1 The Field:
In a sharp burst of momentum, you have just off that quivering slice of a diving board and find yourself in the deal centre of the swimming pool. Cool, blue water filigreed with wisps of light surround you in a multi-axial embrace. Sucking hard at the last dregs of that momentum, you set your limbs in oscillation, only to find that the centre has replicated itself infinitely: this liquid embrace continues to embrace you. At the risk of stretching the metaphor too thin, you could say that the conceptual construct of fields in Physics- both Classical and Post-Classical - imagines an experience similar to the hydrodynamic one above: a grid work, simultaneously dense and pliant extending in all three directions - smeared across space and time. And as you stand in front of these luminescent works of Baiju, you remain immersed in the light - a classic electro-magnetic field itself - emitted from the works themselves.
With this almost embodied continuum between you and the work, you literally enter the work in a strangely palpable sense. And once you enter, entry itself becomes an extended experience, since you get this impression of perpetually moving through different entry points, different thresholds. Entry into other fields, fields of random associations which spawn fresh fields of further associations and resonances. Your trajectory within the work then becomes the interference pattern - the pattern generated when two sets of fields interact and consequently cancel and reinforce each other - of multiple fields. Perhaps that large X which looms over that pixelated foetus is a cipher for your own interference pattern.
The field therefore is pulsatingly vibrant from point to point. At various points, it presents different facets, a different set of values. Typically the value of a field at given point in its domain is determined by the field vector at that particular point. Conceptualized as precise representations of flux and change, vectors are represented by straight lines studded with an arrowhead at one end. Cleaved vertically and rotated on its lengthier side, the arrowhead generates a three dimensional solid, familiar to us from multiple contexts: from the elemental shapes alluded to in a classic cubist painting to the pointed mirth of a dunce cup. The Cone, is also an essential visualization tool in a relativistic description of space-time. This light cone is a double cone centred at each event in space and time. The upper cone (called the future light-cone) represents the future history of a light-flash emitted at that event. The lower-cone (called the past light-cone) represents all directions from which light-flashes can be received at that event. Could we then read this matrix of cones on these luminescent surfaces as a complex array of multiple temporalities? A web of trajectories across timeframes, across histories? Trajectories which perhaps in the associative power even violate the ground rules of physics: they travel across histories faster than light.
In his famous 1976 book, “the Selfish Gene”, Richard Dawkins suggested a genetic approach to the study of cultural change. Towards that end Dawkins formulated the idea of the ‘meme’. A neologism that simultaneously alluded to mimesis and genes, memes were defined by Dawkins as unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of initiation. For Dawkins memes could be anything ranging from ‘tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leading from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.’
Allegorizing the viral mode of infection and transmission, and deploying on the other hand the increasingly sophisticated understanding of information patterns and processes that emerge from computer sciences, the nascent ‘discipline’ of memetics began to talk about fertile memes parasitizing human brains only to turn it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation to a multitude of other human brains. The idea obviously was to allow memes to be allowed upon by the Darwinian principles of blind variation and natural selection on the basis of fitness. Memes, which copied itself better and more pervasively were more likely to be selected over its less popular cousins. These ‘fit’ memes, it was argued, could then become one of the principal drivers of cultural change.
How do ‘fit’ memes ensure their rapid transmission? It should be apparent that the media that carries the meme - urban graffiti, folk-songs performed by traveling musicians, etc strongly influence the transmissive power of the meme. The contemporary global media network with its pervasive presence across vast geographies emerges as one of the most efficacious carrier of memes. We are then perpetually immersed in this dense continuum of memetic emission, is an manner that makes one recall the experience of being developed by the electromagnetic radiation emanating from Baiju’s translits.
But what happens to the memes that fail to pass the test of Natural Selection? Do they vaporize into amnesia or do they remain preserved within the interstices of some obscure dead media- formats and protocols no longer supported by contemporary machines? We should remember that a ‘fit’, rapidly proliferating meme (“race X is superior than race Y”) may not always be one that is beneficial to the community/society at large. Do we then need to re-visit these junkyards of failed memes, to scavenge for those that may need to be re-inscribed into new circuits of transmission? Baiju’s work has repeatedly constituted itself as a site for an intense reconstellation of information fragments, culled from a bewildering diversity of memetic emitters. A site which then acts as a recuperative space for dead fragments of information, memes fallen out of circulation.
This gesture of agency can in fact be read as emblematic of Baiju’s nuanced engagement with mediatic structures. Rather than an uncritical celebration of such pervasive structures which seemingly rupture our perceptual fabric. Baiju prefers the simultaneity of close observation and critique. So while he remains open to the idea of memetic transfers instead of dismissing it fashionable pop-theory, in his formulation he also underscores one of the more troubling aspects of the theory: the absence of human agency. For, much of the discourse around memetics would rather gaze at the blur of informational movement across cultural spaces than strategize on the active re-shaping of that very space by human agency. For, much of the discourse around memetics is centred around the active meme which infects a passive human subject. One almost feels that memetics would rather gaze at the blur of informational movement across cultural spaces thanstrategize on the active re-shaping of that very space by human agency. Resurrected memes could be small but significant manoeuvres in such strategies.
3 The Vapour:
How could one even begin to unpack the provocative formulation Baiju poses for us in this show? What really is the evaporation of the real? And how could the vapour be a possible metaphor for this radically different experience of virtuality?
It might be important to clarify here that for Baiju, reality is less about empirical exactitude and more about the complex web of perceptual mediations that construct for us our experience of the real. And one could add that time and space function almost as the warp and weft of this perceptual web. Both these parameters have again a strong corporeal aspect, as we understand these fundamental phenomena through the manifest materiality of our bodies. That insight would perhaps give us an entry into the manner Baiju would like to allegorize the shifting nature of this perceptual web through the multiple states of materiality known to the physical world: solid, liquid, gas, plasma, etc etc.
For Baiju, technological mediation, particularly the internet with its powers of offering a different epistemology of time and space ruptures our notion of presence and simultaneity and alters the very nature of the perceptual fabric of reality. From the rigid body of the solid - where molecules remain trapped in their unchanging Cartesian grid - we shift, in an almost alchemical bypassing of the liquid, to the more dynamic gaseous state. Dynamic, because in the gaseous state, the constituent molecules are in a constant state of flux, darting about from one point to another in a random dance which is best visible in phenomena called the Brownian Motion - the constant jiggling around of tiny particles, such as fragments of ash in smoke. Pause for a moment to visualize this random dance of gas molecules. You have molecules shooting off from one end to another, colliding with each other, slowing down and in momentum and picking it up again in one blur of collective moment. It is almost as if their movement connects them up in a rapidity which make a single molecule appear everywhere at the same time. Almost like a cluster of hypertextual documents in an incessant conversation among themselves.
However in foregrounding the vapour Baiju makes another interesting distinction. How could one differentiate between gas and vapour? What is our perception of these two similar, but perhaps not completely identical terms? Do they allude to different poetic realities? Though both essentially refer to the same physical state, gas is used commonly to describe a substance that appears in the gaseous state under standard conditions of pressure and temperature, and vapour to describe the gaseous state of a substance that appears ordinarily as a liquid or solid. Could one then possibly say that vapour then is some ways a signifier of co-presence? That it primarily points to the gaseous phase but also hints at the presence of the condensate form in the vicinity of that gaseous phase? Seen this way, vapour begins to point to a certain co-presence of different perceptions of reality or rather of significantly different registers of engagement with the perpetual fabric. And perhaps this co-presence also destabilizes any sense of stasis. The vapour then is not perpetually a vapour but also one in which the spectre always looms large. Could we then, see the downloads that we collect during our peregrinations within the digital domain as instances of such condensation? Interestingly the download bar that we see coming up on web-pages as we wait for the data to display is also is also reminiscent of thresholds and crossing, and the precise moment at which states of matter pass from one another.
published by The Guild art gallery, 2005