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A Thousand Channels begins as a series of radio episodes assembled by Syma Tariq which trace the journey of the traveling public programme Ancestors curated by Natasha Ginwala (more details on Ancestors at bottom of this page). Across the South Asian cities of Dhaka, Colombo, Lahore and beyond, a series of gatherings featuring a wide array of contributors are acoustically re-plotted to inquire into facets of belonging, geographic affinity, colonial legacy, states of permanent war and ecological crises.
The notion of South Asia is little grasped beyond the lenses of conflicted nationhood, geo-political insecurities and legacies of colonial capitalism that are rapidly altering the living conditions of this massive region. This project proposes a parallel practice of critical listening in an attempt to chart shared histories and animate processes of re-locating ourselves as part of a common horizon. A Thousand Channels thus attempts a new kind of contextualized sonic imprint to interrogate our perception of place in the partitioned subcontinent.
Through modes of conversations, field recordings, sound walks, films, archival reportage, musical work and psychogeographic strategies, the clips that form the initial episodes of A Thousand Channels pre-empts an ongoing project that builds a sonic schema with a consideration towards radio as a format with radical and universalizing origins, and sound as a deeply unstable arrangement. The ambitions of this project is to aurally attend to the region and beyond in meaningful ways, meeting with people and projects in a practice of audio documentary and experimental listening.
Through tracing material histories of the ancestral in the present as a mode of archipelagic thinking, we seek to address some of the most urgent questions of a conflictual present : How shall we produce agency in the matter of earthly inheritance ? What lineage of modernity do we wish to continue aligning with ? How to institute political and ethical claims that resist the mainstreaming of cultural identity ?
A THOUSAND CHANNELS
Episode 1 : My East is Your West
An introduction to My East is Your West and the Ancestors public programme by curator Natasha Ginwala
Conversations with artists Rashid Rana and Shilpa Gupta about My East is Your West, their show at the 56th Venice Biennale
My East is Your West, Installation Shot, work by Shilpa Gupta, 2015, photo Mark Blower
My East is Your West, Installation Shot, work by Shilpa Gupta, 2015, photo Mark Blower
Episode 2 - Erosion and Emergence
Sonic booms – a noise created by military aircraft when they reach the sound barrier. The recordings are incorporated from autonomous sound monitoring equipment installed in the Mojave desert of Southern California, near Harper Dry Lake and beneath the restricted airspace known as the R-2508 Special Use Airspace Complex. Courtesy Steve Rowell, Center for Land Use Interpretation
Architect Marina Tabassum on “erosion and emergence”, her definition of the chemistry of land and water of the Ganges Delta, where Bangladesh is located.
Maxim Gvinjia on being a diplomat in Abkhazia, a country that is not recognised by most of the international community. Abkhazia is something of a paradox : a country that exists, in the physical sense of the word (a territory with borders, a government, a flag, a language), yet it has no legal existence because for almost 20 years it was not recognized by any other nation state. Clip from film ‘Letters to Max’, courtesy of Eric Baudelaire
A walk recorded on an iPhone towards the Museum of Independence, Dhaka. Courtesy Reetu Satar.
Architect and instigator of the so-far virtual Partition Museum project Taufiqur Rahman Khan, reading on Skype from Iftekhar Iqbal’s Reclaiming the Crossroads between India and China : A View from the River. This section explains the imperial importance of the Brahmaputra River because of oil well drilling in the early 20th century.
Fishermen on the Brahmaputra River. Courtesy Wild Films India
An excerpt from a film made by artists and researcher in forensic architecture Nabil Ahmed that reveals a geohistorical approach to the changing ecology and colonial impact on present-day Bangladesh.
Musician Noor Zehra plays the Sagar Veena, a completely new addition to the existing variety of stringed instruments for playing North Indian classical music. The name is divided into two parts ; “Sagar” being a Sanskrit word for ocean, while “Veena” a generic term used to classify the family of stringed instruments. Courtesy Sanjan Nagar Institute, Lahore
A note on sonic booms. Compilation of witnesses of sonic booms made by US war planes. Courtesy Military.com
A note on ‘skyquakes’, also known as the guns of Bharisal in Bangladesh, or mistpoeffers – unexplained booming sounds, which sound like weapon fire, heard most often at coastal of lakeside locations. They are still heard in the Bay of Bengal.
Theorist on speech and silence Nikita Dhawan on the issue of the use of language within hegemonic norms. Courtesy 98 Weeks Gallery
The tower of the Museum of Independence, Dhaka, by architect Marina Tabassum
Reetu Sattar performing 1134-Numbers not Lives, a performance to remember the lives lost in the collapse of Rana Plaza, the biggest industrial loss of life in history. Ancestors : Erosion and Emergence, Dhaka
Episode 3 – Asymmetrical Islands
Night-time recording of a road in Ella, a Sri Lankan village 2,000 metres above sea level
Sohini Basak reading her poem, ‘Sometimes You Dream of Wolves Not Foxes’.
Artist, writer, filmmaker and former member of the Black Audio Film Collective John Akomfrah on the relationship of the postcolonial to its subject in his work titled Transfigured Night. From the After Year Zero series, Courtesy Anselm Franke and Haus der Kulturen der Welt
An excerpt from Pedro Gómez-Egaña’s work Vimana Kiranaavarta Observatory. The piece refers to Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Descent Into the Maelstrom” 1841, R.L Brohier’s “The Changing Face of Colombo”, and Colombo’s Komapana Veediya neighborhood. It also refers to the “Vimana Shastra", a text written in the early 20th century by Maharshi Bharadwaaja that claims to reveal the engineering behind the mystical flying machines of Southern Asia called Vimanas.
People on boats head towards ‘Zalzala Jazeera’, an island that emerged after an earthquake that erupted off the Gwadar coast of Pakistan in 2013, as it emits methane gas. As predicted by many geologists, the island has now started to resubmerge, with satellite images indicating the island has sunk 10 feet into the sea since its initial appearance. The island is uninhabited, and is covered in trash from its many visitors. Courtesy : youtube.com/channel/afaceintheclouds
Sounds of traffic on Mymensingh Highway, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Architect Marina Tabassum on her own memories of rivers and relationship to water, and an explanation of the dual – upward and subterranean - nature of her long-awaited project, Dhaka’s Museum of Independence, which took 17 years to complete.
Musicians Noor Zehra and Beena Raza play “Bilawal (Jugalbandi)” on the Sagar Veena, a new addition to the existing variety of stringed instruments for playing North Indian classical music. “Sagar” is a Sanskrit word for ocean, while “Veena” a generic term used to classify the family of stringed instruments. Courtesy Sanjan Nagar Institute, Lahore
One of Sri Lanka’s best known artists and heads of archaelogy Jagath Weerasinghe on the archaeological approach in his work and naitonal context, and notes on a new project, ‘Memory in Groundedness’.
Audience at Ancestors : Asymmetrical Islands, Jaffna, April 2015
Ho Tzu Nyen’s presentation of film and theatre works traversing the mythic symbolism of the Tiger in the cosmology and ecology of the Malayan world, the contested origins of the island nation Singapore and the ‘double agent’ lurking within the terrains of South East Asian communist histories.
Episode 4 : Gandi Engine Commission
The Gandi Engine Commission is an experimental, site-specific workshop that navigates through the Ravi River, which flows along the northern edge of Lahore, to explore themes of development and destruction, waste and toxicity. Drawing on the Persian meaning of the word “ravi” as “narrator”, Tentative Collective – a group of people who collaborate on public art projects in urban spaces – activate the river as a site of storytelling, excavating and re-framing stories of multiple wreckages and ruinations from colonial histories to the neo-colonial present.
Deriving their title from a water treatment plant off the Ravi, the Gandi Engine (dirty engine) Commission looks at the river as a recipient and vessel of the copious and continuous sewage of the city. While numerous commissions have been installed to reverse the death/destruction of the Ravi, theirs is an exercise in moving through space and time, to pause, reflect and re-examine our relationship as urban dwellers to the landscape and ecology we inhabit.
The project was commissioned by the Lahore Biennale Foundation as part of Ancestors : Architecture of Memory in Lahore, Pakistan in September 2015.
Tentative Collective are : Yaminay Chaudhri, Haajra Haider, Zahra Malkani, Shahana Rajani, Fazal Rizvi and Mehreen Murtaza www.tentativecollective.com
Projection from Tentative Collective’s project Gandi Engine Commission onto a warehouse in Shah Deen Park, Lahore. (part of Ancestors : Architecture of Memory, Lahore, September 2015)
The AH1 Highway bridge that crosses the River Ravi, Lahore
Episode 5 : Architecture of Memory
To be aired in November 2015 on radioapartment 22 and TheState
A note on the Ancestors programme
Ancestors is a multi-part public programme conceptualised as an interdisciplinary events platform for the Gujral Foundation project featuring artists Shilpa Gupta (Mumbai, IN) and Rashid Rana (Lahore, PK) at the 56th Venice Biennale 2015. Along with leading South Asian and international artists, writers, filmmakers and theorists, this events programme charts a layered timescale of planetary belonging amidst terrestrial, cosmological, and de-colonial terrains, to read against the grain of the brief history of nation-state in the divided Indian subcontinent. Surveying the notion ‘Ancestors’ through geographic connectivity, millennia-old traditions of hospitality, acculturation, oral memory, and anti-colonial struggle these traveling conversations bring forth trajectories to re-locate the individual within a dynamic collectivity.
About Syma Tariq : Syma Tariq is a freelance journalist, editor and independent researcher. She works as a correspondent for Monocle in Portugal, and is also a copy editor for The Guardian’s news and opinion desks. She is a regular contributor to Monocle24 radio, covering urbanism and social issues, politics, business and culture. In currently developing the audio project A Thousand Channels, she is slowly considering a field recording practice relating to spaces of migration and trade. Syma is also co-programmer at Waterfalls, a platform for musical and sonic collaborations in the form of live events and independent releases. She is based in between Lisbon and London.