Gigi Scaria

Writings

Video: A Parallel EnVideo: A Parallel Enquiry | Other encounters the Self

Other
Do you think you need to talk about your video separately?

Self
Not exactly; but I need to clarify certain things which are largely related to video.

Other
Why should you ‘clarify’ anything? In that case whom do you address?  Does art need clarification?

Self
How can art be separated from Other human temperaments? Why do you think it needs no clarification or explanation? I think it should be debated throughout the process of production and post production.
 
Other
I do agree. But what clarifications you have to make about your videos. They are primarily documentaries. They don’t need much explanation for Others to understand.

 Self
Well, probably this is the reason why I need to clarify my position. Do you think they are documentaries? But I don’t think they are documentaries.
 
Other
They do derive a lot from the documentary mode. In most of the cases they also deal with real characters. For example Sohail and Marian, Muhamed Kurshid Alam and that boy who finds metal pieces through a magnet from the street. You peep through their real life in each of these videos. That is what a documentary maker possibly does.
 
Self
Well I don’t differentiate my position from a documentary filmmaker (if at all you wish to call me that) in order to clarify that I am doing “video art”. I, essentially, don’t make separate categories for any moving image as film, video, animation etc.
 
Other
How can you say that? Film is different from video. And animation is totally a different thing. If you place all moving images into one category how do you place them in different disciplines? How do you distinguish and differentiate your own territory? You seem to talk like a spiritual Guru.
 
Self
Well, territory is an important subject to talk. How do you differentiate your own territory is even more important. But I must tell you that discipline never creates territories where as concept does. Therefore, I think categories have to be settled in terms of its conceptual thread rather than the appearance or the medium.
 
Other
You mean to say that the likeness of the medium can never be a judgement point when you see a work?
 
Self
I mean to say that medium can’t always be a message. In anOther way message can be generated even when you mishandle or misuse a medium. Even then if you have a total control over your medium your message may skip through it and stay independently.
 
Other
That statement contains anarchy in its content. While saying this you are closing all possibilities of your own command over the medium as well as the content.
 
Self
That is true. I can make it very clear for example when I had no intention to make a documentary you put my works in the documentary section. When my intented message was not limited to the ‘human condition’ you strictly viewed it as a plight of our social system. So how can you say that I have a control over what I did?
 
Other
You caught me there! But it could also be a failure of your method of handling the medium. Or else your conceptual thread might have broken throughout the process.
 
Self
I don’t deny this observation. But at the same time I do not completely give up my argument on the control over the medium.
 
Other
You conceptualize something and when you have gone through the process of realizing it you might even arrive at anOther point and finally when it is made viewers might get a completely different sense of understanding. But my question is what is wrong with it? Can’t we accommodate all the mishaps and chance encounters into a broader frame of the process?
 
Self
I do but I don’t do
 
Other
You are being rigid and rude when you say ‘you don’t do’.
 
Self
But I said in first place ‘I do’ because I accept the possibility. Why I said I don’t because my works are not made of chance encounters and constant mishaps. Why should I deny my own intention when I conceptualize it? Why should I submit my own integrity to a broad generalization? (There is a plot and there is a plan)
 
Other
Which means we cannot make much generalization, especially in your case. But there are certain general understandings through which even your video is watched and understood.
 
Self
My attempt has always been to become extremely conscious not to get into that generalized pattern of viewing.
 
Other
What have you done to break that pattern?
 
Self
I can give examples of my two most recent videos to try to answer you. The first one titled Interview and the second is Site under construction. The first video is about a business executive interviewing a candidate for a fresh appointment in the company. He adopts a new method by asking the candidate to identify a photograph of a person as show on a screen. The candidate interviewed then starts guessing over the image of the unknown person he confronts on the screen with his normal guessing power which is influenced by the social norms of categorizing people in terms of colour, attire, possessions and ethnic differences. The event has a linear progress except the fact that it was not shown in a linear fashion. I split the screen in three parts. The interviewer sat on the right side projection and the candidate sat on the left side. Whatever appears on the laptop of the interviewer appeared on the central screen.

Other
Instead of showing the entire video on one single projection you showed it in three separate screens. What is the big deal? People might have taken extra effort to watch it.
 
Self
Well I would like to elaborate on this ‘extra effort’ people might have taken. When I split the screen in three in order to narrate a single story there two or three unexpected things happened. The first thing I had to make was to shoot the reactions of both, the interviewer and the candidate. When one asks a question the Other one answers. But even before he answer a question you are also constantly listening to the question; which means their reactions or facial expressions have to be there on the Other screen. Which again means what you watch in 6minutes duration is presented in front of you in 12 minutes. Yet you will watch it only in 6minutes.It somehow gives an understanding of time in a very different way.

Other
That is interesting. I think it also gives a ‘sense of missing’ through out the video because one can’t watch all the three projections at the same time. While watching one person you will definitely miss the Other one’s reactions on the Other screen.

Self
Exactly. This ‘sense of missing’ in an event is an everyday occurrence in a day to day situation. Even if we witness an incident in its full clarity we miss many particles of the incident because of the limitation of viewing them all at one time. But persistence of memory recaptures the missing points of the incident and rearranges the story again in our memory cells.

Other
How do you connect this notion of ‘persistence of memory’ as a conceptual thread to the video?

Self
That may be analysing too much of the process; but still I would like to connect it with the central theme of the video where the interviewed candidate was trying to figure out who in the picture is. The parameter he sets to assess the Other is derived from the same notion of persistence of memory internalized by our social psyche. While connecting the missing links our social psyche generalizes upon the whole event to suit to an ‘urban logic’.

Other
So according to your interpretation this video questions the stereotype notion of our urban psyche which categorize each individual in a set code.

Self
I do not know whether it “questions” as the academicians normally put it. But it observes silently the way we think and make unique observations about people or things; which is constructed by the logic of “generalization”. And it slowly infiltrates the logic of our own without any hint.

Other
What about the second video the site under construction?

Self
The site under construction captures a conversation between an architect and a house wife. They are largely strangers but might have been into a telephonic friendship for some time. While exchanging a few words to understand each Other better both of them chance upon to look downwards from their 16th floor residential block. They see a man constructing something using the materials picked from the street. Initially they were curious to know what he is doing there. When they observe the man’s each and every action carefully their initial curiosity shifts into a guessing game. Both of them predict what the next action of the man would be. They almost succeed in guessing his next course of action. The man was trying to construct a shelter towards which he made a slow progression.
 
Other
Suddenly the unexpected thing happens. The man upsets both of them and destroys whatever he had been constructing so far, am I right?

Self
True. The excitement of the guessing game had an abrupt end.
 
Other
What is this guessing game meant to you?

Self
That is a very important question. I think, apart from the three projections with simultaneous actions this video operates within a symbolic language. Here the architect and the house wife represents a class which is supposed to monitor the so called developmental agenda prescribed by the state. They assume that ‘common man’ behave in a set pattern. They expect that each action will be done according to their guess.
Other But because of the lack of infrastructure the ‘fellow on the street’ fails to meet their expectations.

Self
Precisely.

Other
But don’t you think this has been an over symbolic interpretation? How can any one guess that these people represent state machinery and social structure?

Self
Well, I am not adamant that people should read or understand this work only in this particular direction. While thinking through the incident and working out the concept and finally writing down the script I was under the spell of this symbolic meaning. But I was also quite sure that I should not loose the theatrical charm of the plot.
 
Other
So, then if this work is understood by people only as an unfortunate incident that takes place in the middle of the street witnessed by two people from a neighbourhood, will you be satisfied?

Self
You can view this as simple as that. But there is always a reason behind each action we commit. Therefore, you will certainly be puzzled by the action of the man; who destroyed whatever he constructed. If that comes in your mind at the end of it I will be happy because that gives the thread for the rest of the meaning layers.
 
Other
If I observe something strange; each of your video has very little video in it.
 
Self
May be you are right. I don’t even want them to be called as videos except the fact that these were shot in video camera.

Other
What are they then? Are they experimental films?
 
Self
You can call it any name you like. Definition of a video has been widely debated now. It came to exist as an art form in the mid sixties or early seventies. Video had distinguished features when it was initially established as an art form. It fundamentally differed from the film because of the technological advantages, (suppose what you have recorded can be seen at the same time unlike the film) fluid structure (layers of images can be made easily) and could capture day today events as a spectator. And it also allowed opening up a range of innovative and radical ways of expanding personal view points. Which means video makes the film more personal.

Other
Don’t you think that film also holds the same possibilities?

Self
That is where I am coming to now. The initial difference between film and video could not stay for a long time because of the technological advancements and the computerization of the visual media world. Then the distinguished features of the film and video started reciprocating. At one stage some of the well known video artists had their production cost equivalent to the film production.
 
Other
In short you don’t find any difference between a film and a video?

Self
Well, as I said earlier, there were many differences, even still you can make that difference but I would like to say my practice of video making is directly derived from the language of film. We have several examples to prove how a time oriented structured discipline called cinema undertook the contemporary psyche through underworld, new wave, experimental and parallel streams of our culture.
 
Other
Then for you what is the meaning of video?

Self
For me it is only a technical devise.
 
Other
Which means the final product will not go to the lab for processing.
 
Self
Exactly.

Other
I still doubt about your strong conviction on film and video. Development of digital technology is making mind boggling experiments in new media art. You seem like stuck with an old mode of narration and not
taking advantages of the skills and tools of technology.
 
Self
There is a fundamental difference between using technology to realize your thought process or concepts and exploring in the technology to find new concepts and ideas. I probably place mySelf in the first place. It doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with or understand the Other side. It also has to do with the behavioural pattern of a psyche and ones own obsession and eagerness to explore an area where you put your head in.
Other You have not said anything about your third video Panic city.
 
Self
In Panic city I made a shift from what I have done earlier. I used digital images of the old city’s bird’s eye view and Flash animation in it. For me Panic city deals with fast erosion of the old/modern city scapes by the new world of corporates.

Other
What is the significance of the western classical music you used in the video?
 
Self
Western classical music comes in as a criticizing comment on the fundamental difference between the philosophy of the West and its native counter part (not exactly the eastern philosophy but the philosophy of the native culture.)


Other
Which means you have used the western classical as western imperialism?
 
Self
In a way yes. But it has nothing to do with the musical tradition of the west. I simply took the nature of dominance which very well reflects through the music of a classical era.


Other
Most of your video contains strong reflections on social engagements. How involved you are when you make social statements through your art?
 
Self
For me social engagement is a constant dialogue; a dialogue in which you include voices of the “Other” constantly. The voice of the “Other “is not only the voice of the marginalized but also of our own critical Self. That is how you encountered me.
 
Other
So the dialogue continues.

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