Rupali Gupte & Prasad Shetty have been invited for the 56th Venice Art Biennial, 2015 to show their work ‘Transactional Objects’. This International Art Exhibition is titled ‘All the World’s Futures’ and is curated by Okwui Enwezor.
It takes so much for a city to happen
NOTES FROM MUMBAI
At the outset, we make three propositions on cities.
Proposition 1: On Settling
The city settles slowly over time. Settling is a process by which people from diverse backgrounds come to terms with each other’s lives and their landscapes. It is a process through which a city ‘happens’. During settling, several new practices get created, which are unique and may appear unusual to an outsider. Abusive language may be a form of endearment, ethics may not follow legalities, morals may be structured around claims, laws may not be universal, etc. Settling is not a process in which contradictions get resolved; instead contradictions are able to co-exist. It is a set of processes by which things gets worked out – the elaborate mechanics, which keeps the city in a perpetual state of becoming. As settling continues, spaces and practices change, and sometimes older ones disappear and newer ones emerge.
Proposition2: On Blur
Spaces and practices in the city have different transactional capacities depending on different intensities of flows they support. ‘Flows’ here are the movements of bodies, commodities, ideas, money, etc. The spaces and practices with high transactional capacities support a high intensity of flows. Such spaces and practices often diffuse the differences set up by notions of public and private space, urban property regimes, concepts of inside and outside space, and all other ideas that define spaces through clear boundaries. This diffusion produces a blurred form of the city, where boundaries get constantly made, erased and remade through numerous claims. The morphing of building envelopes, the mutations in plot shapes and diffusion of edges constitutes the blur. The logic of the city, its enterprise, property relationships, and much of life gets worked out in this blur.
Proposition 3: On Trips
People in the city have trips of different kinds – collecting strange objects, behaving like spies, writing stories, achieving mundane targets, dismantling machines, opposing any new plan, saving the world, etc. Trips here are practices that go beyond the acts of routine. These practices are not useful to produce grand conceptualisations of cities and are often discarded as stray individual preoccupations. While some of these obsessions are related to earning and occupations, others are simply ‘useless’. But everyone seems to have a trip that one lives with and for. Trips seem to provide individuals with their energy. Such energies cumulatively produce a city. Trips are absurd quests, unusual obsessions and bizarre interests that seem to be making the city. The city seems to be acquiring its generative energy from such trips. In many ways the city seems to be a mad house and this madness seems to be running the city.
Transactional Objects embody within them the idea of setting, the blur and the trip. The city settles, blurs, and produces its trips through these objects. Extension to shops, folding shops of street vendors, porting devices, resting apparatus, fixtures fixed on boundary walls that help occupy them, things used to claim space, orphaned furniture left for wanderers, etc. are all transactional objects. However, these objects are not just utilitarian to facilitate transactions; or illustrative of the blur and the trips. They are quirky, erotic, sedimented and absurd. In their absurdity these are instances of dreams trying to take shape and aspirations trying to get worked out.
These objects are constantly changed and readapted for newer imaginations. The logic of this transformation is often incremental, sporadic and based on parameters that are beyond the detection of empirical methods. Hence, design practices often find themselves in an awkward position with respect to the transactional objects. The logic of design is often in contradiction with the logic of transactional objects. Design practices produce certain fixity and create a one-time space/object. Even when they attempt to create transforming spaces, such transformations are often based on clear parameters that can be measured. Design can only be anticipatory to the extent of the parameters that are taken into consideration while designing. But cities throw up parameters beyond imagination. Transactional objects respond to these parameters and get made through innumerable negotiations that go beyond legal and financial regimes. Transactional objects cannot be produced through design practices.
The work ‘transactional objects’, intends to do many things – first, it makes the three propositions on settling of cities, blurred forms and individual trips of people. Second, it speculates on the next incremental change in some of the transactional objects – just that small change to get itself adjusted or fulfil some new desire. Third, through the idea of the incremental, the work also argues for displacing the imaginations of future from the classical tropes of technological utopias and apocalypses towards a nuanced and incremental imagination of the future. Fourth, it also argues that ‘future’ is a present day idea and since there can be multiple imaginations of the future, there can also be multiple futures. Fifth, the work also intends to speculate on the future of transactional objects – what happens if the world is taken over by these objects? What happens if these objects disappear? The objects are not mimetic of spaces in the city, but allude to them metaphorically. They are idiosyncratic like the real spaces in the city. In their abstractions the propositions become simultaneously a reading of the city and a projection of its future.