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The Age Of Re:discovery by Compasswallah

Starts: January 29, 2014
Ends: October 19, 2014
To register email: kforkhanabadosh@gmail.com

Excavation of the past and contemplation of the future are the same intellectual undertaking.
– Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh II of Jaipur.

The Age Of Re:discovery, an online workshop, is aimed at making the history of science relevant to the urban situation. The idea of discovery has drawn flak in part because of its associations with colonialism and its oppressive regimes. Through this project Compasswallah recasts this contested term by making it an agent for a sustainable future.

Thus far, the trajectories of several discoveries, scientific and otherwise, have suffered at the hands of eventual misappropriation. As space travel becomes increasingly likely and we enter a new age of discovery, human kind’s penchant for littering and misuse of resources begins its colonisation of outer space in the form of space junk, which has every potential of eventually taking over interstellar spaces.

With that in mind The Age of Re:discovery becomes an urgent contemporary exercise. As if we were taking the lessons of yesterday in the context of tomorrow, but applying them today.

Among other things this workshop is about the ecology of materials, and the relationship of living spaces with culture, and the rest of the planet or universe. It is about the fundamental connections between various sciences that allow us to live maximally in minimum resources. Making a different kind of planet is also a form of traveling through space (without even moving?).

Coming back to the project’s formal manifestation i.e. the workshop model. With most explorations of the model being pegged as satellite events around exhibitions and the like, the workshop paradigm has yet to find its feet as an artistic practice within contemporary art.

In November 2011, Compasswallah launched Zetatrek, an online workshop, which takes on the Riemann hypothesis. Over three years a community of non-specialists has been plugging away at the hypothesis—often considered the most important unresolved problem in pure mathematics—proposed in 1859 by the influential German mathematician Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann.

Having first explored the workshop model—online and offline—in 2011, Compasswallah has with time become convinced of its artistic and collaborative potential. The Age Of Re:discovery seeks to engage a translocal community of non-specialists. An autodidact, Compasswallah is keen on collaborating with non-specialists allergic to high priests who would rather they controlled ‘discoveries’ of all manner.

A suite of offline workshops and other projects will mark the duration of this nine-month online expedition, for which individuals from ten countries have already signed up.

– Gitanjali Dang


About the artist: The term compasswallah is 19th century colonial slang for British surveyors roaming the Indian countryside with telescopes and sextants. It is also the assumed identity of Rohit Gupta, an artist, writer and historian of mathematics and science. Gupta’s corpus of work from 2000-2013 includes a published collection of science-fiction, comics, a variety of essays, innovations in new media art and technology, lectures and pedagogical workshops. More on Compasswallah and his activities can be found on his blogs Kali & the Kaleidoscope and Compasswallah: Oriental Scientific Curios Estd. 2012.
Twitter handle: @fadesingh


Captions/ Details: Clockwise from featured image
I) The ceremonies observed in every province & city of China, on the occasion of an eclipse.
Credit: Wellcome Images

II) Compasswallah, The Rickshaw Observatory, 2014 (The video functions as a playful teaser for the project)