In the spirit of experimentation and collaboration, Akbar Padamsee set up VIEW, the ‘Vision Exchange Workshop’ at his Napean Sea Road apartment between 1969 - 1972. VIEW provided a space with equipment and resources where participants across disciplines including artists, cinematographers, printmakers, photographers, a psychoanalyst, an animator and art students came together to explore possibilities through new media.
While Akbar Padamsee’s pathbreaking, transdisciplinary Vision Exchange Workshop is a key node in the long arc of Indian new media art and has received attention in recent times, there were also other initiatives and trajectories between the late-1960s and the 1980s which have gone under the radar. Some of these lost histories will be addressed in ‘An Exploded View’.
Panelists: Ashim Ahluwalia, Meg Harris Williams, Nancy Adajania and Nina Sugati
Conceived and Moderated by Nancy Adajania
Watch the full panel discussion here.
Ashim Ahluwalia is a critically acclaimed film director and screenwriter. He is known to work with archival materials and is credited with the re-discovery of lost works in his films. For instance, his metaphysical exploration of the distinguished painter Akbar Padamsee’s lost experimental film in ‘Events in a Cloud Chamber’ (2016) and the forgotten softcore horror films in ‘Miss Lovely’ (2012). ‘Events in a Cloud Chamber’ shot on Super 8 opened at the 73rd Film Festival and was shown at the BFI London Film Festival, as well as the Museum of Modern Art, among other festivals and venues.
Meg Harris Williams is a visual artist and a writer, and also a teacher of psychoanalytic ideas, focusing on the nature of aesthetic experience and the links between psychoanalysis and the arts. In Bion’s Dream, she has written about Bion’s autobiography ‘A Memoir of the Future’, for which she also wrote the film script together with Kumar Shahani. Shahani was one of the leading participants of Padamsee’s Vision Exchange Workshop and his exchanges with Padamsee and psychoanalyst Udayan Patel at VIEW informed the making of ‘A Memoir of the Future’ (1983). More recently, Williams wrote the script for The Becoming Room, based on A Memoir of the Future, which was performed in Delhi by Tom Alter in 2017.
Nina Sugati is an experimental filmmaker of great renown. She was briefly associated with Padamsee’s Vision Exchange Workshop. The three exceptional experimental films which she made while a student at Cal Arts in the early 1970s were shown for the first time in four decades in ‘Zigzag Afterlives: Film Experiments from the 1960s and 1970s in India’, a film cycle curated by Nancy Adajania for the Camden Art Centre, London, 2020. In 1975, Sugati’s experimental film ‘Chhatrabhang’ went on to win the first International FIPRESCI Critics Award for an Indian film at the 1976 Berlinale.
Nancy Adajania is a Bombay-based cultural theorist and curator. She has pioneered a regionally anchored theorisation of new media art in India in her essay ‘New Media Overtures Before New Media Practice in India’ published by Marg, in 2009. She curated ‘Counter-Canon-Counter-Culture: Alternative Histories of Indian Art’ at the Serendipity Arts Festival, in Goa, 2019, where she showed 42 experimental works including Padamsee’s ‘Syzygy’, Ashim Ahluwalia’s ‘Events in a Cloud Chamber’, and the visionary but unfinished film ‘A Memoir of the Future’ by Shahani. CCCC resurrected and created a dynamic montage of the unknown or unrecognised histories of experimentation and collaboration in photography, film, music and transmedia experiences. Adajania recently led an online curatorial workshop ‘Once Upon a Cultural Famine: A Curatorial Thought Experiment’ for the Kochi Biennale Foundation.