Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Is watching television only limited till the above stated notions developed in us from a young age? As a matter of fact, television industry is a highly profitable industry. It not only generates employment in creative sector, like writing, acting, directing, etc. but also, in technical and financial sectors. Qualified engineers are recruited to develop and circulate new and latest technologies such as Direct to Home (DTH) services, inventing new and better television sets for a better television watching experience, technical assistance in producing television programmes, telecasting them and so on. Thus television also plays an important role in economic development of any country.
Not only economical, but television can also cause major political repercussions. Arvind Rajgopal in his book, ‘Politics After Television’, analysis the emergence of one of the strongest political parties and the development of Hindutva movement in India. He says, “In January 1987, the Indian state-run television began broadcasting a Hindu epic in serial form, The Ramayana, to nationwide audiences, violating a decade-old taboo on religious partisanship. What resulted was the largest political campaign in post-independence times, around the symbol of Lord Ram, led by Hindu nationalists. The complexion of Indian politics was irrevocably changed thereafter.” He further adds, “While audiences may have thought they were harking back to an epic golden age, Hindu nationalist leaders were embracing the prospects of neoliberalism and globalisation. Television was the device that hinged these movements together, symbolising the new possibilities of politics, at once more inclusive and authoritarian.” Studies like these establish that watching television is after all not as trivial an activity as it seems to be. It can influence ideologies of masses which can result into great political moments.
Along with economic and political affects, television greatly influences our cultural dynamics. On one hand India is shackling out of its third world image the popular mediums (read current Indian soap operas), representing it‘s culture across the globe still depict India as a socially rigid nation.
The idiot box is not as idiot as it seems, infact on is not aware about when the viewer is converted into believing the myths floated from the same.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Perhaps since my parents migrated away from ’their’ home as a young couple to make their lives, they are always nostalgic. They are nostalgic about their childhood, their culture, their festivals (ulsavams), even their language-malayalam.This nostalgia has survived 35 years though they have accepted Mumbai as a second home. The padams(fields) and the ancestral home have been left behind only physically.
The acquisition of an ‘own’ space in Mumbai was a long journey for them. Beginning with humble earnings, it took them some years before they bought their first house after living in staff quarters of my father’s company. Aesthetically this place never satisfied them owing to comparisons with their home in Kerala. There was no open space. We had to share space and rooms with each other. It was not even comfortable as the previous quarters which were considerably huge and in the middle of a forested area-it was much closer to their idea of a home. But now they owned this place. Mom began her process of conversion of space. She added a balcony garden, a little fish tank, and some openable grills with flower creepers to our two BHK flat. Dad’s collection of wooden masks, Karnatic music cassettes and mom’s Krishna and Ganesh idols soon occupied the walls and shelves of our new house in neat organised displays. It became customary for them henceforth to carry a part of Kerela- a lamp, a brass vessel, a mask- back after our annual vacation there. That was our idea of vacation- visiting home.
We as children were to speak in Malayalam compulsorily. A habit which still continues. The language forms one of the biggest connections with their home. And this was their only bridge to their belonging, which they insisted we inherited. And perhaps of all the rules set for our childhood, this was the only one we never resisted. This extended to the dictatorship of Malayalam television and movies in our home.
The only explosion that existed in this Mumbai Keralite home was the room shared by me and my sister. School books, novels, pop-magazines, paintings, posters, some interesting discards occupyied aclusterish and revolutionary existence only in our room. The room was a confusion, a mixture and exploration. Both me and my sister, had inherited the tradition of carrying back a piece of the place on a travel, thus our travels started contributing to the décor of the house-not without resistance or debate most of the time. And sometimes blantant disapproval at the nature of the souvenir.
An important character in our home is the telephone. The telephone forms the only tangible form of communication for my parents with their kith and kin. Investing in telephones has always been my dad’s obsession. Each room has a telephone connection, inspite of being a small and accessible home.
Often I have wondered while growing up, if this nostalgia was triggered by the anxiety of alienation they faced in a city with a very different culture. However their eclectic set of friends negate this idea.Also their tolerance of our multi-cultural value system. This city was definitely a new home-where they got opportunities to fulfil their dreams. Along with adapting a 800sq ft apartment into a home filled with archives of their memories of their home, the new city was accepted and loved for its own reasons. However the eternal nostalgia of what they left, lies etched in their lives and on the surfaces our home.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Recently, an interesting topic- Environmental Art was being discussed on many blogs. It was intriguing to read about artists and architects engaged in shaping the future of our natural resources; and redefining Art and Architecture for people at large. Not only have they challenged themselves but have also made a paradigm shift towards generating green economy.
One of the blogs on the topic mentioned about a Canadian artist, Sean Martindale and his group of friends who had creatively designed the edges of the neglected tree planter boxes and replanted them by adding, real as well as paper flowers to it. According to the artist it turned out to be an economic project. He mentioned that the money used on the project added to the green economy. Also, directly engaging with the urban fabric, his project delivered a dynamic collective participation between the living beings and the natural resources (here trees).
With such initiatives towards building a green economy, we still face the question that how much of the Environmental art will be really advantageous to our natural resources? And, will it be beneficial to the smallest of the organism? Sadly, we think in parts and not in whole. For instance, until and unless an artist considers natural resources as one of the most important aspects of his/her works, he/she will never be able to connect with it. For example an architect creates a building that shapes the land and socially connects with the surroundings. But, it is the land that is the point of intersection of the building and the human activity. Hence, natural resources form the most important organs of any work of art.
Art is ubiquitous. It may not be particularly dignified or newsworthy all the time, but it is there everywhere. From the arrangement of utensils in a Kutch dwelling to the art of Subodh Gupta, there is an intrinsic sense of aesthetics that transfixes an art aficionado. However, why do people use it everyday? What significance does it hold? These are questions that have gained momentum over time. This growing awareness has created a need to fill the gap between the observer and the creator.
CEPT (Centre for Environmental Protection and Technology), an educational institution based in Ahmedabad, is one of the first in the country to start a course in Arts Journalism.
The two-year Master's Programme seeks to integrate and build on CEPT's strengths in the field of architecture, interior design, environment planning, conservation and urban design, amongst others. The students will be provided with opportunities to create new paradigms in learning and presenting the arts through different mediums.
The emphasis will be on helping the students to reflect upon art, design and creativity beyond their material forms, and more as an attitude towards life as a whole.
Dhwani Dalal, a second-year student from Arts Journalism and also a vocalist, says, “This course, apart from helping me discover myself, has been extremely engaging. Learning has never been so much fun. It has also brought in the realisation that it is imperative to provide interpretations of works of art to the common people.”
The opportunities are manifold. The Art Journalists can become writers, journalists, creative consultants to the media (electronic, visual, and the radio) and explore prospects with the publishing industry, art galleries, art and design studios and magazines.
For more details, log onto the website www.cept.ac.in.
Forms can be downloaded from the website for the coming session.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
What is a museum?
‘ A Visitor’s attraction- is the "front porch" of the community, welcoming visitors and giving them an overview of what's special and unique about this place. A Catalyst for change- exists to deliver a message that will encourage people to think differently about their relationship to others or to the world. Center of creativity-engages visitors in activities where they make and do things. Visitors, rather than the museum, determine the outcomes. Memory bank- displays aspects of the history of a place, person, cultural tradition, etc. Attic- preserves objects and images that would otherwise have been discarded. Treasure trove- preserves valuable, meaningful, and/or rare and unusual objects and images. Shrine/hall of fame- honors a particular group or individual and assumes visitors have a built-in interest in this topic. Exclusive club-although open to the public, it is primarily aimed at people with special interests in and knowledge of the topic.
Above all it is a Storyteller ‘
‘Whatever the museum's role, staying alive today isn't easy’, says Alice Parman in one of her essays on strategic management and revitalisation of museums. Museums house a history and are themselves part of history. They are story tellers. However they are also living institutions that must continually cope with the present and imagine how to prepare for the future. With internet and cell phones transforming how people communicate and learn, there are both threats and opportunities present for museums. When in their studios, architects often assert the unassailable timelessness of museums as keepers of the past, and emphasising on the poetry of the built form to make the museum iconic- they often forget that what marks the museum on the map is often not architecture alone. This is also the reason why some museums thrive and some struggle to survive.
About the building, there are many- ‘could have happened, but didn’t happen’. However this was the building which inspired his design of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, and it shares the same plan and similar elevation features of the Sanskar Kendra. Critics say that both this and Tokyo Museum were in a vague way derived from the pre-war Museum of Unlimited Growth scheme, which orthogonized a spiral to suggest unlimited growth- a good strategy for the sales pitch for museum curators who always complain of the building being too small for their needs. The proposed/designed appendage buildings could be accessed from the main building by bridges. However these appendages never happened. Another thing that didn't happen was the ‘green’ roof. It was supposed to be a refreshing paradise of water-basins, carpeted with lilies and sending refreshing splashes down into the courtyard pond below. If all that had materialized it would definitely have been some kind of Corbusier version of the Hanging Gardens. However now the roof is a barren wasteland and the courtyard loses all sense of promenade with its ponds empty and traversable. Versus this, the Tokyo museum is thriving cultural research center.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
We are so used to of appreciating whatever NID (National Institute of Design), Ahmedabad does that we hardly question their creations. There is no room left for criticizing their work. Housed in the permanent gallery called the Design Panorama, the ‘archival ‘exhibition had solidified this notion. Entitled as Design Classics, this exhibition was a part of a larger collection of NID. There seemed scarcely any connection between the wall text explaining about the exhibition and the displayed objects in the gallery.
There was a Gujarati Pataro located on one side of the cubic glass gallery which was located on an elevated platform. Parallel to that of the highly intricate peti was a white wall decorated with mirror work. It seemed that this Bauhaus structure of the glass gallery was trying to make its place into a vernacular backdrop to show that the ‘Indian ness’ of the space does not get diluted as the gallery struck a balance between the ‘modern’ and ‘Indian’.
With the bold letters was written ‘1961’ under which important events were highlighted. The events talked about the influences of modern movement on India, the need of a design school, the visit of Charles and Ray Eames in 1947 to India that eventually led to the constitution of NID, influence of modern movement on India and India’s first Industrial Revolution.
Entitled as ‘Moving towards Design Enabled India’, and written in an orange background; this huge text inside the gallery was a traffic stopper. Strangely, the size of the fonts of the black colored ‘moving towards’ was much small as compared to that of the white colored ‘Design Enabled India’. Does that imply that India was ‘disabled’ all this while? Ironically, there was a quote about lota that was mentioned by Charles and Ray Eames which paraphrased to say that apparently lota was the most beautiful of the designs he had ever come across. Right next to this title was another text which had some interesting statements but the most interesting statement amongst all was ‘…NID played a significant role in promoting design to move towards a Design Enabled India’. The quote did not seem to acknowledge the fact that before the inception of this design school in India there has been ample amount of architecture all around that still was the crux of the designs of many renowned buildings. People have been studying about the nuances of our ancient architecture till today because every time it unfolded itself into something new and different. Design schools; though have helped in channelising the thoughts pertaining to design but they did not ‘promote design’. Because design was always present around us, amongst us. It is we who have taken inspiration from nature and ‘promoted’ our designs.NID thinks that the history of NID is the history of Indian design which is so not true.
Moving towards the exhibition note, the text mentioned, “the objects in this exhibition are designed for everyday life in the modern world. For the designers being rained 50 years ago, object from Design today in America and Europe exhibition presented a unique opportunity to learn from some of the most important designers of the world through their works.”This exhibition was just a small part of the large collection at NID. The exhibition was based on three themes namely Modern Material and Processes, Modern Designers and Designing and Modern living and spaces.
The text of Modern Material and Processes explained the exploration in design through materials like steel, chrome, glass and plywood. There was plywood and a metal chair designed by Charles Eames that was kept in the exhibits. Second theme, Modern Designers and Designing talked about the importance of technology and mass production. Example was the Wassily chair in the exhibit. The third and the final theme, Modern living and spaces, mentioned about the need of function and ban on ornamentation in aspect of design. It projected the role of modern movement in the western world. Thus, ‘use’ became the centre of concern and was seen in the designs of spaces as well as lifestyle products. There were only around twenty five products that had been displayed which occupied a very little space in the gallery. But even for these products, the exhibition had three sections.
While looking at the exhibits, some of the interesting designs included the Side Chair designed by Charles Eames in 1951.More interesting was the base of the chair which was called ‘Eiffel tower’ created a dramatic vision of fine cross hatching of chrome and black steel. This showed that the use of new technology of resistance welding in furniture design pre empts a future concern of visual lightness through form. In the wall text that was kept outside the gallery, it was mentioned Charles and Ray Eames but only in the design pallet that showed the designer‘s name there was no mention of Ray Eames. Also, the pallet of colors wherein the details of the products and designers was mentioned was unsuitable to get engaged with the users.
Other objects were Bowls/Plates designed by Tapio Wirkala from Finland in 1951 and the toy figures by the Denmark based Allerup and Jensen in 1956.Another chair called the Swivel Chair had an interesting design wherein wood, chromed metal and leather was used in a minimal and a functional manner. Amongst these exhibits, there was a timeline that marked all the important (some random) events ranging from 1700 to 2000. Some of them mentioned were 1920 – Salt March (this event seems out of place over here), the year of 1961- NID, Ahmedabad, the year of 1919 – Bauhaus, Germany, the year of 2007 – the inception of National Design Policy to name a few.
Further continuing with the exhibits, the next object was designed by the architect Ludwig Meis Van der Rohe in the year of 1926 .Designed in Germany, it was a Laccio nest of tables which combined the tubular steel with a simple clean lacquered top. Next to this set of tables, was a Table Organizer by Hans Wegener from Denmark which got designed in 1947. This design was one of the smartest designs amongst all the exhibits. The organizer was then followed by a typewriter which was the last exhibit of the collection. The exhibition was small but captivating.
So what happened in the rest of the 2/3rd portion of the gallery? It exhibited the current PG (Post Graduation) programmes of NID. More like a three dimensional brochure, the long colorful attractive panels made sure that it strived to be ‘a design school’. Detailed information about the courses was given but not a single panel showed a sketch or a photograph of student’s output. These attractive, human size panels mentioned the courses such as Product Design, Furniture design, Textile design, Graphic design, Film and Animation design to name a few. The more recently added courses were Lifestyle Accessory Design, Strategic Design Management in the PG Campus of Gandhinagar and some other similar courses in the Bengaluru campus.
The proportion of the placement of the three dimensional brochures vis a vis the exhibition clearly showed what had to be given more weightage on. Interestingly, the note of Design Panorama mentioned that through these exhibits (the objects and not the brochures) the students would get encouraged to design. In this case, they would surely get encourage to join NID.
Further, the note also mentioned “Story of NID and design classic collection is linked in their conception and both over past 50 years have evolved together to inspire new generation of designers”. The note was so in opposition as to what was displayed and the way it was displayed in the gallery. The exhibition marketed the Institution clearly. There was no need for the exhibits to be a part of this exhibition as they were a standalone by itself since there was no relation seen between the two exhibits in the gallery.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
It was once the old canteen area. Roofed with bamboo sticks and plastic sheets, they say it can come down anytime. The eucalyptus tree shadowing it bends an inch every month. It is humbly seen as ‘The waste lab’- a filthy place infested with mosquitoes with the undying smell coming from the vats carrying the concentrated pulp. A tub was overloaded with waste papers and cartridges and another with rotten banana shoots soaked in water. It was indeed a refuge for anything that was supposedly considered ‘waste.’ And a haven for anyone who is interested in moulding out something from just anything.
Paper- making workshop was once active many years back before it became defunct and it was only in the month of January this year that a weeklong paper making workshop was conducted by Anupam Chakraborty, a paper maker from Kolkata. Clay work has also been going on here for two years and the place was revived by the students as there was no space in the campus where the workshop could be conducted. During the paper-making workshop, students learnt the very basics of paper-making and were introduced to techniques of stenciling, water marks and layering. Paper is made from materials like cotton rags, jute bags, denim, onion peel, banana shoots and fibrous plants like carrot. The pulp is made in the blender called ‘Hollander beater’ after the materials are soaked for one or two days. The pulp is then stored in huge wooden vessels known as vats for few days. The concentrated pulp is taken out through deckle- a tightened sieve and spread on to wet cloth.
Easy it may sound, but it’s a laborious process and consumes a lot of time. Also the paper has to serve its primary function that is whether it is printable or not. Paper made with certain materials does not serve this purpose well but the use of dried leaves and threads for texturing, patchwork and paper cast form POP mould adds to the aesthetics part.
During Ganesh Chaturthi, final year architecture students came up with the concept of ‘Biodegradable Ganesh.’ Heaps of newspapers and used fabrics were collected for the purpose in the campus. It was a step taken in making Ahmedabad a greener place where Ganesh idols are mostly made out of POP and sold in large numbers. Also they would be making certificates for convocation next year. So far they’ve made paper boxes for ‘bhu:sattva,’ a garment company making organic fabrics and visiting cards for several others.
The students are passionately carrying forward their learning by themselves and making a difference by sensitizing other students in the campus. The festivals are celebrated with much vigour than before as newer ideas in keeping the campus clean and green are transforming the way people think.
Friday, March 11, 2011
The saloonist walks over and starts explaining the girl what kind of new looks she can experiment. He first criticizes her present look, the condition of her hair, skin and very sweetly scolds her to take good care of it and subtly pointing out the new products she can use- a clear marketing strategy. He points out at the models in the mirrors suggesting whom would she look the best like. Her friends check and pool in their suggestions. And the saloonist sets about at his task of ‘make over’, while the girl gingerly keeps an eye looking into the mirror. Her friends simultaneously are browsing through a film magazine with a fashion coverage of a latest movie ‘Aisha’, wowing at the actresses clothes and figure.
This is definitely not one of the examples, when every day we are prolifically bombarded with images and ideas telling us what to wear (because everyone is wearing it), what to eat (because everyone is eating it), what to do (because everyone is doing it). These advertisers know how to appeal to our senses. They use peer pressure very heavily. "You need to wear these tennis shoes because (add a big name sports star) is wearing them and everyone else is going to wear them. You want to be cool don't you?" You have to have a fast car that can go 120 mph even though the speed limit is set at about half that. We are made to realise what we lack and how we will achieve fulfilment only when use the product. This is the general format all advertisements use.
Also in many Indian cities like Ahmedabad, such body care salons are recent phenomena – an undebated implication on the changing ideas of beauty. Also conspicuous consumption is one explanation for such mechanics of our growing consumer societies, and the massive growth of goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining their social status. [1 In a society where there were clear gender demarcations, does the arrival of a unisex saloon indicate changing social order?
To a critical eye, space of the saloon may seem like Guy Debord’s quote in The Society of the Spectacle, “how we have become a society which has moved away from lived reality to consciousness of a represented reality.”
A detailed understanding of which can be gained by perhaps by looking at the two main elements which make up the salon (or that matter any beauty salon) – the images and the mirror.
Evidently there is a politics of the image and the act of image-making. What is taking advantage of the power of the visual and repetition versus the knowledge and the explanations i.e. ‘the words can never do what the sight itself can do.’  Although most of the advertisements in this space do not physically represent the product, they all provide an important iconic representation of both the product and what the product should stand for.  The array of images of models and celebrities looking into the camera ‘confidently’ and saying that the product has made her desirable. Also note-the confidence stems from being notionally beautiful. As one looks at these ‘beautiful’ men and women, the self becomes the binary opposite (the non-beautiful). The products and the space of the saloon are what help the consumer strive achieve their perfection. It is interesting to see the use of color red on certain products.
'Whenever a sign is present an ideology is present too' and the ideology in this context is ‘what is beautiful?’ The images which are repeated over and over in the mirrored space of the saloon, to only continue in magazines, hoardings, televisions, etc reinforce this particular notion of beauty -which is non-separable from the male gaze. When the woman as a trophy to be acquired and presented, the visual becomes crucial especially when the female body is one of the most commodified object in our visual dominated society. The metro-sexual man joins the charade of visual presentation.
The act of seeing is an act of choice and our knowledge systems affect the way we see things. Also we cannot forget how we are so much affected by what we have seen that our knowledge systems are slowly unquestionably being altered. Foucault talks about the mirror as a heterotopia-a place where we see ourselves where we are not. Buddhist monastic practice condemns the use of mirror. There are myths about not using broken mirrors, lest we see distorted and broken images of ourselves. In representations of shringara, the mirror is used as the symbol of beauty, thus desire.
The mirrors in the saloon stare at you, in conjunction with a multitude of aspirational images. For the idea of beauty the place constantly exaggerates about, the mirror becomes the climax- a device of evaluation.
An observer of an event: beholder, bystander, looker-on, observer, onlooker, watcher.
[Latin spectātor, from spectāre, to watch]
Antonyms: participant, player, performer
John Berger opened his well-known BBC television series ‘Ways of Seeing’ by saying “It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world.” His comment points out the powerful position of the spectator, whose act of spectating creates and reinforces our social, political, and even bodily place in the world.
The word Rasika-the spectator, means one who can enjoy the rasas i.e. aesthetics. And aesthesis means a heightening of senses. So it implies that only a ‘good’ rasika will be able to enjoy the rasas well. What is being a rasika? Just as to create an art form involves lot of involvement from the artist. Similarly to be able to ‘enjoy’ an art requires involvement. All art forms always have a spectator in mind which is why enjoying art cannot be a casual act. Viewing an art is setting a conversation in motion-the conversation between the artist and the art, and the art and viewer. Art is the narration of the artists experience to the spectator. But why do we need to encounter art?
Rational man has always wanted to tame. We have tamed our physical environments. Conditioning and rulebooks are considered integral part of the civilized society. Similarly man tries to control his emotional and aesthetic environment. However one cannot control art. But the responses to art can be controlled. The conditioning systems, the Canon, etc play their role in forming these responses. But most of the times they cripple one of the experience one could have got otherwise. From the act of designing a city to some home apparel, human is always the scale. And the human is not just functional and pragmatic but also sensual. Cities designed imagining human as machine, dictating order and control, are not complete though it celebrates man power and dominance. A human scale also measures desires, agonies, anxieties, intimacies, etc. Art is able to responds to man’s this plane of existence. Hence encountering art is an emotional experience. How does one interact with art?
In one of the essay in her book ‘Art Objects’ Jeanette Winterson’s gives a personal narrative about her first encounter with art - how it was a deeply emotional experience. With this experience she draws parallel to the questions raised in her mind about her life, self and art.
When we look at art we are looking at an intense imaginative experience. Our responses are varied. Also the way we look at a work of art is affected by a series of assumptions of art and self. Sometimes these assumptions are obscure- since they mystify and raise art to an unrelateable pedestal. Our unfamiliarity with art is perhaps because many a time the work falls so much out of the comfort zone of our own experiences (of which we have complete knowledge and control of) that in order to keep this comfort intact we deny the other world of the art.
This denial of imaginative experience happens at a much deeper level than our affirmation of the daily world. Everyday, in countless ways we convince ourselves about ‘ourselves’. True art when it happens to us challenges the ‘I’ that we are.’
As Winterson says, engaging with art is like falling in love. Similar to love, letting art affect you demands time and devotion. It is driven by a desire to know and explore, and a risk of complete surrender of your own being- prejudices and feelings, so that this new unfathomable emotion can overtake you and can be experienced to its fullest. Such an engagement reveals to us facets about our own selves which could never be revealed or be repeated by any other experience. Thus we are involved in just a love affair with art alone, but also with ourselves -discovering oneself in the process and what is it that constitutes this ‘I’. It involves the risk of constant learning and re-learning of one’s own self- just like how in love one is discovering a new ‘oneself’ through the eyes of the lover.
'Art is not merely a decoration or entertainment, but a living spirit. An act of art is a celebration of the profound human capacity.' Thus art is an intense act. Hence appreciating art cannot be a casual act, it itself has to be an intense act. However that doesn’t imply that this intensity is a privilege of a minority. It implies that all human have the capacity to ‘receive’ art, one just needs the resolve. Being a spectator is as important as being an artist.
‘Art does not belong to a biological evolutionary pattern. Art is not a little bit of evolution that the twentieth century city dweller can safely do without.’
What is this time? And why is this need for the human to track time, from the time immemorial starting from tracking the sun at different times of the day to ancient scientists inventing the sundial to the clocks of today have been developed to keep time with accuracy? Is it to understand and tame the abstraction of our own existences, which is so intertwined with time? And aren’t these questions the birth of sciences, history and philosophy? And also religions-where each are trying to give their answers through their distinct mythologies, doctrines and philosophies.
Right from burning of incense sticks and candles which were, and are, commonly used to measure time in temples and churches; the intelligence of the inventions of various instruments used to measure time has been astounding. The hourglass, waterclocks and later, mechanical clocks used to mark the events of the abbeys and monasteries of the Middle Ages-are just to name few. It is only an urgency to document/understand time and acute observations that gave birth to inventions such the ancient zodiac astronomical calendar to Einstein’s theory of relativity. The clock tower, however, had a functional birth in the Biblical region when the passage of the hours was marked by bells in the abbeys as well as at sea. It is the etymology of the word clock also.
The English word clock probably comes from the Middle Dutch word "klocke" which is in turn derived from the mediaeval Latin word "clocca", which is ultimately derived from Celtic, and is cognate with French, Latin, and German words that mean bell.
Before the middle of the twentieth century, most people did not have watches, and prior to the 18th century even home clocks were rare. The first clocks didn't have faces, but were solely striking clocks, which sounded bells to call the surrounding community to prayer. They were therefore placed in towers so the bells would be audible for a long distance. Clock towers were placed near the centres of towns and were often the tallest structures there. As clock towers became more common, the designers realized that a dial on the outside of the tower would allow the townspeople to read the time whenever they wanted. And it is with the arrival of the Raj this new philosophy and religion of the clock tower came to India.
Colonialism brought with it the concept of linear time. And most of us now are accustomed to living life according to this linear beliefs and patterns of existence. We believe everything has a beginning, middle and an end. But Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism –the dominant religious schools of Indian sub-continent, had little to do with the linear nature of history, the linear concept of time or the linear pattern of life.
The passage of 'linear' time has brought us where we are today. But Hinduism views time from a cosmic perspective to. There exists the divine time of the Gods and the illusionary time of the mortals. Also, it believes the process of creation moves in cycles consisting of the yugas. And since this process is cyclical, it is never ending. Creation begins when God makes his energies active and ends when he withdraws all his energies into a state of inactivity. Time kal is thus a manifestation of God. God is timeless, for time is relative and ceases to exist in the Absolute -as the past, the present and the future coexist simultaneously. The cycle of time, Kalachakra, creates the divisions and movements of life and sustain the worlds in periodic time frames. God also uses time to create the 'illusions' of life and death-which is nothing but a gateway to the next cycle, birth. This is true of the universe itself and parallel to the cyclic patterns in the rhythms of nature. The Rita, Ritu, Chandramasams and the nazhikas-vinayikas are the measurements of time.
This was the philosophical context in which the mechanical clock towers were planted. These power symbols of industrialisation- also were alien to a culture where occupation and knowledge systems were more ghetto based, when the apprentice had to report at his master’s workshop at sunrise and not at ‘Aath bajje’ i.e. when the clock strikes eight. New systems of education, new occupations, etc. dictated the importance of the clock tower. The shifts in language of the clock tower from its colonial origins to being amalgamated in vernacular architecture, as a sign of modernity, are interesting to note. These shifts are not only a case of architectural study, but it is the study of history of colonialism and its assimilation and impact on ideology of the sub-continent.
The clock towers stand in new meanings and new contexts as an artefact of a past and a birth of a concept of time.