Shaina Anand' s notes:
Khirkeeyaan (New Delhi, April 06) employed and exploited cheap and openly available CCTV and CATV (Cable TV) technology to build temporary communication and conversation zones for the genreation of media. While no real security cameras existed on-site, it is clear that in the 'new' Delhi of mega malls, multiplexes, BPOs, Sweatshops, Metros and stations, Intelligent Traffic Systems, and the CommonWealth Games, they will soon be pervasive. In Mumbai too. Where I live in Bandra, over the past two years, I’ve noted a sudden proliferation of CCTV units, especially in local grocery stores, small garment shops, supermarkets, neighbourhood restaurants, fast food joints. These systems are not very expensive and are provided by local security consultancies and enterprises, usually using very cheap equipment imported from China, HongKong or Taiwan.
For HAIP, I was aware that getting permission to access surveillance cameras would be a process, and would be entirely dependent on Slovenian law and the extent to which we would/could push the law, and also on the politics and conditions of the given ‘sites, none of which could be determined before hand. Also, the issue of privacy would be raised. Short-circuit TV was a deliberate provocation, it was simply making visible, an already existing eye.
ChitraKarKhana’s projects have always been negotiated in very public, urban spaces in India. They have successfully piggy-backed, appropriated or made use of existing infrastructures that while abounding, lie ‘under-used’; rarely being seized for the creation or generation of autonomous media. Sometimes, a hydra of technologies, networks and practices have resulted in temporary shifts in the power structures or dynamics of the sites. Often, at the outset itself, the ideas have appeared audacious, ambitious in intent and scale or simply ‘un-doable’, given the budgets within which they have operated. This strategy to ‘prove’ how far a little money can go, given that the technology is no longer capital intensive, or can be easily begged, borrowed, shared, ‘stolen’ or rented has been the keystone for ChitraKarKhana’s practice. Thus, budget has never been the issue; an opportunity to do something when presented is seized, and the resources, whether human capital or infrastructural have emerged or surfaced to meet the needs. Projects have also doubled as labs and workshops, harnessing volunteers and student potential while providing peer learning and production environments. This coupled with ‘high energy’ and the will to execute, while operating within certain set ‘rules’, or behavioral codes that have formed the conceptual parameters of communication and interaction, have been the fodder for production. The processes and the outcomes, while often impossible to quantify have been richer than imagined.
I was excited about working in Ljubljana for several reasons. One, I have never executed an intervention in another country. I had met a few Kiberpipa boys at Ars Electronica in 2004 inside the RustleTV exhibit. In our brief chat with them, they had offered me unlimited server space, (because 1.' the government gives it to us' and 2. ‘we like your work), an offer I gladly took up earlier this year.
Second, Slovenia had a special place in my wandering heart. – I had hitchhiked from Hungary to Slovenia in 2000, swum across lake Bled to make a wish, roamed all corners of Manifesta 2000 in tiny Ljubljana and overall had been touched by the warmth and goodness of hosts who were always wonderful strangers. I looked forward to being back.
I was even ready to carry my tools with me: quad processor, Rf modulator... but we would need meters of cable!. Also, appearing to lay a mass of cables would be hard and perhaps unheard of, a far opposite from such acts going unnoticed in India.
In so far as open source and streaming was concerned, I was completely handicapped, being the least experienced in the crew. Also, modus operandi would be severely cutailed given my outsider-ness. The sure-footed liberties to take and the adjustments and collaborations in reclaiming of space that I can do so fearlessly and full heartedly in India, would not apply here, either strategically or practically.
Kiberpipa, (cyberpipe) having just completed its 5th year birthday, was fully immersed in the organization of HAIP. Cyberpipe is kept alive almost entirely by volunteers, mostly students, who give their after school hours to ‘pipa’. Always multitasking, working with shared authority and responsibility, the members of err0r collective emerged at different times of the day to help with the installation, and more importantly, work on the streaming software. Every step required permissions, collaboration and discussion. Getting the machines to encode one video and one audio stream and decode 4 at the same time required trials, err0rs, triumphs and tribulations. At pipa though, no one was ready to give up, and their will, belief and commitment to ‘crack the code’, so to speak was revelatory. The festivals Hack Act Interact Progress spirit was quite naturally infused into everybody, and I wondered if the secret after all was in the ‘open source’. As Bostjan said to me, “Geeks know all about Zen”. At pipa though, I did feel like I was part of a small new age of open technology.
We finally had the 4 way streaming on day 5, down to about 5 seconds delay, making an ethereal communication that was happening in one city: the main entrance of The Train Station, The Faculty of Social Work, The Student Organisation of the University of Ljubljana and the internet café at Kiberpipa. People watched silently, some communicated with each other, others stepped out of the stream as soon as they came up and saw themselves.