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nungu and Beatrice Gibson

Human Capital

nungu, Masala X, 2001
nungu, Masala X, 2001 nungu, Masala X, 2001 nungu, Masala X, 2001
Based in Bombay, nungu is a collective of artists from India and around the world who specialize in new media and create networked art. Originally a multimedia e-zine, nungu soon evolved into an autonomous and ever-changing cultural space. Networked systems, nungu believes, have great social potential as autonomous zones for critiquing culture. As a result, the group wants to open art and technology up to as many people as possible.

In October 2001, nungu joined forces with Sarai Media Lab in Delhi and set up the workshop Writing the City - Electronic. The two groups also collaborated on a project, Mrs Jeevan Jham, that investigated surveillance, security and transparency. For in New York, Beatrice Gibson and Vishal Rawlley created Masala X, an electronic documentation of street pornography in Indian cities. (1)

Drawing on the literary background of its founders, nungu first explored electronic text as a new means of expression and examined the phonetic properties of text. In doing so, nungu saluted the Russian and Italian futurists and the Dadaist poets who researched language’s non-semantic properties. At the same time, the group questioned the hegemony of the visual. In response to Marshall McLuhan, who said that electronic communication and mass media subvert visual spaces by introducing an acoustic space, nungu feels that cyberspace’s acoustic nature makes it the ideal setting for further investigating text. Hence, the project supported by the Foundation will examine sound as text and probe what Gibson aptly calls "soniture" in the context of telematics.

It’s well known that telecommunication technologies develop to suit the needs of capitalism. In response to globalization and the pursuit of profits, production centres for goods and services move to areas with cheap labour. Such centres are springing up all over India given the vast number of educated workers who speak English and have mastered information technologies. To be in synch with their European and American callers, teleworkers at these centres answer the phone with “good afternoon” even though it’s nighttime in India. These teleworkers also watch British and American soap operas to assimilate regional accents. Finally, they attend a two-hour seminar on the British royal family.

Two questions are at the centre of the project: What is the nature of this disembodied post-human subjectivity? And what is the experience of teleworkers as their voices are lost across time and space? Besides exploring the disembodied proximity of teleworkers, the project looks at how the texts of telematic capitalism can be used to investigate its logic. In other words, the project makes audible the often subliminal logic of telematic communications and stresses the decreasing social relevance of space as time accelerates.

nungu delves into mechanical poetry, the experience of being in many places at once, and the paradoxical presence of teleworkers. The project will adopt a game-like structure wherein the user must choose between a cacophony of mutually contaminating texts. Guiding the project are three sets of parameters: the model of the call centres in India; mechanically generated sound poetry; and the user’s passage through the space.

Jacques Perron © 2002 FDL