wiki:Administering the symbols of authentic production by Ashish Rajadhyaksha

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signalled the continuing practice of ancient traditions; and, finally, the institutions directly managing the privileged role for culture in ideologies of development and the presumed link between traditional craft and advanced technology, in Communication Studies, origin- ating with India’s first investments in radio and satellite communi- cation, television and several other technologies (most recently, Geog- raphic Information Systems) – all reiterating the primarily gestural capacity of the most primitive to engage with the most advanced.

As the high priest of design S. Balaram proposes in his landmark Thinking Design (1998), India’s real industrial revolution ‘occurred only after independence, in the late forties and fifties’; and while this led to several false contradictions, between, for example, applied and machine arts (or charukala and karukala, as they came to be known in Santiniketan), it also enabled the idea of the ‘machine as giver of a new style’ and thus enabled the suturing of artisanal systems of production with the possibilities of recent technology (industrial but, of late, even information technology): a suturing that was the explicitly stated brief of the National Institute of Design and the Industrial Design Centres.

To be relevant, the Indian designer’s approach should be capital- saving and employment-generative. He should draw on our rich traditions as well as apply the latest scientific and technological knowledge/equipment, such as the state-of-the-art computer, for solving basic-level problems such as developing a better sickle or a better hand-pump. His approach to his creations must be that of a dynamic innovator rather than that of an artist. He should design for maximum advantage, with local materials such as mud, grass, cane, bamboo, coir, jute, and with local skills in mind such as manual dexterity and adaptability. (Balaram 1998: 12–16)

In 1961, the opening chapter of the Third Five-Year Plan, entitled ‘Objectives of Planned Development’, put to use an entire range of modern technologies in reharnessing ancient national culture to specific contemporary meaning and purpose 21: ‘Each major culture and civilization has certain distinctive features, rooted in the past, which bear the impress of that culture’, it said. ‘India, with thousands of years of history, bears even now the powerful impress of her own distinctive features. They are today covered up by widespread and appalling poverty, the result of a traditional society and a static economy in the past’, but, and this is the central point, ‘these values

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are a part of India’s thinking, even as, more and more, that thinking is directed to the impact of the scientific and technological civilization of the modern world’ (emphases added).

What was the ‘scientific and technological civilization’ that was meant to solve such deep-rooted and ancient problems? The easy answer, pointing to the technological showpieces of the modern Nehruvian state, is shadowed by a different sort of responsibility that technologies of reproduction had to shoulder: one that could enable key acts of transference, providing thematized cultural, formal or even aesthetic resolutions for what seemed otherwise intractable problems of the contemporary, and so their relocation on more propi- tious narrative ground where they may be better dealt with.

This was one of the contexts of early post-independence state support for the cinema, and the first direct intervention by the state in both film production and the process of ‘reading’ the cinema appropriately. What I further suggest here is that in almost all these cultural–economic productions the cinema found itself with as much an actual as a paradigmatic role to play, for all of these fields, dis- ciplines and practices inevitably left their trace on the perception of celluloid technology and its powers of realist representation. Reading Films ‘Nationalistically’:

A Second Proposition of Film Theory

The view of the scientist that sought to erase the past and the non- scientific is further developed in official photographs of the Trombay atomic energy complex. These photographs, especially those dating from the 1960s, centre the iconic dome of the CIRUS reactor, showing it set in the middle of carefully landscaped gardens each conforming to an imposed geometry of two dimensions: a perfect circle and a rectangular form set within a triangular space. These gardens, sym- metrical in themselves, act also as a device to draw attention back to the perfect dome of the reactor at its centre. But the edges of this photograph betray the limits of transformation. The borders of the promontory on which the reactor is located are less clearly articulated in Cartesian space. They are scrublands, dry and spotted with unruly bushes. They mark the intransigence of the land, but, by the same token, denote the degree of human effort that has made this orderly and unnatural space possible. – Itty Abraham (1999: 160)

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