepositions. We're not able to even talk about time in a very different way, there seems to be a fundamental problem both in our cognitive and linguistic capacity to talk about time and we keep talking about as if it is space.
So I hope you'll won't...begin to see the contour of an argument that every time we are talking about space doesn't imply that we're actually talking about space, it could be representing these spatial metaphors of time in a particular sense. So, for example, at, in, on - you'll say come at midnight, come over at six, what's here on Monday, born on, retired in, a run in the morning, etc. We tend, linguistically we tend to use this in the same way for space and time. It's only the problem that in that sense it's a problem with time.
Now, I make..I want to leave this as a question. When you look at Indian languages what actually happens to the way we use prepositions, what actually happens to the way we use these..uh.. other, you know, other spatial metaphors of time. Uh.. lot of cognitive linguists this seems universal..uh.. there are across..uh, you know cultures they seem to use this, except that, um.. there are, there's a very wonderful I..uh.. you know to come back to the question of metaphysics here, that may of the ways we talk about space and time has a, some kind of an assumption about what is space and time and there are civilizations, there are ..uh..so called tribal cultures and also the early Greek which talked about past as being ahead and future as being behind.
It's a, it's a, you know wonderful exploration when, you know, when you're very interested in discussing the thing, but the, when you say, you don't say that past is behind and future is ahead of me. You'll say..uh..these traditions talk about the future as being past and the past as being ahead of me, that is we move towards the past not towards the future. Future is gone we don't know what it is. It's a, you know you read it in wonderful ways, you don't know what the future is and that's what the past is, it's gone and dead I can't go access it.
It's the past we are always moving towards and that, you know in a such a simple way how it illustrates the different use of time. In one way, in one view it's time which is moving towards us and the other, time is stationary and we are moving forward and it's impossible to talk of both space and time without this. And if you are, if, if space is, if we are just in the world and we are moving, if the focus, the spotlight is on the individual then the, our ideas of past and future holds. But if there is something called time which is flowing, then you see what is coming towards me is the future and going back behind me, and what stays back is past.
I'm, I'm saying this because it allows us a very different way to engage with this question of spaces in general, particularly in theatrical spaces because what I'm going to claim, far more, problematically is this - that whenever you have been using the word space in different contexts perhaps you're not even saying time of the theatre. When you say aesthetic space I don't want to say that you're actually meaning time of aesthetics, could, but you're saying something else and that something else is, you're talking about freedom.
When you use any notion of space in this particular discussion over the last few days you're actually talking about enablement and freedom. The real word in which you're talking about, physical space is the freedom to move in a particular environment. Mental space is the freedom to think through what you want. Political space, freedom from political intervention and freedom is really the key word here because first of all the problematics of freedom is, one - it is fundamentally associated with time. We don't want to engage with the question of freedom.
If art has a problem with time it has a greater problem with the question of freedom because, and that to me is the fundamental question about space and I think many of the questions which came about, politics of space and sociology of space, etc. all illustrate this fundamental point about freedom. Freedom is not just about, about time it is also associated with very different set of concepts. It's associated with concepts of individuality, self-control, accountability, ethical terms which are fundamental whenever you invoke that concept of freedom.
When you invoke the concept of space in these five days I've not once heard a question about the ethics of art practice and it will not come because space is inert, it's..uh.. it's not causal, it's something which I can just displace, put things in. Where does this question of this kinds of, you know what I'm trying to say is the, the concepts that you invoke and deploy come with a set of associated concepts and if you invoke the question of freedom, talk about everything we spoke about, freedom from doing this, freedom from political intervention, etc. you invoke a very different set of concepts to which we are answerable to as practiser, practitioners of art.
And, and I think one of the important..uh.. aspects of practice of art is also sometimes to sidestep these questions because fundamentally the problem about time and action, of course, is that they are both about ethics, about ethical action. Many of the ways in which we can understand street theatre, the kind of things which you saw with Pralayan and so on, invoke the idea of ethical, in a very fundamental sense that..uh.. you know art, theatrical practice but conceptually it actually comes through this particular way of rephrasing the kind of concepts that we use. And so just to provoke you, and it's very dangerous to provoke a audience such as this, but if I say that your invocation of space is to, sidesteps this question of freedom and not directly saying this is what I'm talking about and therefore the associated world of ethics, what does it actually say.
Now again, many of the things which we've talked about - location, space, etc. are all taken care of when you talk about freedom because freedom is about location and specificity, it's about collaboration and negotiation and not just protest and, to me, that notion of freedom as responsibility and duty is a very important aspect of it, and freedom is about the social in contrast to the individual. So, why am I saying all this and connecting it to, you know this idea of space in the context of future spaces?
Um.. I'm, what I'm trying to say is the way I understood many of the interventions, many of the questions about what one does..uh.. you know saying should we build a space, should the government do it, corporate do it, should we take money from the corporates, so on, are more explicitly foregrounded and more usefully discussed and debated and engaged if you rephrase it in the context of freedom in, in a particular sense. I mean there's a lot of literature on how we want to talk, freedom for that. And the strategies which you therefore will invoke are not strategies about space and that's why this constant confusion, at least on my outside discussion about what should I do, are we really talking about just building a space.
You know so many of you said that, look theatre doesn't mean that space. You can just do it wherever you want and that becomes theatre in a sense. So, but when people were saying about building auditoriums it's about a particular notion of a physical enablement. So I'm not, not even going to use the word space, physical enablement and the other kinds of political enablement, etc. different kinds of spaces. So by invoking freedom you actually come up with very different set of strategies.
Those strategies which are collaborative, negotiable, network, etc. It's not about strategies of architecture alone, however important it is and um... to me that also raises a very important question which I as a outsider to this community, as a person who sees myself as a student of a community, you know kind of a sociology and try and understand what these people do. Um.. the big problem, the problem which I have is the inability of this community to actually help us ordinary citizens of this society to have access to things like public radio, public TV where we can listen to theatre.
I can't listen to classical music now in any of the FM stations. We can't see, I mean I still remember, gesturing Sadanand, I saw this wonderful production of Leelavathi by accident at three o'clock or three-thirty in Doordarshan on a weekday. So don't ask me what I was doing at home on a weekday at three-thirty but there, accidentally, so Leelavathi was such a wonderful production and nobody else other than this..re.. strange time in Doordarshan still shows something.
Where is the larger creation, that's, to me the function of theatre, a very, and larger art practice in general is to create this larger space not just with the programs and humanities and other things but also about getting, developing a group of people who will respond to you not as consumers, because consumers has various connotations, but as partners in some kind of a thing, you now.
Uh.. let me also give you this example of how this is even influenced, out of the course with our students. The first year when we started the course I brought them all to the culture course, it was a disaster because these kids had no idea how to engage with the, Ninasam thing and I said no, they're not coming anymore after that. But it's a process by which we actually see their influence of what we've been doing with Akshara at..uh..'cause he's also on our board of studies, on our program has actually influenced a larger number of people within the Manipal University and their campuses there than what you could ever have hoped to achieve if you all had these independent, non-networks.
So I'm, what I'm doing is I'm extending this idea of network, not just among theatre..theatre practices, but actually within the little bit larger community which wants to engage and think about arts. And finally..um..I, I'm just saying this because it's something close to my heart but perhaps very far removed from all of you and I think to me as a, at least from my philosophical inclination, I think it's very important for artists to articulate the ethics of art and ethics of theatrical practice. It's a very complicated field and, you know, many of the art practitioners might react to it but in a larger sense I'm just leaving it in the back of your mind.
But, end of it, the final point I want to make is, how do these kinds of reflections, what do they even matter to something as tangible as all of you have been talking about, either in terms of building theatre or sustaining theatre or nurturing and enabling theatre. Um.. so here let me make a gesture towards the idea of the future and I think both Romi's and Alekha's thing has given you some background to the idea of the thing.
And I, instead of talking about the cities of the future, I just want to point out, conceptually it's..uh.. something really fantastic is happening and it's happening at the level of our understanding of space and time. It's, it's not, you know, various things happening with cities and so on but with our fundamental concepts of space and time. There's something really remarkable happening. There is a paradigmatic conceptual revolution happening through a particular kind of technology, I'm, but I'm, specifically I'm talking about digital art and net art, and the digital space in general which has very interestingly digital space has very little in common with physical space. In fact, with contrary patterns.
In fact digital space has more characteristics in common with the instability of time, than anything else. Digital space actually gives you a very fractured, very different kind of an access to what..uh.. to art practices. And I'm sure that many of you have seen many of the interesting works on digital art and net art. What that implies to me is just this, that the real revolution in the future, conceptually, is that space gets personalized.
There's a personalization, it's, it's like..uh..it's know..you know I could have, I mean, in the, in the evolution of human history you could have you know right from private property it takes a long time to have my house, you know instead of a public house. Then you have my car instead of a public car, bus in which we travel in. And we've been moving towards this personalization of commodities but what happens if you can personalize space. That there is an availability of the very idea in this problematic notion of space which is personal and mine.
Net..uh.. the larger things, what's happening in, through the net creates this possibility of personalized spaces. Now many of you might say, that's really not the reality of the rural India for example and people are not..uh.. you know you're not getting bandwidth and so on but you know there is another subversion which has already happened, which is the mobile. And everybody here carries a mobile and the notion, what that does to the notion of space and time is something fantastic and it, it is, I think it's, if, to me looking at this larger notion of theatre practice that engagement to those notions of space and time.
And we're all old people, engaging with these inner ideas of space and so on, with people who grow up on this have a completely different way of looking at the world and reality to the world. And to me what con...what does theatre and theatre practice and audience. What does it constitute being an audience for people who grow up in this kind of an immersion in this digital world?
I'll, I can just, I'll give you a final example and, which really shocked me..um.. I was with a friend who first showed me this iphone and he showed me this iphone to say "Oh, you know I can show where we are" etc. but that's really not their issue because, you know they're, they're just, this whole nostalgia of old people about 70's and 80's and Deep Purple and so on, you know. So, he pulls out this ipad and he says, "You know I can play electric guitar or piano or whatever you want" and he just takes it and does something with his hand and you hear something which is not noisy.
I mean if I'm hearing a guitar he would have created the kind of noises you wouldn't even have imagined but with his ipad it even sound melodious. It sounds actually that he is performing, he has created a piece of music which seems somewhat melodious. This, this actually indicates to me a great problem and I think, we..uh.. I'm placing this in the larger context of the discussion in Ninasam also and many of you here, about the role of skill and training, Praveen [indistinct] morning, in art practices.
You know, and to me..uh.. for example, especially about Adishakthi and so on, the kind of training and skill which goes into their performance of that kind as against the belief that, in the context of ..uh.. you know training actors, I was talking to Praveen in the morning, you're saying you know people think you just come and you act. Want to direct? Okay, maybe three month course, okay maybe two month, maybe one year course.
This, not only is there a deep, you know this kind of a modification, a mutation of the ideas of space-time available in this but to me this de-skilling of art in art practice is, is something which I think is a big problem for me in the context of trying to understand the philosophy of art in the future. Where does this question of de-skilling happen? You know in the context of traditional training, is always about great notions of inculcating skill and practices over time. What kinds of de-skilling practices happen through these kinds of spaces and innovations and so on?
Um..so, to..uh.. why I used this opportunity to really talk about this is actually not just to talk about theatrical spaces in the way perhaps you might have wanted, but actually to reflect on the future of a fundamental category of space and time. One in which, not just us, philosophers over centuries in all traditions have been debating saying, some saying there is space and there's time, some saying there's no space except time. And it's impossible to, this would be my territorial claim, that's it's impossible to actually seriously engage with these practices and the ideas of space and time, and art and theatre without engaging conceptually with them in the ways in which some of us would like to.
Thank you so much.
George Jose: Um..well, a really sincere thanks, I think, to Sundar for the because, um.. I think over the past four days we were quietly, many of us I think were, quietly wishing that this problem would, of space that we ourselves brought on ourselves would quietly go away and in actually bringing it right back into the forefront of what we ought to do I think he's provided us the possibility of finding closure to this seminar. I think it's, it's very provocative, wonderful kind of possibilities there for us to think and talk about.
I just want to place, three quick kind of responses to Sundar's presentation before, before we open up for a discussion. The first is, I was very struck by Shukrabartha's spatial metaphor that he presented yesterday in his presentation, which is, which is the striking of a match in the clearing of a forest and I think in presenting that understanding of space I think Shukrabartha, I would submit to you Sundar, did allow for, for an alternative and a relevant and meaningful conception of space that I think people in the theatre and the arts were generally carrying which way and uh..I think..uh.. you know Sundar told me that, that tentatively he had titled his paper 'A time, the time for space' and at [indistinct] I think you know that stands.
I mean I think his paper is very much about, about the time for space and, what is, what is however troubling for me is the ways in which the space of peduca..uh.. pedagogy and education on the one hand and arts practice on the other was being invoked, both by you and by Satish before you, and I'm.. I am uncertain about what the digital age and the SMS ringtones that Satish referred to and the melodies that Sundar referred to, how we can bring these together..um.. I think it's wonderful also at this point in time to, to recall Nimi and Suresh's performance, the Adishakthi performances in that context.
I think there is a potentially productive...very provocative ways in which I think we can, very productive I think ways in which we can attempt to think..uh.. this, this problematic ..uh.. through. Couple of other questions that I have but I think I'll, I'll, I'll reserve that because we need to, we need I think to get into a discussion, open up a discussion soon. I think we'll have about half an hour if we start now and I think that would be very good.
Um..so may I please invite the panellists Romi Khosla, Satish Alekar and Sundar Sarrukai to come on to the stage and if we can see out of show of hands, okay, okay. I can see one, two, three, wow. Okay, okay let me say, sorry Deepa, let me say that let's take this as a set of three questions each huh? And then try and see how we can go. We do have time enough I think to, to accommodate all the questions so the first three questions are Himanshu Burte, Vijay Padaki, and Deepa Avialo.
Yes..uh.. and also a very important request, if you can be brief and pointed in your questions that will enable all of us to listen to all of us, so thank you very much. Himanshu?
Himanshu Burte: Uh.. thanks. It was really a very interesting panel. I won't go into briefing the whole [indistinct] but it really was very stimulating and what I like is how.. uh.. the inter-connections and, on the points that can be discussed. I had three observations which I hope will be enough provocation to elicit some response. The first two are for Romi but they draw on some of the [inaudible]. Romi I, first I must thank you for a very useful and a very apt description of the state of the problem about our generation, [inaudible] in this audience [inaudible] could have done, but I missed, I thought you begun of the, presenting about future city was actually a vision that included nature and left out a very important thing - justice. And I mean it in a very broad sense and I mean it in the sense in the way that connects to the whole discussion of time.
So it's a very spatialized vision of the future and while what you said was important I think it's a.. uh..what, missed through justice were things like, what Satish spoke, is invoke the idea of distribution because justice and distribution are closely linked but is also the question of how that space is produced, that we..we know today that space is produced in a instalment manner and the whole idea of, and this is the second observation, to the danger we've already experienced of guidelines, about plans, projective, speculative plans being very quickly, quickly turning into prescriptive plans. We've learned that with [indistinct], with many other people and most of them have led to all kinds of disasters. So I'm wondering whether we should even begin to..uh.. we should, whether, I think, we should consider not making specific plans, or not making spatial plans.
Yesterday we had a very interesting discussion after the performance with..uh..with Akshara and he said a very, very insightful thing, he said that, that whole dialogue, debate which we saw was not a staged debate. It was, it still was a real debate and yet it was organised around certain principles, so what he said was that there is a shastra that is learned by the artist but the prasanga, that particular, how it unfolds has emerged and perhaps we need to find a way of talking about space which is not spatial alone and which therefore begins with the shastra and lets the prasanga evolve. And I'll, and that kind of offers one way of getting into Sundar's extremely well, well presented, well argued discussion of space and the need to bring time back into space. Yes.. when I, when I spoke about space here the other day, I really was trying to bring that in, in a certain way, in a way of operationalising how to, how to do it.
But I, I fully agree with you. There is a serious, serious problem, I'm talking about space and the fact that it is conceived in a neutral way and also that we really don't have the notion of that kind of abstract space in our traditions. And It is exactly what we did, look for words in Marathi, in Malayalam, Bengali, etc. and I believe [indistinct] and what I suggest as one way of, then how do you think of a) what I call vector space, not a completely abstract directionalised space. How do you think of an, vector space? I think there can be many visions and one vision is through the body and if you think that, there's a very beautiful and very profound idea that came out of the, a sect of psychology.
The work of a guy called Gibson, James Gibson, who proposed that, proposed the theory of affordances and an affordances is a very simple thing actually. It's simply the, the implication, the potential, the promise that a space holds, an environment holds on an organism. So a fox sees a cave and sees it offer him an affordance to hide, for instance, but if the fox wasn't there that cave, the affordance of the cave would not be really activated. So I have in the, in my own book the way I have proposed the [indistinct] space through the body and b) not just the body as a object, is as a texture of affordances and that then frees us from thinking of it as a container, as this neutral completely absent thing right and solves some of, some of the concerns but I submit that there should not be a single way of thinking about space. Thank you.
George: Thanks..uh.. Vijay?
Vijay: Thank you..uh..Not, these are not questions just a couple of responses. Sundar's reference to de-skilling, I guess the dividing line between de-skilling and dumbing down is very thin indeed. We have the serious danger of dumbing down in our environment today, but ..uh, going on to something else. The proposition that there is a fundamental difference between the western view of space and the eastern is a provocative one and I think it needs to be thought through..uh.. and thought through with some detail.
Question one - is this a valid difference? Question two - by validity for me a generalization, are there levels of generalization, is there absolute difference, are there degrees of generalization. Uh.. selective, some situations there is a difference in some situa... and so on. The third, which interests me much more is that, if it is true the question is why? What causes this difference? If I look at this proposition from the lens of the philosophy of science I would ask myself, why..uh.. why is there a difference between a question if you opt space and eastern view? How did it come about?
Uh.. now I, I want to share with you Sundar and the others ..uh.. another point of view.
George: Vijay, I'm sorry, I'm, I'm just wondering, can we take some questions in the first instance and then the reflections or...huh?
Vijay: Okay, so can you hold this space for me?
George: Yes, I will, huh, because I also want to ensure that the panellists have enough time to respond and get a conversation going so, before I get Deepa Avialo to respond, please another request - this first round let's try and kind of, keep it to pointed questions and then we will kind of, take another round for observations and you know...uh.. ya, Deepa?
Deepa: George, I don't have a question I have a piece, bit of information to share if that's okay?
George: Can you, can you hold that then?
Deepa: Ya, sure.
George: Thank you. Okay, the next three set of questions, I know Rustom and Naresh had their hand, Naresh had his hand up but he's not here now. He's gone, okay. So okay, Rustom, Samira and Vikram.
Audience member: I don't have a question [inaudible].
George: Oh! Okay, okay. Uh.. Samira?
Samira: Hi, Samira here, I have a series of questions which came while listening to the talks and might seem a little unconnected, uh.. just before, I want to preface, I want to preface that quickly by saying that I'm actually fascinated with the possibilities of..uh.. the connect between the virtual world and the performance world. I don't mean in a simple performative way, but I, I just think that's an exciting possibility of the times. Uh..when the Gujarat..uh.. you know the program had happened, I was in... can we, can we get another mike Amitha because this mike is..you know. Is it?
So, when..uh, when we were working, when Gujarat happened and I was in Delhi with Sudhu and Sudhu was, they were creating their, Jana Natya Manch was creating their play 'Yeh Dil Mange More Guruji', he mentioned that given the times that we live in theatre has told quite another language and he felt really strongly that the language was a language of satire and subversion. The question I had is, even at separate times, listening to the kind of presentation Romi made, what is our language of protest or demand today? And in a world where we often do not know how our individual action makes a difference, which is also the same world as, as the occupy movements, how can an individual act?
The second question I have is something that's concerning me throughout the seminar but it came up again in your sessions, I wanted to hear, what is our relationship with money? I think there's a huge generational divide here and I'm concerned that the way we talk does not allow a discussion to happen. Amongst generations, are we caught in an old articulation and does that make us unable to intervene or to collaborate?
George: Okay..uh.. Romi, Sundar and Satish, [inaudible].
Romi: I just want to react to, to Himanshu first..uh.. on the issue of justice and diagram of the coming prescriptions. What I have not been able or willing to share at this stage is the complex philosophical issues that lie behind an alternate settlement. I don't think the alternate settlement is simply a physical shift, but..um.. and I want to link this up with, with Sundar's talk which..um.. I believe has placed the correct perspective on the question. It's not space. I think space is very clearly defined in the east and the west but what is not clearly defined is freedom and if we were to substitute that word for it and, and look at some of the work, recent work that's coming up on freedom, I believe we would answer many of the articulations that, actually groups are trying to make here.
Because if we, if we just look at honour, Amartya Sen has explored this issue of justice and freedom quite extensively in his writing and even if I took, take two of his concepts, the concept of freedom of opportunity as being a right, the freedom of using facilities as being a right. I think the questions that theatre people will be asking in relation to using, rather than space..uh.. freedom would get articulated better, because what happens with the word freedom is it, it shifts. Shifts it's meaning from a physical presence of something like spaces to a much more often inherent right. So there is a component of, freedom is much used word but when you shift it in you questions about what you have and what you should have and what you don't have you are asking it through a fundamental right.
I think that strengthens your right to ask these questions. If I'm asking for space in a town, I'll get ridiculed lightly. If I'm asking for my fundamental right to land, space, that's a different question altogether. So I, I would really suggest that this change takes place now. So that addresses the eastern-western concept of space, I think that..um.. there is a lot written about space but in fact, in the city that we're are talking about, is not about space. I never used to word space, actually, it's about a whole new philosophical idea and it, the core behind it is not..uh.. Samira was asking about the right to protest.
I distinguish between protesting and resisting, I think they're two different things and the new city is about resisting the trends that are going on in terms of justice, in terms of economic opportunities, in terms of the facilities it should have so, and the lining is that philosophical base. The diagram which I gave you was in fact just a calculation that we are doing to see what the footprint is. When in fact it's not a, it's not a prescriptive model for urban development.
Sundar: We'll briefly...um..okay. Well firstly about Himanshu the vector space, it's again a very wonderful example and I'm sure you've written more about it but if you really look at the history of the idea of space in that context..um..the real revolution in the idea of space was Descartes Kant’s when you think space can be revelation and vector space is part of that particular, and the shift between, I think that's again something which [indistinct] what Vijay was saying and if there are two different worldviews. It's not east-west, it's happens in the west or a wrong tradition from the Greeks.
Space is a quality or is it a quantity and for us, in all the ways we've been talking about space is essentially as a quantity, term of quantity, a measurement of something but actually space is a quality. A quality of nearness, a quality of farness, which is not explainable in terms of the distance of quality, so vectors is a, still fallback very much in the quantitative theory of space and I'm very glad you mentioned this affordances, what [indistinct] what's this motility, which is a very important idea and should you know, lot of work in cognitive embodiment and so on about body, but I still think that doesn't answer this fundamental question which, which is where the west and the east divide.
So I can give you a reason at least, why, at least according to traditional histories of the ideas of space, why there is a difference and the difference actually begins in the cosmology, the cosmo.. beginning of the Indian civilization and the Greek civilization. In, when the Indians talk about the origin of the world right, it is, they begin with the idea of an infinite space. And it's very fascinating why they begin with the idea of, that there is infinite space and you know, one can keep moving a lot. Almost all Indian traditions right from the you know, vedic times subscribe to infinite space.
What the Greeks do not do however and right, including Plato and Aristotle, is that they just don't understand infinite space. To them all space is finite and that's why this famous question which Plato has to encounter, what happens after the edge of this space? The world is a sphere, is there space outside this sphere? And their whole preoccupation of the Greek understanding of space is that it's a finite space because to them infinite, by the way, is a very negative term for the Greeks. It has all the wrong connotations of, you know, in fact they associate femininity with infinite. The negative qualities of the identified with women.
Now, it takes a long time for them to be able to overcome this question of finite space and because to the Greeks and therefore the fundamental difference, which really I think in my view drives this, is the fact that for Indians these Indian traditions, cultural historic traditions, you could have the idea of space without objects. Which is what challenges this, you know, this, our idea which was, much of [inaudible] space today as Romi was saying, that space occurs as a relationship between objects.
So the question is what if there are no objects? Is there something called space? If we imagine your world which have no objects would there be space? And for the Indians, for the Greeks it is not possible. They just don't understand the world without objects, in which objects which define space. So that actually leads to a very interesting thing and the breakdown of it happens when people discover a vacuum and so on.
So there is in, I would say in a sense a very clear idea of what the distinction is, where at least there's a historical trajectory that begins. The more difficult question you ask is are these kind, fundamentally different in kind. To me the fundamental difference in kind, if there is one, is a more deeper question as you know, is about causality of space and I think that's something which is very very difficult to grasp and what is so surprising is that today, over the last few years, especially in art, there was a meeting with that..uh.. Mitu institute of media or something in Notre Dame. It was a small research meeting, about ten of us who worked on different aspects and the whole meeting was on materialism.
Now the whole belief that objects have material agency, chairs have agency when humans have agency and so the whole question is just space and time and agency, and some of the most important writers are now, I mean the best are now beginning to come back because agency of objects. You know it's happened in architecture and so on, so how do we reconcile this cultural practice of ravalkaalam, muhurtham, vaasthu and whichever way, interpretation of that, I'm not even entering into that position.
Is there, is it possible to engage with it? In other words what these suggest is that space and time have properties, tangible properties, not the intangible which we don't know how to connect, but the only theory which comes closest to tangible properties of space, you have to wait for Einstein's theory to get an idea of tangible properties of space. For relativity to say space is curved and that's a measurable tangible property but until then you don't have the idea that space has a, it can affect you and so on. So, in that sense at least, there is some significance but, you now, the consequences of that are all, you know whether these differences matter etc. are very different.
Well, looking to Samira, I think this is something which I have been trying to make sense of myself, I really don't know because it's all, it's a question of protest and that's why I come back to the question of freedom and the way I respond to it is as follows - to me the question of freedom, which is really at the heart of many of these kinds of things which you get into as Romi also mentioned has to do with a question of accountability. The notion of duty as against my right, fundamentally mine and that one cannot exist without the other. So I also subscribe to very close to what Romi says about protest and resistance as the best ways of communicating.
Now, I also believe that what is possible however difficult it is, since any larger theories of ethical thing..actions are so problematic when you try to conceptualize it, I, personally I feel closest to the Gandhian idea of ethics in terms of individual practice. And that may not, that may be a very problematical sense if you want social change in social practice, but as we have tried to do with this debate. Gopal Guru and myself and, you know, aspects of untouchables and social change. Much of it is again driven through the possibility of social change from individual practices. So in a sense, what I'm, really you know, what I would suggest is that all of you meet Delhi, in which there's a water problem.
Uh.. but you know that's the kind of notion of resistance and protest that I'm saying, but this is something which is I think is at the heart of why I'm not able to, you know, really develop further in art and protest because of this problem of trying to engage what constitutes a protest as against resistance. And..uh.. ya and therefore how can an individual act, in that sense for me, the only one I feel most comfortable is this, the arguing thing of you know, practice what you preach [indistinct].
And the question of relation with money and that's again a larger conte.. how do we engage with this question of corporatizing.. you know, the corporates, the funding and so we have a very traditional discourse protesting against multinationals, corporates and so on. I still believe that the question of money has, like the question of space or freedom, has not been [indistinct] sufficiently. One of the best works on it is by Simmel, on money, it comes with consumption, I'm not even calling it philospophics, it comes with trying to think through that idea of money.
But it's so surprising that part of the resistance to thinking about money is part of academic practice. It's got materialized so much in, just in terms of the money we carry that really to conceptualize about money has become the most difficult things and the people who are culprit, the people who are really behind this are the economists. Because they cannot, you know, in that sense convert money into, so even Simmel's work, people have responded to this actually. I think that's really [indistinct].
Satish: So, as far as a theatre practitioner, for us seminars are a question of money. I think it is very very individual choice 'cause it depends upon the individual’s scene and one cannot question individual scene. It's been a very private question, because if you..uh.. and it is very challenging. I can cite the example of theatre academy. We're are having a enormous successful play in your, at our hands, Ghashiram Kotwal. Average collection was huge, that time forty years back but what we have decided collectively that we are not going to take a single rupee from the box office collection. That is decided and that is on our statute of non-profit making organisations constitution. And we've decided that the use of that money, as a kind of subsidy to our group. And it was collective decision we have taken.
Why we had taken that decision that time? We are so committed, we are..I don't have any kind of a say but we have taken decision and with that subsidy our group continued about twenty-five years and all the whole plays have been funded from the collection of that play Ghashiram Kotwal. And we say that if you have to have the one play of Ghashiram Kotwal you must organise one play of Mahanirvan or one play of some other play. So that's how we organise ourself and times were different in that time. Similarly many of our artists, for example me as a playwright, immediately after the first play I wrote I was offered to write a play for [indistinct] company. [indistinct] offered me, he say that you wrote a play like Mickey and Memsahib which ran only for eight performances. He said that you are a playwright, you write a good play but write for us and I'm ready to give you the advance.
So I refused that time, it's not a big thing but I said the kind of a play what you require I may not be able to write, this is my limitation. Whenever I write that kind of a play I will come to you, so it is very very difficult to say and make a generalized statement about the money, need of money, it's very very personal and an individual choice. But the time have, changed now, especially after the 90's, how to survive in theatre, the kind of theatre what we believe in. So I think that every theatre group has to have a, some kind of a commercial activity going on to support the creative activity. How that commercial activity is to be done, that I really individual people has to decide.
Maybe..uh.. Kamlakar Sarang used to own one grocery shop, used to own a grocery shop and that to support his theatre. How you are going to do whether we we are to have a corporate company, we're going to open the IT office, we're going to sound studio or auction house. Again I will tell you the..uh.. small, local story of..uh.. Pune Theatre Academy group. What happened around 90's that some of the younger generation we introduce in Theatre Academy. They were really restless and they decided to get away and they established a production house known as..uh.. Indian Magic Eye, which is one of the very prominent..uh.. video production house now existing. You name any popular serial or any, any reality show has been curated by this and it has been starting by the artists who left from Theatre Academy, but in a way they are supporting to the serious theatre.
They are employing the artists from the theatre groups, giving them part-time jobs, supporting to serious seminars etc. So in a way they are very supportive. Again it's a individual..uh.. need but one has to find some kind of a commercial activity in order to support serious theatre. Again a language of protest and demand, I think as a practitioner, I think that in order to do a protest and demand, for us to write a good play first and then the protest kind of thing will, otherwise people won't listen to you. You have to be a credible, you must have the credible audience first in order to people listen to your protest.
When Dr. Lagoo says that the god should be tired, people listen because he has got lot of credibility as an actor, in his, and..uh.. space. I want to give you one line, statement to a small person, space is for me where I hold my audience at my own terms. Thank you
George: Thank you. Okay..uh.. yes..uh.. okay, I think I've got seven names. Okay so, two sets, two sets of interventions from the floor. The first set of three, Rustom Bharucha, Naresh Narasimhan and Arjun Ghosh. Please.
Rustom: It's bit scary to just open one's mouth and pitch in because it's such a rich flow of thoughts. I'll pick up..um.. Sundar's brilliant, provocative phrase, 'No solutions for metaphors' and I thought that that could be one way of linking these three very seemingly diverse presentations. What are the limits of metaphors? What are the possibilities of metaphors and what indeed are the limits of philosophical thinking about metaphors? Now the first two presentations, for me, there was nothing metaphorical as such about them. They were dealing with the real, they were dealing, and listening to Romi was very moving because I was hearing an old mentor of mine who is no longer around, Komal Kothari, whose work did honestly did the [indistinct] of course with water.
That's the second chapter of my book and he was saying, when you were saying things like, Romi, like fathers protesting, why the hell should our water be taken from us and you know sent in key decisions. They're not going to take that anymore, they've sabotaged those tides. When you were talking about the waste of green water, you know, which is huge in, in the little museum that I, I created in the desert..uh.. Arna-Jharna. The one achievement of that museum is that the creator of a sandstone mine, which of course is destructive, has now become a lake, because all it needs is two rainfalls and there's enough water over there for the entire year.
You know, so those things were very tangible..uh.. you know as I was hearing both of you. But Sundar kind of troubled everything and he perhaps made us think very productively that the way space is being used in this..uh.. loose way. It's almost a metaphor, if you will, a screen for saying things which are not said. And, I, I'll just really provoke my [indistinct], and you, I would agree with you that actually it's impossible to talk about space without time and therefore that kind of conceptualization really coming, is coming a little too late in the day. It's something that we maybe should have started up.
Freedom, I'm not so sure about. I don't think freedom and time can be given the same valency. I have..I think it comes with a very different set of.. of..uh.. questions. Now, in the theatre we basically think metaphorically, imaginatively but it is in the real. You know, it is in this [indistinct] as Nina Pani would say, hereness. Even if I'm doing this, it's real, you know. Now I'll go back to what Sadanand had said if there are, it's a very parodical, the moment in modern dance that Chandralekha, doing this very beautiful piece on water. So that's the motive I'm, I'm thinking about and there's a whole language of mudras and hastas and bhavas around water. And as she is dancing, and suddenly she is thinking about a drought. Okay, and she is seeing tin cans and people don't have water, and it hits her.
It enters the consciousness, you know. So that is real, that's very real for us and it results in what she described as a split. There's a certain kind of split that takes. So I'm trying to complicate what happens when you perform and indeed what Satish Alekar, holding that audience, that also not being able to perform. You also very briefly said, why don't you get out of Delhi or why don't you get out of the cities. Okay, I'm just thinking exactly that, just the second part of the question. If I have to name four theaters where I have felt at ease in my work. I'm really struck by four of them, Skills in Chennai, of course it's in cities that they have, very special part of the city with a grove of trees. Uh.. Ninasam, Heggodu..uh..Adishakthi, outside Pondicherry and more recently Kattaikkuttu Sangam.
What do those four spaces have in common? Trees. I would say they have trees in common and South India, indeed. South India, it's happening there. That's a chauvinist for you but I was going to say that. That..uh.. makes me think why is it happening there? You know, and of course those models, if you will, cannot be replicated in the city and therefore we are to fall into a different set of tactics, software tactics. Different modes of survival which you would, Satish Alekar has pointed out, lasts through our question digitalization opens out new possibilities of personalizing space. It distributes space, on the lines of Jacque [indistinct], in the way that our models no longer work at some level.
We still continue to talk about the oppressed and sometimes we work with the oppressed, but very rarely, but true digitalization actually, there's a completely different access. To what effect? We don't know. Freedom? We don't know. Control, who controls? We don't really know, but let's accept that. Now I'm going to throw out the last philosophical question maybe to, to Sundar. Digitalization, in my view, aesthetically kills resonance. Resonance is not surviving digitalization and resonance, philosophically, aesthetically for us I think, prani and rasa not possible without resistance.
Naresh: These are some general responses to both..uh.. Romi's presentation and Sundar's presentation. Much of the, and particularly to the point Sundar raised about western and eastern conception of space. Much of the western debate, particularly in the modern movement about spaces are actually centered on buildings, starting with Le Corbusier's famous statement saying that the building is a machine. That and..and when we talk about cities, most of the time we are talking about buildings and not about the spaces between the buildings. Probably one of the fundamental [indistinct] that always the focus, even in..uh.. Romi's presentation, you notice that without the master plan, what you saw in the plan was not what you saw in the perspective view. In the perspective view you would see buildings, in the plan you would see the green spaces.
So, there is always this huge debate and in India, traditionally, the use of the mandala, the form of the mandala to represent cosmological space is a very common thing and we normally confuse concepts of space in India for, when you said vaasthu for instance. Vaasthu is represented by the vaasthu purusha mandala and mandala is more like a prescriptive diagram on almost, I would say it was [indistinct]. But there is a older concept which we seem to have forgotten and I want to tie up the western and Indian thing.
The concept of the yantra, the yantra can be loosely translated as the machine but you can actually lift the meaning, you can understand it at a much greater level as more as a, suppose you said space is the machine, not buildings and start thinking about how to use the yantra as a tool for spatial analysis. Many times when we talk about space there are very few tools to, you made a point saying you can't touch it, it's empirical, etc., etc. you can't..it's not empirical rather. You can't feel it, you can't move it but not completely true, there are the yantra that analysis, this tool for spatial analysis is not sufficiently explored in Indian planning wisdom.
And a spatial analysis based on human experience and not just on some abstract qualities. Yantra is not a master plan, it is a tool for dealing with multi-sensory spatial experiences not at a paradigmatic level but at a metaphorical level, though I know you have issues with solutions for metaphors, but a yantra is a solution at a metaphorical level, a way you think about things. Uh.. Jane Drew, one of the architects working with Le Corbusier at the time of planning Chandigarh made a statement in 1958 in which the famous seminar at the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1959 called 'Seminar on Indian Architecture' which Jawaharlal Nehru opened with the provocative statement saying, "The past was great when it was the present but you cannot bring it forward into what has become a technological period."
Jane Drew's opening seminar said, "We have to stop thinking of cities and spaces in a 3D way. We think of everything as length, breadth and depth but start thinking of spaces and cities in a 5D way, which includes the two dimensions of temporality and the relativity of local knowledge. Thank you.
George: Okay..uh.. I also am very aware of the time, we've got six more speakers that I've got listed out so I'm going to ask the six speakers voluntarily if any of you'll want to stand down, to consider that..okay, one down already. Thanks you Zuleikha. Also the other hurry, because the session to follow is very important. That open discussion is very important and I don't want us to compromise with the time for that. So please, the next set of interventions from the floor, direct and quick huh? And that will be the last set. Arjun, Jehan, Mithan?
George: Malika, sorry.
Malika: I'll speak in the next session.
George: Thank you. So that's Arjun, Jehan, Anita.
Anita: If there is no time I'll speak in the next session.
George: Okay, Jehan?
Jehan: I [indistinct] no need.
George: Arjun, thank you. Amelie and Jean Du and Jean Guy. Wonderful, Jean Guy! Thanks again.
Audience member: Sorry, well, go ahead.
Audience member: I just want to ask some thing, it's not exactly a question. I listen the word freedom and I know each time I draw of space I, with reason not freedom. Each line I draw is part of imagination of the people who are going to work in, who disappear and I hope we cannot imagine the space of the future. The space of the future have to be designed by the artist themself. The best we can do as a professional within space or theatre is to be humble and to listen.
George: Thank you. Concluding comments from the panellists please.
Romi: I'd just like to take up a point that Sundar had, so I'm really talking to him, about the difference between east and west. I think the, kind of critical questions that come up periodically in any professional work or any work that we do, and your idea that, the business of finite and infinite space. I think, there's a, there's a, there's another very important distinction that separates how conceptually the east and the west is. In eastern thought the origins of any, anything are centered on thought coming before the human body. In western conceptual thinking, in the Greek conceptual thinking the human body is created bef..as is also evidenced in the bible.
It's evidenced, it's created before the thought and there is no meeting point in this because Nagarjuna who is, who has written considerably about this matter about space being empty, about a thought being the, the critical, [indistinct]..uh.. and the continuity of existence. So that's the only really comment I'd like to make.
Satish: Thank you for bearing with me. Thank you.
Sundar: Well, this one time I..uh.. I think there were a few questions on this east-west, I think the point was rightly not to make a distinction. I think I was trying to understand how the usage of the terms and the concepts that we have in all our languages also point to this problem of space in this inert sense. There's always a notion of place, the locality, the specificity which then, then makes space political. That's what Sadanand had also mentioned, why hegemony of space. It's always inscribed in any invocation, in any imagination of space so that it is metaphorical or not.
So, for me, that is also not just in terms of ancient philosophical practice but in terms of cultural practice we seem to engage and relate to space and the cultural ways of talking about this causal power of space and time. The power of space and time is a very interesting, important thing for me intellectually because it happens with language. Again, very drastic distinction between the notion of power in words as against the way we understand the meaning of words. So again and understand it's in why two people think, what are the consequences of such metaphysics and I agree with you Rustom about, on what, that you said about..uh.. metaphors and I, I can't, I'm not too, I mean I can't be literal about metaphors because we are immersed in a worlds of metaphors and my response to no solution to metaphors is just, as I said a very provocative thing to this partic.. references to this since we heard so much about building and whether [indistinct] who can do it and so on.
But I'm very sympathetic to the fact, perhaps we'll never be able to step outside metaphors and the real challenge is then to refine and decide what metaphors are important to use. And when I say I want to use freedom instead of space it's a political decision I want to make. I'm not saying that the, you might say that the very idea of freedom itself has a lot of metaphorical resonances but I'm saying look I want to use the [inaudible], it does these, these, these things. Not just because I want to [indistinct], because I'm saying using space you're evading this question. That's you know, so, that is the notion of the use of the critique for metaphors.
And I agree with you on that, the digitalization I'm still struggling through trying to understand it. What seems as you correctly said, this personalization of space seems to be conceptually a market shift, defining shift in the way these technologies impact on space and time. But in the note.. in the issue of aesthetics and resonance, etc. it's a very important contribution [inaudible].
Um..Thank you Naresh and thank you all for these comments, thank you.
George: My apologies Divya..uh.. I hope you can kind of enter the discussion and, in the course of that session. Thank you very much Romi Khosla, Satish Alekar and Sundar Sarrukai. It was a wonderfully productive panel and thank you for that. Two announcements, Deepa, hello Deepa, what..Deepa, where is Deepa? Ah! Why don't you come up? Use the mic.