Thursday, August 7, 2014

AnecDOTes, Day II: New Media and the alternative 'Live'ness

‘Encountering’ Amitesh Grover.

 [Constructed Memory by ZOONI TICKOO]
New Media and the alternative 'Live'ness, Artist's showcase and Dialogue by Amitesh Grover, interlocutor: Aditya Shrinivas, 5-to-7 PM, 05 Aug, 2014, Tuesday. At: Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi. AnecDOTes is a series of events as an extension of the project "Understanding Performance as Art and Beyond: Multiple Gaze" initiated by Samudra Kajal Saikia.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
Day 2 at Vadehra Art Gallery was in conversation with the artist and performance maker Amitesh Grover. Grover is currently a faculty member at the National School of Drama and has been practicing performance making especially incorporating the genre of New Media and technology. He has presented his work nationally as well as internationally, prolifically spanning  around 125 shows across 11 countries. In the session, focused on the topic of "new media and 'live'ness", Amitesh did not immediately begin from detailing his past works. He descended into the discussion smoothly by setting forth a stage of understanding performance, ritual, encounters and finally the idea of puncturing them in ways of his interventions of performance making.

Amitesh very importantly and interestingly began from his own private experiences from life. he chose to show images from his own marriage ceremony rituals and an image from another event of 'hawan' meant for the dead ancestors of his family. The motive of projecting these images was, he explains, to narrate how he had asked the sanskrit couplets to be translated into language of common use, and thus, "demystifying" the whole ceremony besides prolonging the same in time. this is how he begins to explain the intention of "puncturing" performative aspects of human behaviour and then how he manifests them on similar principles through his art projects.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
The impact of new media and technology and how it is intertwined in the functioning of the human societies forms a major part of Amitesh's art. He keenly observes the behaviour on  television and off it and the mannerism of performance generated by events like reality TV and also getting oneself photographed. He makes note of few such aspects into observation like: the public at the present moment is in a state of Hyper Performances. The evidence of it is seen in the self generative content on social media and the massive flux of information. This phenomenon he understands as the Post Media Performance, where the utility of the media and communication has been exploited to the extremes and in excess. He also seeks to grapple with the question of Public and it's constantly increasing fluidity. This construct of fluid public, he maintains easily sheds  it identities and relations to communities. Yet he makes note if how the speech or the element of the spoken sound carries an indicator of identity. This is where he draws strings of similar observations and plays with them by incorporating games that eventually get translated into performance projects.

In the section detailing his conception of Media and the Body, he talks of his collaboration with theatre person and dancer Maya Rao in 'Lady Macbeth'. This performance which was conceived by Rao, was designed by Amitesh and it implemented the idea of fragmented physical body and it's multiple projections over live-feed. It also worked with juxtaposing popular TV actors of Macbeth with the live actor doing the character of ghost in the performance, simultaneously. Similarly another of Amitesh's work, that he makes mention of here, is 'Strange Lines'. It was adapted from a graphic novel. This project involved technology as a medium for interaction. On similar lines, was Amitesh's project inspired by writer Italo Cavino's Invisible Cities. This complex work of Calvino finds it's expression through Amitesh's interpretation as "Gnomonicity". This work dealt heavily on creating shadow audiences created through CCTV captures and collaborated with hackers who operated from different parts if the world like Zurich, Switzerland, Melbourne etc. another project called "Social Gaming" involved real time gaming in multiple cities and this involved giving quirky instructions like 'look without judging...' and 'collect a smile' and then send an SMS to score points.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
Through the works mentioned above there is an evident prominance of global hyper-connective world where Amitesh overtly exploits the same by using mechanisms of Skype conversations spanning continents. He invariably attempts to question the arguemet propunded by scholar like Peggy Phelan that a performance value is in it's "ephemeral" nature and that no two performances can be same. Amitesh, in contrast intends to understand and explain his performances through another scholar Philip Auslander's concept of the "liveness" by creating excess of virtual corporeality. This takes shape in his work called "Mahoganny is Everywhere" which was a long durational performance of 48 hours and carried out in a building. The performance included the participants to engage in transactions and activities involving a fake currency 'Neuro' only valid inside the building. he details how he himself played a palmist and how predictions he made decided the behavior of the participants in betting or in gamble. He also talks of intervening the proceedings with non-sense interventions thereby creating the effect of alienation.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
Finally he summed up the presentation with his forthcoming project, the concept of which can in fact resonate the sum total of his thought process behind most of his past performance ideas. “Encounter 6134” is perhaps as philosophically urgent as the need to address the discourses surrounding New Media or the hyper technological age. the rough idea he explains deals with the growing assertion from a new school of thought that representation of the capitalist world must involve greater speed, acceleration and excess so as to accelerate its collapse. The performance involves inviting the participants to come and be a philosopher and communicate with a stranger regarding topics like: beauty, death, time, and crisis. Amitesh surmounts this project on the quote by Alain Badiou, that can perhaps be paraphrased as mere random “encounters” forming capacities for multiple “beginnings”.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes
In the Q-A discussion round-up, initiated by Aditya Srinivas, the debate began from pointing out how Amitesh’s work in fact easily breaks the bounding definitions of theatre, performance art, or participatory ritual even. What emerged from the post presentation discussion is that Amitesh’s work also, on several levels, questions the greater unified language and the loss of the native body reduced to hyper virtual. Important as an observation was also that his work is less directorial and more curational in terms of wading through and sewing together the live-ness of encounters in the age of new media.
Amitesh Grover at AnecDOTes 

There arose few questions about the frequent use of technology in his performances too. Artist Inder Salim raised doubts about the multiplicity of technologies as it is subject to availability. A dialogue ensued which prodded Amitesh to think further on de-stabilizing the human centric approach of technology. This interjection was towards perhaps the issues of, say, environment which has been victim of human explosion and thus need to be included in conceptual frameworks more often. The issue of documentation of his new-media performances also brought about an interesting point as Bhooma Padmanabhan asked Amitesh how it impacts the performance and his own repertoire. Amitesh seemed willing and agreed that documentation of his work is necessary for the sake of drawing on improvisations but since his interventions span from distinct cities to various media simultaneously, the registers may vary. He also points out that therefore in Performance Art, there is nothing right or wrong, and that such experiments form layers of encounters. These layers facilitate post-event narration thereby looking for newer beginnings. Interestingly, Amitesh speaks of all this as a mechanized process instilled in Capitalist society and which needs to be accelerated to witness multiple causalities and effects. Similarly, he notes that his forthcoming project is about the human sleep patterns, and how the mechanized ways of life have robbed one of their deep sleep. The project may involve participants to engage, simply, in sleep! 


Neha (Zooni) Tickoo did Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and also in Kathak from Khairaghar University, Chattisghar. She also completed Diploma from Kathak Kendra – National Institute of Kathak Dance, autonomous body of Sangeet Natak Academy, Delhi, under the esteemed guidance of: GURU SHRI KRISHAN MOHAN MAHARAJ, of Lucknow Gharana. Presently she is pursuing Masters of Arts in Performance Studies from the Department of Culture and Creative Expression (SCCE) , Ambedkar University, Delhi.

She has a varied range of working experience from journalism to participating in international workshops to working as the editor-in chief in magazines. She presented Kathak and Experimental performances around Delhi and outside. Email :

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