Magazine article Artforum International

Camp

Magazine article Artforum International

Camp

Article excerpt

EARLY IN JANUARY 2007, the artists Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran hung a battery-powered remote control from a tree across the street from their apartment in Mumbai, along with a sign informing passersby (in Hindi and in English) that this was a public switch, which, when pressed, would turn lights on and off in apartment 23 of the building behind them. Whenever people operated the remote control and turned to locate the apartment, Anand or Sukumaran (or whoever happened to be over at the time) would walk to the windows and wave.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

After thirty days, a counter attached to the receiver had recorded a total of 2,618 switches. Anand and Sukumaran had charmed, confounded, and confused their neighbors; they had made the acquaintance of six strangers; their friends had invented a routine of hitting the switch to signal their arrival and to say good-bye; and the building's watchman had used the device at least once to call the artists down to a meeting, in which they were asked, urgently, "What was up with their lights, and was it against the law? Other queries piled up: How much did the remote control cost, and what else could it do? Was electricity being stolen, and if so, how, exactly, and from whom? What did the incessant light switching mean? Was it code for something innocent or playful, sinister or nefarious? What, in the end, was the point?

Executed as a kind of extended urban performance with electricity as its material and metaphor, and documented through photographs, a video, and a diary, House, 2007, is part of "The Recurrencies Series," 2007-. Under this rubric, Anand and Sukumaran have intervened in different forms of infrastructure--not only electricity but also water, road networks, transport systems, radio, and television. (Their activities are exhaustively archived online at www.recurrencies.net.) "The Recurrencies Series" prefigures the more ambitious and far-reaching work the artists have undertaken more recently as CAMP, a group they cofounded with the writer and software developer Sanjay Bhangar some ten months after those light-switch experiments for House began.

A sly nod to the fondness among Indian NGOs for acronyms, CAMP doesn't stand for any one thing. It has more than a hundred thousand possible "back-ronyms," generated by the random combination of four words from a predetermined list. A different name loads every time you open the group's website, www.camputer.org; some of the more resonant permutations include Critical Art as Meta Practices, Citizens Among Marginal Politics, and Commons Allowing for Metaphorical Publics. As these names suggest, the group is situated in the thicket of ongoing debates about the efficacy of activist strategies and the legacy of leftist politics.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Anand and Sukumaran insist that CAMP is not an artists' collective, a framework they find too fixed and rigid (and, in the sphere of contemporary art, too often fetishized). Theirs is a far more fluid assembly, with members of various backgrounds rotating in and out all the time, depending on the needs of a particular project. This flexibility affords CAMP greater scope, geographic freedom, and room to grow amid multiplying skill sets. Like Raqs Media Collective, to which CAMP is often compared, the group straddles several worlds at once. Not only does this make the barriers between the different disciplines of artistic production seem ever more obsolete, it extends the reach of artistic thought to spheres well beyond the art context while also fruitfully bringing other modes of thought into artistic practice.

CAMP blurs physical and temporal boundaries as well. As an actual work space in Mumbai, where most of its members live and work, and as an online forum for the exchange of ideas and strategies, it has initiated eight projects since 2007, six of which are ongoing. Tackling subjects such as pirate cinema, arts patronage, and surveillance, the projects typically proceed in three stages. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.