Train to Virar

These photos seem to me to have come together quite by chance, but then they also emerged from patterns of behavior and forms of style, against the backdrop of flows of people, traffic, capital, information. In India today these patterns are emerging through a new ecology of sensation. But I make no claim for these photographs as “art.” And yet clearly the history of perspectivalism, the dominance of representationalism in the engagement with a living multiplicity is at stake for me in creating these images. There is an accretion of information some of which coheres, much of which does not, but each image has a certain duration at different scales of perception, a noncoinciding resonant unity, a unity-in-multiplicity is what I hope to continue through the photography (mutating affect, not representation). An ecology of sensation meeting its cliché: Bollywood meets graphic novels at the back of a rikshaw, Agra’s Mughal-era oriental(ized) stone work turning topological and dimensional (is it less or more racist? to what extent is the question relevant to what it does?), the ferris wheel on Juhu beach, the weighing machine at the local station. This time that I have been able to spend here in India thanks to a research grant from the Fulbright foundation, has allowed me to research the materiality of the ecology of sensation of mobile phones and experiment in forms of creatively engaging this ecology.

Rik to Juhu from Santa Cruz Station

Cinematically, I have been inspired by the work of Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee, the acting of Abhay Deol, the inventiveness of Gulzar and Javed Akhtar, the interpretive voice of Jagjit Singh, the clarity of Naseerudin Shah; the power of Vidya Balan; conceptually the scholarship of Nivedita Menon and Shilpa Phadke has brought me new resources for imagining justice and democracy. Gilles Deleuze’s words echo in this mutating practice (specifically What is Philosophy [2004] and Nietzsche and Philosophy [1963]).

Riding out the cliché that we each singularly (and so collectively: all habits are pre-individual: where the subject and populations meet) have become is not like riding a wave, a horse, or a sexual partner. These photos have no metaphor, but it is easy to find various metaphors in them. They have attempted to accrete digital information, to assemble, to form what artist and photographer Ranjit Khandalgoankar (and contemporary engineering) calls transient states (the work of Ranjit and James Mazza has affected me, see respectively:; Again not as mise en abime but as potential occasions for a perceptual event (events that exceed their actualization). Ranjit and I have also discussed the limitations of photography, especially as forms of ethnography or visual anthropology; photography whose photoshopped life in fact betrays the promise of photography itself; photos that enable a hauntology to emerge in the viewing subject. These photos don’t do all that, in that respect they do very little aside from pointing the capacities of perception in multiple directions. From the very beginning of our conversation, the aim was to find forms beyond narration. His notion of transient states is crucial for precisely this reason. He is interested in switches, I am interested in the switching of bodily senses. This is not a celebration of transient life as resistance; it is an affirmation of becoming from the molecular to the molar, but always beginning against a backdrop of emergent patterns and forms, that is of relations of force, sense, and value. These photos have solicited my vision, they strike me as potential events in gradients of textured vision, haptic and mutating across senses.

Setting up Ferris Wheel, Juhu

Insurance Buss, Shivaji Station, Mumbai

But this is not to make too much of them. They are just my own photos composited onto my own photos on a readily available program called AKVIS, and different control parameters knobs—luminosity, RGB, colors, level of detail, contrast, brightness, saturation, high and low lights, and the such—tweaked till something, some sensation compels me. An excess takes hold, where one gets the sense of movement in a transient state. They are not mise en abime, and at their best (admittedly a rare occurrence) something resonates beyond the image, beyond the screen or page through which they are experienced and we enter a realm of excessive information that calls for another diagram of bodily capacities. The experience of making these photos has helped me to grasp some words of Isabelle Stengers.

Platform 2, Kurla Station, Mumbai

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

Stengers gives us a clear image of thought as well as forceful concept of the way difference functions in far from equilibrium systems. In fact, it is a rejection of apriori conceptualism, and opting instead for a practice of emergence. Not that the practice is constantly emerging (it is mutating), but that it is involved in the emergence of ecologies. Stengers (drawing as well on her work with Ilya Prigogine) writes of strange attractors, whose systems have an irreducible aleatory force passing through them repetitively, and whose properties (affects) vary with sudden changes in force, passing from basin of attraction to basin of attraction. Given a statistical probability of variance in a process, in a population of processes, irregular forces transform noise into the occasion of a dynamic threshold.

Best Bus Depot, Near Regal Cinema, Colaba

She writes:

Far from equilibrium, fluctuations may cease to be noise, instead becoming actors that play a role in changing the macroscopic regime of a system. Furthermore, the far-from-equilibrium physiochemical systems that Ilya Prigogine baptized “dissipative structures” exhibit another new property. It is not only “molecular noise,” the fluctuations, that may “take on meaning” but also certain details of the control variables that correspond to the experimental definition of the system under study (pressure, volume, temperature, flow of reagents,….) For example, although gravitation has no observable effect on chemical systems at equilibrium or near to equilibrium, far from equilibrium its effect can be amplified so that it has macroscopic consequences. The system has become sensitive to gravitation.

Man Reading, Santa Cruz

Sea Breeze, Juhu

Now we make no claim that these photos are non-linear systems nor do they inaugurate a phase transition, but they are images soliciting perceptual capacities tending away from equilibrium, where the threshold of noise is very low, and where the machinic phylum becomes sensitive to certain forces (of luminosity or the color blue or saturation, for instance). The photographs are experiments in perception given the ecology of sensation that I am working through. Now, Stengers notes that when a system becomes sensitive to certain forces, dynamics, processes, an emergent property comes into play in the new system. These emergent properties open the system to the machinic phylum and the nonlinear plane of potential. How? The very concept of becoming, the components of this concept—intensity, chance, mutation, sensation, value, force, sense—have a statistically apprehendable (but not determinate) variance. At critical thresholds this population of variant processes become sensitive to forces simultaneously, instantaneously and in that transient state a phase transition is inaugurated.

Weighing Machine, Kurla Station

Man Resting, Byculla

Sun Moon Mesh

Similiarly, it has been shown that a dissipative structure fed by chemical flows that are not perfectly constant in time but slightly irregular has access to new types of structuation. In other words, it is the collective regime of activity that decides what is insignificant noise and what must be taken into account. We do not know a priori what a chemical population can do, and we can no longer tell once and for all the difference between what we must take into account and what we can ignore….A demon that understood and could control with positively infinite precision a system characterized by such an attractor could obviously deal with it as just another system. For the demon, the system would be deterministic, as are the equations that describe it. However, is this reference still relevant? We are not actually separated from the demon by a quantitative lack (we observe and manipulate less well) but by a qualitative difference: as long as our observations and manipulations do not have a strictly infinite precision, we are dealing with a system with nondeterministic behavior….Here the notion of complexity is close to that of emergence. Dangerously close, moreover, if, as is often the case, “emergence” is understood as the appearance of the unanalyzable totality of a new entity that renders irrelevant the intelligibility of that which produced it. (Isabelle Stengers, “Complexity: A Fad?” 9, 10, 12)

Desh ko rishton mein

Stengers goes on to argue that the difference between emergence and complexity is that of a physical genesis in contrast to a conceptual genesis. Can concepts become involved in a machinic phylum in any other relation than one of capture and reduction? This has been the wager in these photographs. They are not representations of a philosophy, Deleuzian or otherwise. They are experimentations in framing, saturation, luminosity, perspective, topology, movement, shadow, detail, hapticity. They are not philosophy, they attempt the production of affect that resonates with a conceptual and bodily becoming.

Madrid 1

Madrid 3

Madrid 2


Umerkhadi, Mumbai

BKC, Mumbai

Sushi Bar, Saket


  1. Santosh Kumar says:

    These are not mere pictues but images, and more than that they are pieces of paintings,depiocting the speed of life and changing canvas.
    They are just great and amazing.

  2. Iffy says:

    Fordism may not be the norm, yet the dominance of Fordist elements in the composite photographs “reflects” an inescapable influence. Do mobile communications really represent a social repurposing of the technical dialectic, or only, like the composite images, an illusion of independence? The subaltern performs in many different capacities.

    • amitsrai says:

      I like what you wrote. The subaltern performs in many different capacities. And the composite photos for you become representative of a mode of production. This last I can’t quite get with and I’ll simply lay out some reasons why off the top of my head. Does figuration–that is the becoming figure–of a representative object (the composite photos) reflect something other than what it is intensively. What you have done is turn the photos into a metaphor for fordism, but it is precisely why in the note accompanying them I write that these are not metaphors for something other. The aim was to bring perception to the event of becoming a non-coinciding resonant unity, the becoming body of perception. And well what can one say about dialectics? They are better left to the lawyers and the Platonists. So I have nothing to offer there, other than I have written at length about deleuze and the dialectic. It’s worth a dekho (a look in hindi). Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Iffy says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful consideration of my comment. I thoroughly agree with the observation about the dialectic, although somehow it tends to spill over regardless. The images are extraordinarily effective as artistic and social expression, and I think I understand the intention that inference should not be taken where inference does not exist. As you acknowledge, however, if theorists such as Burnett, Manovich, and Barthes are correct, communication is intrinsically both metaphorical and imagistic. Call it just me, but I associate representations of angular, metallic, mechanical forms, devices, and vehicles with modernity and Fordist production. Even India is not immune. The ghostly sense of those elements in the images gives them an almost creepy quality of ubiquitous presence and suggests the question (again, for me), of where does the power, the control, come from? In these images, what represents domination? Assure me that “Madrid” or “Sushi Bar” (however unintentionally) do not include geometrically modernist or cubist qualities. Even “Agra” has a faintly art-deco sense about it, not just with reference to the geometric, but in the surrealist mode of fracture or distortion of the traditional. Perhaps you are right, and I’m over-analyzing, but on the other hand, you may have created something that owns you.

      • amitsrai says:

        how beautifully you write. We disagree on many things (the bergsonian image as sensorimotor circuit, for instance) but agree about capital. It is everywhere, it owns us, and is a form of exploitation more subtle and more violent than anything this planet has seen. I teach globalization studies and media @ fsu, my background is in subaltern studies and marxist cultural studies (renato renaldo thank you). So there was never a question of innoculating india through the photos from the effects of global capital. What an awkward and ineffective way to think of creativity, the image and the body. No where in your response do you mention the capacities of the body…we agree that the images engage capital, but i want to do it through tweaking cliches and confronting habits of perception…

      • Iffy says:

        I am merely a slave to my native language. An intriguing exchange. I was an instructional designer once. Now I’m just a student, an old one, a life-long learner by never leaving school. My research interest is the cultural effects of technology, focused on Google, such as incorporation of Ghandi’s image into Google “logos”. Maybe that cuts both ways, Ghandi and Google using each other, but who stands to gain the most with respect to capital? Ghandi’s India, or Google’s corporate industrial information project? By that I mean to suggest that no, I did not mention the body, because silence is capital’s answer to the argument of the body. Baudrillard had no illusions about that. “Capital doesn’t give a damn.” If capital doesn’t give a damn, then capital tries to operate independent from the body. Whether it succeeds is another question, perhaps a message of composite expression.

        I know very little about India. In my mind there are many Indias, but even as a body inscribed by capital’s industrial imperialism, that does not mean India is subject only to external determination, or likewise that the industrial is all bad. Inoculation was never necessary or even a possibility, yet India cannot easily escape the identity conflicts arising from the imposition of an industrial mentality. Does the subaltern represent a degree of social schizophrenia? What about situations like Nehru’s displacement of rural agriculture for the Aswan dam, for instance? How are the bodies managed in that transaction? Does that represent strictly the internal affairs of India, or is it partly a heritage of colonial industrial supremacy?

        To whatever degree the effect is colonial, capital seeks to dismiss the body as an argument. It is with respect to capital’s indifference that I consider its presence (intrusion?) as image, because it strikes me, not just as presence, but as supremacy. Perhaps the composite merely reflects inherent ideological conflicts, but what concerns me about art is whether it speaks more to the condition of culture, or makes it. I suppose the answer is that art does not ask the question. All I can say is that is damned convenient for art.

      • amitsrai says:

        Yes I am interested in this exchange. But why? Because it has caused me to think through things that I held habitually close to me, like the question of the body. You seem to suggest that the body is outside of power and that’s why art is suspect? Why? Why! There is no society, no power, no matter, no capital without the body. The body is capitalized upon, but capital invests in the body, and the body is entrained in capital, habituated to consume in new ways. So if you exclude the body what you are in fact doing is reducing the effects of capital to consciousness, and thence ideology. But capital is capacious; you are both too paranoid, and not paranoid enough. The aiim is to develop practices of becoming collectively and singularly. Becoming is not revolution, but there is no revolution without becoming…Becoming is not something more broader, more universal, becoming is the movement of life, there is nothing other than change the zens say. It is not only capital, or technology that becomes, evolves (and both have profoundly over the past three centuries). In fact we must speak concretely of the co-evolutionary dynamics of bodies technologies and force. This is not a hopeful story of man’s emergence into a state of nature. It is the nature of homo sapiens to evolve with the technologies they use, for both good and evil. And so we need a method beyond good and evil. The value of value, transvaluation.

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