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Surajit Sarkar

Ring of Blue

Ring of Blue Web Site
Over the years, the Catapult Arts Caravan has gathered a vast collection of video and audio recordings from its village-to-village performances. Seeking to generate local participation in the creation of public electronic art, the performances of the Catapult Arts Caravan are set in public spaces, most often public markets. The performances record a here-and-now ethnography by presenting contemporary reflections and stories from participants on forest, land and water issues. Sarkar regretted that the Catapult Arts Caravan performances did not leave any physical trace outside these events, spurring the idea of creating a semi-permanent, interactive exhibition as a way of documenting and organising these local memories and stories.

Its new project, A Ring of Blue, deals with the knowledge and values surrounding water in India, a central element of the ancestral belief system and the core of people's socio-cultural life. As Sarkar explains, A Ring of Blue specifically examines the geopolitical issues of water, including its consumption, transport and management, while taking into consideration traditional knowledge of the subject. The project is also considered a potential model for civic Internet use around the world, as it attempts to democratise technology by taking diversity of opinion into public spaces.

During his residency, Sarkar organised the Catapult Arts Caravan video and audio content. With the help of Canadian artist Karen D. Thornton, he learned how to understand and use the necessary digital technologies to create his interactive geographical map. He then attempted to create an exhibition prototype that he would be able to customise from location to location and that would be presented for a two-week run.

The A Ring of Blue prototype was presented at OBORO in November 2007. Sarkar created an interactive three-dimensional geographical map onto which he had placed various objects. The map made use of motion sensors, which were connected to speakers and video monitors. In order for participants to fully engage with the exhibit and its oral knowledge content, they had to handle the objects, which would then stimulate an audio recording or a video projection drawn from the Catapult Arts Caravan collection.

Based on this interactive map, Sarkar created a parallel Web version. By presenting a selection of the audio and video collections from the Catapult Arts Caravan online, the Ring of blue Web site attempts to create a permanent trace and exhibition of the project.

Sarkar views the customised travelling exhibit as belonging to the first phase of a project. The travelling exhibit will be presented for two-week intervals at each location and will use different objects at each location. He hopes to eventually create a Rural Digital Arts Media Lab, which will work with community groups, local educational institutions and formal and informal artist networks. The Media Lab is seen as the future centre of the Catapult Art Caravan activities and as such will further enable users to create artistic expression and interact with technologies to record meaningful content through stories and teaching.

RaphaĆ«lle Aubin © 2007 FDL