Myanmar

March 19, 2010

June 20, 1999

The arrival terminal at Myanmar’s Yangon airport ushers you with resplendent granite, gleaming, spotless floors and high ceilings, efficient people and the FEC. Automatically you get initiated along with the conversion of your dollars to a unique if subversive politico-economic junta.

The taxi man on negotiation of the broad roads and clean culverts Kyats (pronounced chats) you up and shows you a tatty album of endorsements by happy tourists. All quotes for wonderful destinations are in USD. The wife digs her elbow in, flashing kajal  eyes with admonishments and gestures of ‘I don’t like hard sell’.

We check out the Y and other alphabets in the Lonely Planet and try and make off season deals in May all the while speaking two Myanmar words, AC. All rates at hotels are plus or minus Air Conditioning. The government alternates power so every other day there is electricity, which simply translates to every other day there is no AC. The alternate power and democratically elected is under house arrest. There is angst over Aung San Su Chi.

To visit the Shwedagon Paya with its  8,000 plates of solid gold and diamond encrusted stupa, all foreigners have to pay in USD. It is a conspicuous symbol in Yangon of the disparity where opulence is a terrible understatement.

The friendly gentleman in lounji who moonlights as a guide indicates that his pension is $3/month while the hotel bill for a day could sustain him for a year. The moon light bounces with the sodium vapour making Swedagon an ethereal sight.

The leaflet meant for the tourist is propaganda indicating how the military trustees are doing all they can to make the Paya more wealthy. One look at the people milling around the Pagoda propitiating their birth sign icons would indicate a deviated value.

Everyone wants to talk about the political scenario but there is so much looking over the shoulder that chiropractors must have a huge clientele.

2500 years ago the Buddha discovered that desire is the cause of all suffering. The philosophy of Anicha (impermanence), is taught in the Vipassna meditation centres.

Myanmar seems to in a very small space encapsulate influences. There is a large community of Tamil Indians who know no Indian language, they came from colonised India. The British left Anglican and Methodist churches whose gothic spires make dents in the Yangon skyline. The cavernous interiors rattle with a geriatric community.  Post independence certain communities have not found the same favour, job opportunities are chiefly all governmental, private enterprise is difficult to sustain. The expensive Pajeros are driven by the Chinese or those connected to the establishment. The new aristocracy live in plush houses by the lake and no doubt wear olive green with epaulets to work.

The universities known for dissenting voices have been shut down for the last five years. Engineers have become farmers and chemists tour guides. There is an undercurrent of frustration.

The monks form a single file in their burgundy robes and ‘mindfully’ enter the dining hall or go begging in the morning for the only meal of the day.The Ayeyarwady river is omnipresent in Myanmar. Much logging activity happens along it, within it, the rusted ferrys that ply across the delta have their own sub culture. The upper deck has painted rectangles marked on the boards where you can take residence for the journey. People instantly spread plastic sheets and curl up ready for a protracted trip. Rarely, never do you see people complain. There is a kind of resignation that is wonderful and horrible simultaneously.

The Road to Mandalay is where the video coaches ply. A saccharine voice welcomes you aboard Leo Express and promises to take care of ‘your physical, emotional and spiritual needs’. If for just an instant  you thought you were on an omnibus to heaven, the soppy films with predictable endings shown throughout the night at high decibel and compact lady in the seat across nibbling dried jerkin, weeping tears of bathbrick would jerk you back to reality.

Vehicles are right hand drive and are driven on the right hand side of the road. Overtaking is always a nightmare. Skinny, schizoid dogs make lupine gestures  at the cars. Gasoline is black marketed. All along the road there are ad hoc stations with petrol in unsafe containers decanting fuel. The government pumps rationed quotas.

The other side of the river studded with payas, has a couple of fabulous wooden monasteries on stilts. In the adjoining monastery 7 year olds novices are mugging for an exam, the temporal and the spiritual run like an old juke box, drop in a coin and listen to what you will.

Most women and some men wear a paste of tree bark called Tatanka on their faces as a sunblock and cosmetic. In the poorer houses there are no closets with belongings just an altar to Buddha and a place near a window with a grinding stone and ingredients for Tatanka.  The people are indiscriminately gentle, hospitable and alarmingly open with genuine kindness and beguiling smiles who will literally walk the extra mile to be of help. It is obvious how they can be taken advantage of.

The Kuaungh Mudaw Paya whose unique white pagoda is said to resemble the perfect proportions of a queen’s breast, is ironically in a place called Sagaing.

Bagan must be one of the most impressive places in all of Myanmar and  not surprisingly the reason for its bankruptcy. It was a place in the 13th century that stood for conspicuous consumption. Real estate developers created 13,000 payas.  Our young friend and guide, Caesar said he spent a sleepless night thinking of all the places he needed to get us to and where the best angles would be for photography. From atop of one of Bagan’s highest payas he indicated a corner that he says he will never forget, where he and his Canadian girlfriend watched the sunset.

Kublai Khan sacked the city in 1287 and  In 1973 a great earthquake destroyed much of the megapolis. Realising the tourist (read USD) potential of the place the government has begun ‘restoration’ work that would indicate a damaged mind. They recreate new payas leaving man-made cracks to resemble the old damaged structures. Even so, the place has magic and an alchemy of energy that can take you any place you want.

In the Anando Pahto there are 4 standing gold buddhas facing the four directions, three of them have their hands by their sides the fourth one can’t control himself, he has his hands outstretched beckoning, uplifting, a shaft of light neonifies his fingers, a sparrow decides to take the invitation.

Everywhere even in small towns you see signs that indicate ‘country club and golf course’. One wonders if these were accessible to the public at large, Myanmar would have challenges to Tiger Woods.

The people who live outside the inner coterie, like people in that category anywhere in the third world have learnt to toggle a switch in their heads and hearts and find happiness in simple things. The Buddha must smile, but surely near the ostentation of the gold Payas and the rich trust funds must exist only  man’s vanity.

The Kyaiktiyo or Golden Rock monastery has this wonderful rock teetering on a cliff hanger by the hair of the Buddha. The steep hill is partially accessible by Canter trucks driven by manic drivers. People are herded in like cattle on the floor boards in the back . It is a very rough ride to the point of exit, then like punishment foreigners are made to walk the remaining steep incline after paying the absurd USD 6 a piece. It is a surprisingly inhospitable gesture that cannot originate from the anything but hospitable people. The authorities seem at all junctures to inform you that we don’t like you just your USD. Sedan chair carriers poke fun at those huffing and puffing to make the steep grade all the time announcing 3000 Kyats as one makes the steep spiral upwards, the rates keep spiralling downwards till they reach break even point and then without a murmur they disappear. But the top like most mountain summits is awesome, the view is stunning and this, one of the  most sacred sites in Myanmar is fantastic. Pilgrims plaster gold leaf on the rock which is swirling in a morning mist, the sky opens for an instant revealing a nugget so large that it dwarfs the monks around it.

The golden rock paya seemed like a good place to end this cameo visit to Myanmar. The departure terminal seemed like such a departure from the Arrival. Even the staff could not hold the facade any longer. Myanmar seemed to be saying we tried to impress you as you came in but realised that its too much of an act to sustain.

The fact is that Myanmar is impressive, the people are some of the warmest and kindest people I have met. I do know that the Anicha  message of the Buddha is organic with them. Impermanence is the watchword. Generals watch out.

Advertisements

Marrakech loves India

March 19, 2010

28/4/04

Morocco has always been rather high on my list of countries to visit. Albert Watson’s remarkable book Cyclops embellished with its stochastic screen trio tone reproductions has wonderful photographs of the exotic and the fetishes of Morocco. Quite by chance recently, after sending a proposal for a book to an overseas organisation, they wrote back saying ‘Go to  Marrakech’. Initially I thought that that phrase in German might mean go to hell or something equally discouraging but discovered that they were in fact talking travel. Very quickly I had to find out all I needed to know about Morocco. An Italian friend gave me an invaluable piece of advice, ‘ take hindi film audio, video cassettes, and film posters’ was his terse message. I did take some 35 current hindi film tracks, Dil to pagal hai and Hritek Roshan and that kind of thing.

Morocco is not connected to Mumbai easily for reasons that were going to become abundantly clear later on. You can get to Marrakech via Amman by Jordan Air with a stop over in Amman, great if you want to visit the Nabataen tombs and Treasury of Petra, Jordan is a beautiful country in any case, all air routes are via Casablanca of Bogart fame, but you will be disappointed with Casablanca, its name is far more romantic than the reality. From Casablanca you can fly to Marrakech via Air Moroc. I choose to go via Milan, Barcelona (Alitalia) and Barcelona -Casablanca- Marrakech by Air Moroc, only because I needed to firstly catch up with friends I met 22 years ago and I needed to photograph the Sagrada familia and other Gaudi architecture. I also needed to research Flamenco.

Morocco is on the north western coast of Africa on the Mediterranean. It is 8 km away from Europe, has been colonised by the French and only recently after India’s Independence got its own. But it has been at the cross roads of all kinds of trade and cultural exchanges between Europe and Africa and Asia for centuries before that. It has predominantly Berber (fair skin blue eyes) and Arab (brown skin, curly hair) influence. The languages spoken are Arabic and French. The Arabic is a dialect and different radically I’m told from that which is spoken in Arabia, but in Arabia they speak all kinds of dialects too. Since I attempt to speak a smattering of Arabic and French, no verbs please, we’re Indian, just nouns strung together with the infinitives, I sort of managed. The government has reaslised that French is not a doorway to the world (I wish the French would realise that too) and now teaches English as a second language in schools. In ten years time you will get by quite nicely in English. But I feel that language is a barrier and not a barrier if you are disposed to listening with your eyes, nose, skin  and heart. My feeling is that the attempt one makes to understand people itself is the catalyst that opens wonderful insights. Translators have their place, sometimes very away from the actual photography. True you will not be able to discuss Hegel and Kant and Vivekanand, but there are many things where sheer observation is communication. Photography being the handmaiden of observation, photographers ideally should have little problem.

Morocco has a conservative islamic generation that is layered in the predominantly youthful, liberal  population. It is not uncommon to see three generations of women, the grandmother in orange jelaba with veil up to the nose, the mother in printed jelaba, no veil and the daughter 20 something in tight trousers and figure hugging top, platform shoes, trendy shades and coiffured, full kissable lips, chewing gum and walking nonchalantly down the jamaal el Fna. The women are gorgeous and the men too, light eyes, olive complexion, crisp hair.

The covered souks are situated in the Medina, a generic term for an ancient (10th century) labyrinthine, Islamic habitation. The passages have typically high walls, close together (desert culture) no windows, just tiny doors where you have to stoop to enter. The doors are grungy and non discript but they can open into mind bending Riyads (private homes) that are ancient and fabulous with mosaic work and fine plaster reliefs. The Riyads all have a central courtyard and all the rooms open into this common meeting area, like our havellis in Rjasthan. Several Foreigners, including Albert Watson now have winter Riyads in the medina. Hermes the french silk scarf couturier has a home that has a mosaic swimming pool on the first floor and over the top artifacts on every square inch of wall, quite bewildering to behold. He has even managed to put in an elevator . All the homes in the medina have no more than one floor.

The food is great though being a born again vegetarian I could enjoy the smells of escargot soup and brain and organ transplant dishes. The salads and olives are just too delicious. Oranges fall from burdened trees on the ground to rot. It would be safe to assume that orange juice is cheaper than bottled water.

Everywhere in the medina I’d be accosted, hello Indian would be the common refrain. Indians and myself in particular can be mistaken for many other nationalities, Greek, Arab, Latin, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Banglasdeshi. It would surprise me. when I mentioned this to a French colleague he remarked ‘frankly David you don’t look Norwegian’. So I guess I must look ‘Indian’. Then they would proceed with the roll call, Amitabh Bachaan, Sharouk Khan etc etc, reminding me of the days on the Bosphorus in Istanbul when during conversation it came up that I was from India, all other leads came to a grinding halt and all my host wanted to know about was Raj Kapoor and Nutan. One day at lunch the waiter made the now familiar discovery of my being Indian, and started with the litany of Bollywood stars to which I just nodded with my mouth making herbivorous gestures of stripping the olive flesh from the stones.Then on my way down he began singing ‘Aa Jaa Aa Jaa’. I had to turn around and give him a hug and promised the next day to give him a hindi audio cassette to update his repertoire.

In the souk I would ask people to do strange things for my photographs and they would oblige. Because of the heavy tourist exposure, the invariable tip in Dhirams would be solicited. I would say no Dhiram but would give away a hindi audio. Then the assistant at the shop came up to me and asked for a Sharouk Khan tape and I told him that when he would open his shop the following day at 9 am I would come by with the tape, to which he nodded with a disbelieving look that says I’ve heard this don’t call me I’ll call you. The following day I turned up as he was raising the shutter and handed out a cassette with SK on it. He took it but was not entirely pleased, he said no I want Sharouk Khan, Sharouk Khan, then I had to point out that the face on the cover was indeed Sharouk Khan, when he realised this he went running down the street with hands flaying wildly and screaming like a banshee in excitement. For the first time in my life I felt some respect for Bollywood and its ambassadorial role.

The Gnawa music of Morocco most closely resembles Soul. It has that blues quality that is distinctive. The musicians dance with a tassle on their caps kept twriling as they make rhythmic movements with their necks, its a dervish derivative and can be mesmeric.

Not many Indians pass through Morocco and this is why no flights go there directly. people are curious about Indians, kind of third world bonding. They would excuse me most generously for not being muslim. Everywhere I went people wanted to sit me down and over zillion cups of mint tea would want to know about my life and my country while invariably the light would get to that magic phase where everything is sublimated. Yes they were interested in selling me the odd kitsch, but were genuinely absorbed in discovering India. A very genteel people who despite their exposure to tourism and commercialism are not hard sell. There is more to Morocco than the Marrakech medina for sure and I will be back to photograph this ancient culture assimilating change yet holding on so organically to that which makes it unique.

Clitoridectomy

March 19, 2010

7/8/06


Tits, Clits n Elephant Dicks might seem like a controversial title to an art exhibition, that it survived 8 days without event might have driven Sanjeev Kandekar and his simulacrum  into oblivion,  that he is now the subject of this article he has to thank Pushpa Vitula. But there are larger issues involved.

Did Sanjeev set Pushpa up? As in the perfect crime?

How to disagree with a point of view is a mature ‘civilised’ conversation. Is it appropriate to run to the police or a thug political outfit when you disagree with what is art or not in an art gallery? Can one persons claim that something is offensive stop others who might or might not think the same way. How are my civil liberties being honoured if your’s a day earlier prevents my seeing and deciding for myself.

Don’t art galleries have committees that decide what is appropriate to show in their spaces?

Do you run to the police if you did not like the syllabus that your child in school is subjected to?

When the police or political parties become arbiters of art and decency you have the beginnings of fascism.

If you took down a book because it contained offensive material to someone, anyone, there would be no library in the world with a single book on its shelf, the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and the Koran among other holy texts included.

Shakespeare during his lifetime must have faced criticism as well as acclaim then came

Thomas Bowdler (July 11, 1754February 24, 1825 who published a censored edition of Shakespeare‘s work so that it would be considered appropriate for children. In all probability when you buy the complete works of Shakespeare for your children today it will be the original as offensive as the bard wrote them.

Lewis Carroll (Henry Dodson) wrote Alice in Wonderland, chances are that if you read the classic 10 or more years ago it would have been with two chapters missing, as the publishers then thought them inappropriate. Today Alice is the complete unabridged book. Would you gift this ‘perverted’ children’s book to a 12 year old?

Gandhi wanted to have the temples of Khajurao covered as he thought they were obscene.

Every generation, every culture, every religion as indeed every person has their own personal range of the appropriate and the offensive. Starting with burping and farting to what you say, how you dress, and how you express yourself. Janet Jackon might have wardrobe malfunction exposing her breast and yet on our pavements, in the trains, garments function popping out breasts to feed infants. The context varies. Is it prime time TV?

When dealing with the issues of censorship it might be interesting to point out the work done by the anthropologist Margaret Mead in the seminal, Growing up in Samoa and other work done in Papua New Guinea. Her thesis is that adolescent stress is a function of urbanity, and not of adolescence per se. The fact that birth, death and the processes involved becomes fragmented, alien, staccato acts to us rather than seen as seamless life unfolding, she suggests is the source of strife. If the birds and the bees, sex and sexuality were just processes with concomitant pleasures and frustrations rather than titillating merchandise that make the cash registers ring, our adolescents that grow into censoring adults might have a different take on the world and all that’s in it.

Helmut Newton’s sharp, strong nudes in stilettos were a constant source of irritation to feminists of his day, who labeled him Porno chic till they caught up with his oeuvre and then just called him chic. The list is endless.

Don’t we say things, wear things, see things, hear things that our parents might have been shocked by, they have become par for the course, Is this all degenerate, it might be retrograde to think that. The present is all we have and it would be wise to listen to our memory.

The world is not out there but in here, invariably its a case of the transferred epithet, the idiot box, it all depends on the idiot this side of the box.

BUZZ

March 19, 2010

30/10/77

BUZZ

And such a stock of custardapples. And so many thoughts of you.

And hoping that the season holds till Diwali. And hopefully I will

bring some home. And the guruji has given me a hell of a lot of monkey

nuts. And I am wondering where the monkey stores his nuts.

Like its the 30th of October and tomorrow will be the end of October.

Like when a boy comes home with a gigantic cucumber. And the other boys

descend on it. Like Vultures or Gidhades on a rotting carcass. Like flies are

buzzing around me. And its common property. Like unwritten laws and tradition.

Like I gave some boy some monkey nuts. And he ran away immediately.

And all the boys are calling after him. And he is not within sight or

sound. And I know where he has gone. Like hide and seek. And eat

before they get you. Like vultures or Gidhade. And I’m not talking about

Vijay Tendulkar. And I’m not talking about Alyque Padamsee.

Like the boys have their own ruling. And no one ever cries. And the

law is that of the jungle. And there is a slight difference. Like there are

forty five muleteers. And its all for one and one for all. And there are

exceptions to every rule. And the exception is monkey nuts.

And its not the lusty month of May. And still there are lusty cocks. Like they

are chasing the hens. And one hears a clucking and a running. Like catch

me if you can. And its a man’s world. And the clucking stops. And you see

the cock looking very pleased with himself. See. And its not Camelot.

And our cocks are evergreen. And the dogs are feeling left out. And

decide to get in on the act. And you hear a clucking and a running and

there is a slight difference. And our dogs have a hang dog look.

Like I just see a flock of birds floating outside my door. And I

hastily get out the trusted Minolta. And run out of doors. And by the time I

set the exposure the birds too have flown away. Like its the same attitude

everywhere. Like catch me if you can. And I sometimes feel the best thing

is a box camera or R.K. Laxman. And I’m afraid that I wont be able to

classify the birds. Like I’m not Salim Ali. And I don’t think these were the

Grey Lag geese. Like this is L’Ambatha not Ladakh.

And so it is. And my thoughts and feelings have been here. And they have

remained here from January to October. And I cannot write about

them. Like one thinks thoughts and feels feelings. And so it is that I

am in the whereabouts of Aubrey Menen’s Dang forest trip. And I

haven’t yet found ‘the space within the heart’. And I keep at the

Chandogya and Brihadaranyka Upanishad. And the magic does not get

me. And so it is. And I’m having déja vu. And I’m not talking about the

Crosby, Stills Nash and Young LP. And I have a mood indigo and its got

nothing to do with the IIT.

Like one feels so useless in a rural setting. And one knows one can’t

change the world. And one knows the world changes one. And one likes

change. Like Bob Dylan. And ‘the times they are a changin’’. And I do not

like to leave my heart in San Francisco. And the Indian government does

not encourage people to go to the US. And its brain drain. And I don’t want

to leave my heart nor my brain there. Like Schizophrenia. And I’m Indian.

Like I hope I am. And I want wherever I’m buried that corner to be forever

India. Like Rupert Brooke and England. Like I’m attempting poetry. And I’m

making no headway. And that’s my life’s story. And I’m absurdly happy.

Like Sisyphus and the myth.

tQ

March 19, 2010

1997

TQ

When corporate MTV with its hard-bitten bottom line wanted to Indianise the channel what exactly did we get, some very exciting, clever, creative and cool promos that show we are like this only. Then we got Club MTV and the Grind, we got V’s Close-Up Close Encounters and its Singled Out inspiration with the uninhibited, sex bomb Jenny McCarthy, virtual or real accoutrements intact, pouring herself into a body sock. Isn’t this Indianising thing a bit of a mask, a chimera, a carrot, a snakes and sadhu wrapper, a smoke screen for the contents, a prophylactic drug that like Prozac gives us a feeling of stability, of Okness especially when we are reeling from post colonial hang ups.

Close-Up Close Encounter is a bit too much. Firstly I have not figured out why these NRI gorgeous bimbettes with surrogate or wannabe accents are chosen as Vjs. Or rather I think I cracked it (and get a PhD in one fell swoop). Its all got to do with the Grind and its Indian avatar Club MTV. The grind (circa 1996) is where we want to be at, Club MTV is where we are at. I watch Club MTV as a barometer (yeah…Yeah….) to indicate just how far we can push the de´colletage of our mores that surround our traditional/modern conflicts. I too have Pepsi bets of my own, see. Somehow the mask of okness seems to be to dance, gyrate, grind into crotches in the daytime. Yes its ok if your mom can see you.

Laila Rouass and Malaika bore-e-alis are the two principal contributors in this I’m bimbetter-than-thou. I find that the TQ (taste quotient) that ephemeral, nethi nethiness , that who-makes-the-rules, sometimes hierarchical, sometimes elitist, hard to define thing, The Thing. Most often you drink it in with your mother’s milk and then go to finishing school wherever that place in your head is, and bone up. You either got it or you don’t. Its that quality that uplifts. I use the ‘u’ word a lot these days only because there is so little of it around. I’d like to see MTV and V and Zee and Zed put the uh , buh ,  cuh ,  back into anth-akshari, use its reach and its ever widening foot print, its umbra and wonderbra, back into uplifting (oops) , with the most cross cultural, slam dunking, death defying, head banging, unifying phenomenon in the universe, music.

There I’ve come Out Of The Box and done a fillip and shown you my empty V. Can you handle it? Is the Flicks team out there? I got brief but I no got money. I am like this only……temporarily.

Om-ega

March 19, 2010

28/4/04

Life is sometimes so preoccupied with imitating art that the obvious, taken for granted, lowly truths go unnoticed. Until the cobwebs of time and disuse hide them forever like sand dunes waiting for a storm to move them, disclosing the treasures that may lie buried. Sometimes the moving force is Time, again. Most times its our apathy that overrides Time, manually clutching us into low low gear, even occasionally reversing Time where we look at ourselves and feel old and degenerate. Many times I feel that we live in abysmally degenerate times. I don’t have to look far, just examine myself. Generally though I am not pessimistic for the human herd. Evolution, the physics and chemistry of which coupled with a bit of soul and sanctity that it picked along the way, happily has an impetus and direction. We are told that if you point this idiot machine in the right direction, the second law of thermodynamics (Thank God for Newton) will terminate this omnibus at the depot called the omega point (naturally). The thought is reassuring and hopeful. The problem does convolute with serpentine calisthenics back on itself. For it is impossible to lift the bucket and stand in it simultaneously (thermodynamics to the offense). But we can rave and rant, jump and stomp about, turning, pointing this overpopulated bucket in the right direction.

There will be dropouts and abortions, sex, violence, murder and rape until the jumping and stomping rattle the little pebbles of our discontent to a stable settling point (entropy to the rescue) of our cosmic order. With the vibrations of wow and flutter subsiding to base line values, the rate of change of motion will accelerate from disaster to realisation, exponentially.

When will entropy and enthalpy, thermodynamics, physics and electronic chemistry work for us? Which really is the ‘right direction’? Do I sound like Sagan? If I do, it will only have one reason. Gradually we are getting a view of the hill beyond, it beckons.

When will the catalytic moment hit us? Will it be on the road to Damascus or to Sawantwadi? Sometimes I feel like the Zionists, the need to invent the Messiah. Inventions, however, need to be recognized before they become inventions. I’m sure millions of marvelous things accidentally happened in Time but there was no one around smart enough to seize the moment, attribute cause, effect and application. Perhaps Christ was one such.

So many things are seeing the light of day today even though they were invented 40years ago. The materials and technology weren’t available at that time to make them domestic realities. Look at solar energy or the fact that water; common water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen. There is enough Hydrogen in water to work every single machine created, with some left over to form a few bombs too and in the process forming more water. Yet the technology does not exist today to utilize the fact.

The technology of thought and philosophy tries to empty the ocean into a tiny hole. If Christ was invented in the year zero, maybe my hope is someday on this alpha/omega calendar the technology of Tan, Man, and Shakti leads its kindly light towards THE application. Like Sissyphus I live on Hope, till the Boulder, our cross defeats tradition and the grave.

30/07/06

Most futurologists generally will consult paleontologists. To know where we might go it would be worthy to note where we came from. Photography as we know it is the one of the newest kids on the block, Fox Talbot and Daguerre might have thrown a googly to Van Gogh who responded to the ‘threat’ in his own inimitable style. Painters like Caravaggio were secretly using optical (photo) devices in their ateliers to give them their own USP. That cycle is constantly remixing in a post postmodern feedback loop. Photorealism in painting and Abstractism in photography are modern currency.

The lines between painting and photography are no longer sharp.

What will the photographic digital democracy look like 100 years from now? To say that everyone will have access to image making via good, inexpensive camera phones is to state the obvious, everyone has and will have access to a voice, yet how many Bhimsens or Parveena Sultanas are there. That the besur might be able to produce a track that is melodious will be possible via intelligent digital software, will it sell? Will it endure? will it be art ? Is contingent upon all the existing, subjective parameters. There will still be the divide between the good, the better and the best till morality, ethics and aesthetics are not digitized.

But glimpses of the real future live with us in the virtual world. 20 years ago holography was already out there but expensive and temperamental, with processing power and the ability to collect more information on smaller capturing devices it is not too far away that 3D holography will be de rigueur. Printing on paper will be there for as long as people are tactile and like the sensation, but from a small source on your desktop, laser will spray out the RGB scene as you saw it in 3D, you will be able to project this into your living room and it would look real enough except that you will be able to walk right through your granny and the meter thick walls of Shaniwarwada. While Space-Time in a very Einsteinian way will come together, there will be no Mass.

Plasma screens and anything 2D will be quite obsolete as a result, but obsolescence will lead to exoticism, just as today dye transfer imaging is considered an art in itself. Movie halls of the future and home theatre will not have a screen at the far end and the seats or couch at the other, but will have a floating plasma that can move anywhere in space in a 3D cuboid way like the Aurora Borealis.

Canon are working on something called OCIS (Optical Cerebral Interface Systems) where in effect you wont have to carry and check in your camera and heavy lenses, it will all be in the form of a bionic implant into your ‘seeing’ eye, you will be able to blink and make an image with an intraocular zoom lens, press a button if you are cheap, or say ‘send’ if you some loose change, or think, ‘send’ if you are fully loaded and slam bam thank you maam your high res 3D holographic shot gets transmitted to the 62,000  de-constructed news gathering organizations. But when to blink will remain, as has been in the past, a Cartier Bresson decisive moment which no amount of digitizing will dictate.

All that is left is human imagination, which is really not futuristic at all, but a creative way of fantasizing the past.