Category Archives: Art practice

Digital | Visual | Cultural 2 – ‘Digital Visual/Publics’ Public Lecture @dvcultural #dvcultural

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta and Co-Investigator Dr. Padmini Ray Murray were invited to give talks at the Digital/Visual Publics ‘Visualising Digital Heritage, Futures, and Other Temporalities’ public lecture organised by Digital | Visual | Cultural which took place on January 7th and 8th 2019 at St. John’s College Auditorium, University of Oxford, UK.

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta was invited to give the keynote on ‘The ‘Smart Safe City’: Speed, Time and Violence in the Margins of India’s Urban Age’ and Co-Investigator Dr. Padmini Ray Murray was invited to speak on ‘Urban Temporalities and the Museum of London at Smithfield’ at the Digital/Visual Publics public lecture entitled ‘Visualising Digital Heritage, Futures, and Other Temporalities’ organised by Digital | Visual | Cultural and curated by #DIVAWProject Advisory Board member Professor Gillian Rose, Professor of Human Geography at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, on January 8th 2019 at St. John’s College Auditorium, University of Oxford, UK.

You can view the programme for the event and find out more about all of the speakers and presentations here.

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Image Credit: Digital|Visual|Cultural

Explore the event Tweets below:

Photo Essay on Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony

Please see below a Photo Essay by photographer Rohit Madan, including a 360 degree view of a busy crossroad in Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony, New Delhi, India, one of the areas our ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project is focusing on.

The photo essay forms part of our #GSCProject #AanaJaana exhibition taking place in Mandi House metro station, New Delhi from 1 to 31 January 2019. You can read more about the exhibition here and explore and share our exhibition event Facebook page here

‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ – An Exploration of Music as a Medium of Expression

Sunayana Wadhawan, Sound Artist and Music Director

It all began with the young women of Madanpur Khadar, when they voiced their idea for expressing their thoughts and experiences in the city through a song. Inspired by the youth and emerging alternative media around them, the young women began envisioning themselves as being heard and becoming visible in the fast internet world.

Music is a powerful instrument to connect with people, their personal experiences and their struggles. It is present in the personal as well as public spheres of our lives, and has the potential to overcome social and physical boundaries within and across communities. This was their first time trying their hand at an experiment with evolving genres of music like hip-hop and slam poetry, and we collectively turned it into an opportunity to find our voices, our rhythms, our styles, and think more deeply about our reasons for engaging with music.

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Image Credit: Sunayana Wadhawan
All the women involved in this song, including me, are women who are working and/or performing domestic work at their homes. We met every Sunday for a few hours as that was the only day we didn’t have to go to work outside. The sessions were based on the following themes that were covered over a period of 10 days in total.
 
  • Introductions and discovering rhythms: To work together, it was important to first get to know each other and share our personal stories and struggles, issues that affected us the most, our aspirations and our love for music. We respected the stories each one of us shared with the group, these stories accompanied by tears, laughter and much more. We also searched our memories for issues and incidents that affected women in cities to bring alive narratives and people’s stories previously missing in our conversations. While we acknowledged that our bodies were a site of violence in the city, we also discussed notions around desires for freedom linked to our bodies. This also led us to explore how and why we enjoyed dancing to songs from different regions and understanding how rhythms flow through our bodies and can give a sense of freedom of movement.

Apart from clapping and dancing, one of the exercises I conducted was an attempt to find a shared rhythm using a timing that we are all familiar with – the sounds made when we wash clothes. It was an extraordinary moment as all the women had different styles of washing clothes and each one of them was well versed with the actions and sounds involved in washing clothes – a domestic chore often delegated to women in the house. We all settled on one of the easier-sounding styles that helped us make the sounds collectively in rhythm and in unison.

  • History of hip-hop and finding your own genre: From discussing the history of hip-hop as a medium of protest and expression, to observing how hip-hop has been embraced in India over the last few years, we watched videos and grooved to different songs to become more familiar with the sound and delivery of messages through spoken word/hip-hop music. We also watched videos of emerging female hip-hop artists in India like MC Kaur, Dee MC as well as songs like ‘O Womaniya’ that revive local dialects, music instruments and traditions with the help of technology. We did a few exercises to come up with rhymes in Hindi and English, inventing words to find a way to express ourselves and help us warm up to writing our song.
  • Lyric writing: Taking from the conversations we had during our introductions, each of the women penned down their own story as well as the stories of others they had learnt about from the news or even their neighbourhood, in the form of prose, poetry and couplets. The challenge here was to let different stories emerge and express them in the least amount of words possible. We worked on the stories and rephrased them, added rhymes to them, and began reciting them to each other. We then stood in circles and recited different verses alongside some hip-hop tracks I had prepared for our sessions. This process also helped us edit and put the verses in an order that allowed the stories to become more connected and cohesive as one collective narrative, while at the same time retaining everyone’s individual voices and words.
  • Recording, tracking and mixing: Initially, we had planned to hire a studio and gain experience of working in a studio environment, surrounded with all its technologies, as budding artists. However, constraints on time, and being unable to get all the women to a studio for several hours on the same day, limited our options. We decided to take inspiration from our situation, absorbing it into the process of creating this song, and borrowed a good quality sound recorder to record each of the women singing/reciting different parts of the song. Their voices echoed through the lanes of the neighbourhood when they were practicing and collectively recording parts of the chorus and other lines. It was challenging to balance the sounds of a busy neighbourhood and the sometimes timid voices of women who were finding their inner strength to do justice to the emotions they tried to express in the song. Yet, we managed to find spaces in their homes, and Jagori’s local office, to record to our best abilities as the women juggled between their responsibilities and their excitement for recording their very first song.

Once the recordings were done, we heard them out and selected those that were well-recited and fit well with the tempo of the base track. After organising each of the voice clips of the track on software with the help of sound professionals, we worked with, and gave inputs to, the sound professionals to ensure the tracks were mixed in a way that separated each of the voices without making them sound disconnected.

Then came the most exciting moment for all of us – to hear the final track together. It was a Sunday again, and most of the women who took part were present during our first collective listening session. The happiness in the room was evident from the smiles on everyone’s faces at hearing their own voices in the final version of the track. Some of the women were so overwhelmed at their achievement that they had tears rolling down their cheeks.

 

It has been a wonderful and enlivening experience to be a part of this journey to find our voices, imbibe the joy and power possessed by music, and witness a growing sense of pride and confidence in the women as they expressed hope to continue making more songs and spread powerful messages in their city.


Read the other blogs on our new #GSCProject initiative:

‘Filming ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls]’ by Nandan Latwal, our Film Director and Creative producer, here

‘The City is For You and Me’ with the music video by Dr. Ayona Datta, Project Principal Investigator, here.

Filming ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls]

Nandan Latwal, Film Director and Editor

I was lucky enough to be a part of this research network and feel strongly about the overarching objective of this research project. My association with the ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project was quite serendipitous and has been rewarding in many ways. Without going into too much detail, I would like to share a few challenges that we had to face during the making of this video with the Khadar girls. 

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Poster created by: Ayona Datta

  • Availability – Although the Khadar girls might appear homogenous, yet the group was quite diverse in terms of identity. They ranged from unmarried, divorced, to single mothers; most of them were working outside their homes and some pursuing education alongside this. Amidst all the personal, professional and educational pursuits, it was tough for them to take time out for participation in the project and particularly for the film. The working women often came to the filming sessions even if they have to make excuses at work. Those who have to take care of their family were continually moving between the filming sites and their homes. 

  • Onlooker’s reactions – It is clear from the music video that it is of an open genre where the Khadar girls speak back to the city about their day-to-day challenges particularly around violence in public spaces. Most of this music video have been shot in the streets, main road and open market – places that are frequented by men in general. The Khadar girls had to withstand this male gaze in public places, often also from their neighbours or relative. Even though initially they were uncomfortable with this gaze, they stood firmly through this. 

Image credits: Ayona Datta
  • Infrastructural challenges – In the #aanajaana storymap Dr. Datta has shown how in recent years urban transformation has taken places in Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony. Khadar is on the outskirts of Delhi NCR with least or minimal infrastructural development. The roads were narrow with no public transport and modern monuments of garbage everywhere, with cows scavenging on them. On the last day of our shoot there were no electricity all through the day, no streetlight, and no place to charge our equipments. 

  • Breaking the ice with Khadar girls – My association with this project is nothing but serendipity and this serendipity happened on the night before the day of the shoot. So when we started filming, although Dr. Datta and her team had been working closely with the Khadar girls but my crew and I were strangers to them. To be able to achieve a music video of a good quality we felt that it was critical for us to know them better. We spent a half a day just to get familiarise with each others through various participatory video training sessions. 

Image credits: Ayona Datta
  • Facing the camera – With the advent of smart phone and cameras at both in the back and at the rear people have become adept at photography and taking selfies, but a camera with a cinematographer on the other end is still threatening to a lot of people. I have seen people serving at high posts in government and corporates stammering in front of a camera. Shooting with the Khadar girls was also not easy. We had to take numerous shoots for a single 5 second line and at time with a zero percent success rate. The first day was exceptionally challenging with little progress, but we began to have more of a rapport on the second day. Dr Datta also did a few shoots on the third day and practiced some of the shots with the girls. The last few days of shooting went smoothly with the last day going exceptionally easily as reflected in the video ending.

  • My strict task-master attitude – My personal attribute might have been a challenge for both the Khadar girls and me as director and producer in charge. As a director of the process I had to be assertive at various points and with each repeat shot I was also losing patience and failing to keep my calm. But at the end of the process the Khadar girls and I had come much closer than falling apart. We have ended the filming with a lot of mutual respect and camaraderie. I hope we can stay in touch and develop more films in the future.

Please click here to see Music video of ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’

📸 #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] Twitter Selfie Photography Competition

The #GSCProject #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] International Twitter Selfie Photography Competition is now open for entries!

About the Competition

The ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project research network team, in partnership with our societal partner Safetipin, institutional partner King’s College London, the One Billion Rising campaign movement and project funder, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), is organising an exhibition which will take place at the Mandi House metro station, New Delhi entitled ‘Art in Public Places – #AanaJaana: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City’ from 1st to 31st January 2019.

You can find out more about our upcoming research network exhibition and events, our aims and ongoing projects by exploring our interactive Story Map here and the exhibition information page here.

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How to Enter

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, in the weeks leading up to the exhibition and during the exhibition month, members of the public are invited to enter our #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] international photo competition by taking a selfie while travelling or using public transport, posting it on Twitter and tagging our competition hashtags #AanaJaana and #GSCProject.

The Prize

Each photo entry will be judged by our international research team based on its relevance to our project themes – women in the city, urban futures, urban mobility, smart cities, inclusive cities and right to the city, everyday cities and safe cities.

The winning entry and entrant will be featured on the ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project and King’s College London Urban Futures research domain websites and social media accounts. The winner will also receive an exclusive King’s College London branded notebook and pen.

Competition Rules

Each entrant can submit one selfie for the competition (using one Twitter account). This competition is open to all world-wide.

The competition will close for entries at 12 noon (India Standard Time) on 31st January 2019.

The winning entry will be announced via our project Twitter on 1st February 2019 after our ‘Gendering the Smart City’ research network project ‘Art in Public Places – #AanaJaana: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City’ exhibition at the Mandi House metro station, New Delhi has closed and the winner will be contacted via the Twitter account they used to post the selfie.

Contact 

If you have any queries regarding the competition, please contact our project Administrative Officer at marta.koch@kcl.ac.uk.

Please share this competition with anyone you think may be interested.

We look forward to seeing your entries!

Delhi Workshop: Gendering the Smart Safe City

Curating Digital Lives for a Feminist Urban Future

13th December 2018, India International Centre, New Delhi

This workshop seeks to establish an alternative framework for curating the smart safe city. It aims to engender current smart city agendas through young women’s everyday experiences of navigating the city. It will present different perspectives of mobility and safety generated by young women through participatory maps, photographs, videos and WhatsApp diaries maintained over a period of time. In doing so, it explores how women on the margins view, understand, and ultimately navigate the city through information and communication technologies (ICT) accessed from low-cost (and often low-tech) mobile phones.  It provokes us to think what safety means in a context where social media provides real time information on the dangers and freedoms located in the metro, bus, auto rickshaw, and walkways as well as the opportunity to express this in creative and poignant ways. It invites us to think how women living on the urban peripheries negotiate the ‘freedoms’ of moving in online space with the ‘dangers’ of going out into the city, or the limitations of engaging via digital technologies with the freedom of stepping out of one’s home. Through a convergence of artistic practice, digital media and architecture, this workshop will demonstrate the potential of a new kind of visual language of safety that is co-produced with the women. It will reveal the capacity of this language to move beyond existing data on gendered violence to highlight the gendered and socio-economic patterns of inclusions and exclusions brought about by a digital urban age.


As part of the United Nations #16DaysOfActivisim, we launched a hip hop song ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls] co-written and co-produced with our participants at the event. See our Story Map of the process here.

Read the workshop concept note here.

Explore the event Wakelet with all of the Tweets before and during the workshop here

Watch our workshop videos featuring our #GSCProject team members and workshop participants – project societal partners, academics, experts, practitioners and community stakeholders – who joined us on the day below:

Read the workshop report by Project Research Assistant Arya Thomas here.

Programme

MORNING SESSION

9.30-10.00Participants start arriving with tea and coffee served
Project Outline and Findings
Chair: Kalpana Viswanath
  
10.00-10.30Dr. Ayona Datta (Principal Investigator), Reader in Urban Futures, King’s College London
Gendering the Smart City: Curating Gendered Digital Life in the Margins
10.30-10.45Dr. Padmini Ray Murray (Co-Investigator), Digital Humanities Course Leader, Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore
Sharing and Making Digital Knowledge: Using Wikipedia
10.45-11.00

Arya Thomas (Research Assistant) 

WhatsApping and Rapping with Young Women in Delhi’s Peripheries

11.00-11.15Rwitee Mandal, Safetipin (project societal partner)
Gendered Safety Maps of the Unmapped Peripheries
11.15-11.45Q & A
11.45-12.00Break for coffee and tea
Right to Urban Technologies
Chair: Padmini Ray Murray
 
12.00-12.15Sarita Baloni, Researcher, Jagori (project societal partner) 
Working with Youth and Technology in the urban peripheries
12.15-12.30Swati Janu, Senior Designer, mHS CITY LABS and Lecturer in Architectural Design, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Memory Cards and Vernacular Media 
12.30-12.45Krishna Menon, Professor, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University
Gender and the Smart City
12.45-13.00Nayanatara Ranganathan, Manager, Freedom of Expression programme, Internet Democracy Project
Surveillance-As-Safety in Hi-Tech India
13.00-13.30Q & A
13.30-14.15Lunch

AFTERNOON SESSION

Curating the City with Art and Architecture
Chair: Ayona Datta
14.15-14.45Khadar Ki Ladki’ launch of music video and Q & A with participants and sound artist Sunayana
14.45-15.00Kruttika Susarla, Graphic Designer and Comic Artist
The Personal is Political
15.00-15.15Shveta Mathur, Visiting Faculty, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and Coordinator, Urban Design Studio
Student Design Interventions in Khadar
15.15-15.30Sameera Jain, Filmmaker, Editor and Course Director, Creative Documentary program, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi
About My Own City
15.30-16.00Q & A
16.00-16.15Break for coffee and tea
16.15-17.15Roundtable Discussion on Gendering the Indian Smart City: Contexts, Challenges and Future Directions
Moderator: Kalpana Viswanath, Co-Founder and CEO, Safetipin 
Janaki Abraham, Associate Professor in Sociology, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Anjilee Aggarwal, Director, Samarthyam
Sohini Bhattacharya, President and CEO, Breakthrough
Mriganka Saxena, Founder, HTAU (Habitat Tectonics Architecture and Urbanism) 
17.15-17.30Final reflections and moving on to next phase of project
Ayona Datta and Padmini Ray Murray

Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK 

Co-convened by King’s College London and Safetipin, Delhi

Local partners: Jagori and School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi