Ashok Sukumaran

Extending Arts Practice

Grant Period: Over two years

Ashok Sukumaran is an architect and media artist. Site-related and public works are a deep and growing interest in his practice.

Ashok Sukumaran’s electronic media project looks at the pervasiveness of technology in everyday life and its role in a culture of passive consumption. His work tries to get us to examine the connections we almost naturally make between cause and effect when dealing with “wired” systems.

The project questions technology through the use of technology – by drawing attention to its taken-for-grantedness. It will track the already widespread uses of technology, like electrical switches and microprocessors, as well as newer innovations involving imminent or embedded systems. His idea is to play with these technologies in a way that disturbs our habitual awareness and understanding of them.

There are two important aspects to his approach. One is his belief that interactive art should address the features of where this art ‘takes place’. The other noteworthy thing is his interest in the bare bones of technology. He does not think that media art need necessarily be ‘hi-tech’ and in fact his point is partly, via this approach, to critique such a hi-tech slant.

He will put together between 50 and 100 temporary electronic installations. These will be largely outdoor installations in as many different locations as possible and he will attempt to engage local residents in dialogue with regard to these pieces. He will also create a web-based archive of these ‘works’. The archive will be a keyword-searchable database that contains technical and on-site documentation, project images and, where relevant, video for each work. Also included will be analysis, interviews and where possible external opinions of the arrangement in question.

Ashok places great value on documenting these installations. The idea behind such extensive documentation is to help form a basic vocabulary for what he calls, “as yet unimagined media practices”. While there is a growing infusion of new media in fields such as architecture, the performing arts and installation art, what is still needed is work that looks at urbanism and new media in a bottom-up and physically rooted manner, and that broadens the terms in which interactivity can be understood. As he says, “The somewhat speculative trajectory of this project is not a futurist, or even a principally technocratic agenda. Like much of my other work, these projects are looking sideways, at missed opportunities and gaps in the conception of ‘new media’ as an ‘embedded’ practice, especially in India.”