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Title: Creative Encounters and Subaltern Aesthetics in the Early Years of the Indian Space Programme
Authors: Griffin, Joanna
Keywords: satellite television
rural India
Issue Date: 18-Oct-2017
Abstract: The paper presents a historiography of satellite television in India, which was set up by the Indian space agency in the 1970s, and traces the involvement of creative practitioners in the conceptual development and implementation. The term 'subaltern aesthetics' is used in this paper as an analytical tool with which to plot the link between creative activity, agency and technology. Revisiting this neglected aspect of the history of the Indian space programme matters because it shows that the processes by which local adaptation of technology was enabled had a dependency on creative activity. The context of the study is the decision taken by the leader of the space programme, Vikram Sarabhai, in the late 1960s that India would use space technology for national development goals by linking its villages via satellite televisions. This was an innovative and radical decision taken at the time the US and Soviet Union were focused on planetary missions. It enabled residents in rural villages to negotiate, write, perform and produce the television programmes they watched. This agency to create programmes reflecting concerns of viewers and use of media to shift established power relationships and force change, happened in many ways against the odds and at a particular historical moment of opportunity, which lasted for only a few years. By the time India had launched its own synchronous satellites for direct broadcasting, the political will to give rural audiences the equipment and training to create local television had disappeared. The paper examines the reasons for these shifts
Description: Biography: Dr Joanna Griffin is a UK artist who is currently a Teaching Fellow conducting postdoctoral research at CEPT University, Ahmedabad in the Faculty of Design. She is also Associate Researcher with Transtechnology Research, Plymouth University and former Artist-in-Residence at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, where she led a three-year project called Moon Vehicle that brought together space scientists, design students to create learning opportunities for children. As an artist she has held an International Artist Fellowship at the NASA Space Science Lab, UC Berkeley and devised a guided walk with scientists from the Mullard Space Science Lab in the UK called Satellite Stories. Her current research focuses on collaboration between the Indian space agency and the National Institute of Design that took place in the 1970s in Ahmedabad. She has presented in space industry conferences internationally and writes about the motivations behind transdisciplinary activities between artists and scientists.
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