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Ashok Sukumaran

Recurrencies: across electricity and the urban

Ashok Sukumaran, Recurrencies (House), 2007
Ashok Sukumaran, Recurrencies (House), 2007 Ashok Sukumaran, Recurrencies (House), 2007 Ashok Sukumaran, Recurrencies (House), 2007
Consider the act of flipping a household switch. If we suspend for just a moment our deep familiarity with the electrical network and most household devices, the switch floats free... it could belong to almost any meaning system – poetry or politics, bombs or bouquets.

Ashok Sukumaran's project seeks to build some fifty “embedded” electronic arrangements in physical urban spaces in India, primarily in the Indian cities of Mumbai and Bangalore. Each such “circuit” will operate using a wired or wireless network and will be typically driven by a microprocessor or simpler logic or switching circuit. The project is an attempt to prefigure, using easily available technology, the embedding of our physical environment with surveillance networks, sensor nets, RFID, and other locative and pervasive technologies to come. In other words, it seeks to describe what happens when a system is embedded into something that already exists. At the same time, it is a poetic reappraisal of electricity, a network that is already deeply embedded in our cities and societies.

In India, many overlapping regimes of state-owned, privately controlled and “informal” networks are jammed together in narrow spaces and even narrower evolutionary cycles. Into this terrain the artist will attempt to insert elements of DIY infrastructure, arrangements new or old, that “make appear” or bring into discourse and experience intentions and operations that tend towards ever deeper embedment, or disappearance.

Like much of Sukumaran’s other work, these projects take a new look at missed opportunities and what he considers gaps in the conception of "new media" as a cultural practice. Cultural-theoretical rhetoric around “new media” is now easily found in India, and his attempt is to provide a set of concrete enactments upon which further critique and experimentation can be at least partly based. Ultimately, it is also a project about bringing certain agencies into the domain we often call “street wisdom,” a kind of knowledge we so often borrow from, but rarely give back to.

Jacques Perron © 2007 FDL