Thomas Erben is pleased to present the first housed exhibition of Mumbai based Ashok Sukumaran, known for his new-and-old media installations within the urban infrastructure. On view is a video documentation of Glow Positioning System, a seminal work from 2005. GPS was awarded at the Prix Ars Electronica that year and featured prominently in the ‘Best of 2006’ (On Mumbai, by Nina Montmann), Artforum, December 2006, among various other publications.
The result of a vast collaboration with residents, private and state agencies as well as with a team of street decorators, Glow Positioning System, a 1200-foot ring of light encircling the historical General Post Office and neighbouring edifices in Fort, Mumbai, was put into effect by ‘viewers’ using a hand-crank, positioned in the center of the buildings’ intersection. The audience is able to ‘scroll’ the landscape, as light travels between buildings, across roads and onto trees and lampposts, forming an image-scape that is starkly visible at night. The physical length of the view becomes a chronological one, creating a vista, which responds to the desire for the panoramic; the age-old search for an image to immerse ourselves in.
The crank here refers not only to its specific history in the moving panorama, but also to the history of the moving image: as a driver for cinema. Like the movies, the experience does not depend on the observer being physically displaced: you are clearly not going anywhere. Yet Glow Positioning System and, analogously, its filmic documentation are able to offer and deliver us on a multifarious journey traced upon the concrete city.
This project and others like it led to Recurrencies, an ongoing body of work in the electrical medium, of which two video documentations will be on view along with accompanying technical and architectural drawings. Electricity is power: a force in itself, as well as an imposing force of control. In these explorations, electricity ‘leaks’ between economically disparate areas, ties spaces together, holds them apart and travels the gamut of public, private and commercial space. Dealing with the idea of infrastructure as culture – not a role in which it is typically considered – Sukumaran’s work opens up the ever present and unchallenged paradigms of technology to contestation, aesthetic and conceptual analysis, play and sociability.
Ashok Sukumaran (b. Sapporo, Japan, 1974) holds degrees in both architecture (B.Arch., The School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi) and media art (MFA, UCLA). Over the past years, he has shown work in a variety of contexts such as commissioned and self-initiated public art in the US, media art festivals and art-world venues (including the Singapore Biennale). His work has received major honors like the Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica, 2007, and the First Prize of the UNESCO Digital Arts Award, 2005. Sukumaran is also a co-founder of CAMP, a space for critical trans-disciplinary practice in Mumbai.