People Act Dance Make and Annotate: Crossing the Everyday Life of Video

April 13, 2014
AAA in A, '09-'21

43 Remsen St. Brooklyn, NY

There is everyday life. And there is the everyday life of video. A peculiar cousin of the ordinary in general, is the video ordinary: made up of non-square pixels, proliferating handheld cameras, CCTV, citizen journalists, exacting filmmakers, pervasive television, and all the things that are at stake with and through these things.

Each gesture in video should be measured, or rubbed up against, its own ordinary. is an archive primarily of footage and not films. It tries to catch this ordinary, and some of its qualities and evolution, in the Indian context in particular. It collects materials and works intensively through them to try and make sense of intentions, technologies, accidents, and effects. It asks whether a film can be beautiful from the inside as well as the outside. It thus enquires into not only what is visible, but also into the backend in which machines or souls propel or cast images and sounds in a particular way. Even though the video ordinary is constantly overflowing and receding from our attention, tries to parse some of it, for threads that may lead us to new paths.

This hour-long assembly from, made and presented using the website, tells a story of the evolution of the video everyday; its practices, effects, appearances, and affirmations in relation to an everyday life that itself is changing.

Shaina Anand (SA): Hello everyone, and thank you all for coming on this beautiful spring afternoon. I am going to start by logging into, and streaming our presentation live.

Here we are now logged in. This is the archive. From this (you can see the kind of people who contribute to our material, and how to search the archive. Some people are a bit paranoid about giving away their ownership [to material], but ironically it’s always there. If you flip that around, one way of guarding against misuse [is putting it online here] because it will always be attributed back to you and you will exist in an archive, which you can always point people back to or [use to] make a case for the fact that your material existed here. Our archive works just like most people’s desktops and computers. You can search it and sort it. Say ‘CAMP’ and it will list 122 videos. Now we’re inside the CAMP section — not the 2,600 other videos, but only the 122 CAMP videos. [Within that] we then have our own projects and topics, so archive practicum. What is important is that footage from our projects also goes into, even footage. There are a number of ways to work inside the archive. You can search for people who may have appeared in it, or [for] topics. We won’t spend too much time on [the mechanics] because we actually have a live streaming playlist that we’re going to start with today.

Ashok Sukumaran (AS): Two or three things about this project: is a collaboration between artists, us primarily working as artists, and a group of very interesting lawyers working in Bangalore called Alternative Law Firm who are working extensively on intellectual property — a very generous and open interpretation of intellectual property. They’ve been instrumental in using the standard license, and now we’re part of a movement that’s trying to make public a lot of archives in India. I think that sites like have helped push the government. We now get calls from the Ministry of Information, which is interesting. We’ve been able to push very large archives who are much bigger and have many more resources than we do to develop commitments to openness in the long term. They’ve agreed but the question is always legal and technological, and to some degree conceptual or artistic, about how this should be presented.

SA: First I just want to first show you a sister of, As you can see it’s in a sense the reverse of it has 36,374 movies. It is actually an encyclopedia of Indian cinema which means you can search for things year after year, by language, by director, etc. So now we’re inside Bengali cinema.

Jane DeBevoise (JD): Does [the site allow access to] the whole film?

AS: Not every film. [] has been focusing on pre-1954 Indian films which, because copyright expires 50 years from the date of release, [exist in the public domain]. There were actually about [500] odd films made in this period that one can deal with now. Of course many of them are no longer available, which is the tragedy of film history. But there is a group of people working very extensively on pre-1953 [films]. The goal is [to compile] an encyclopedic list that starts in 1897 and [for now] goes to 1954. We can sort it by many different fields.

SA: So this [archive contains] all of Bengali cinema between 1930 and 1954, all that are out of copyright. It is an interesting moment because now that we’ve done the index and the encyclopedia, film scholars are already updating the index with the basic metadata, like what does for video. We believe it is enhancing the future of film studies, as the film scholar community starts annotating films. This community is really excited and they’ve been volunteering time to it. But to make this archive totally rich with not just the metadata but the actual films, we would have to partner with the National Film Archives, and they’re interested.

AS: This should give you a sense of the sort by parameters of this site: you can sort it by runtime, color, amount of sound, duration, aspect ratio, lightness, number of cuts, and so on.

SA: For example, if you want to look at our first Technicolor film, you see can the meta data on the info page. This has information taken from the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema that was authored by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and then there are fields that still don’t have anything, because it’s still being updated. Now, the same way works, let’s go to ‘editor,’ and take a look at the timeline. If you want to see detail, because you want to know exactly what was going on in this first color film, you can go to the timeline and see the structure of the film and understand some fundamentals behind it. Once in the timeline you can go to the ‘key frame’ view, and view key scenes. And these scenes can be identified and annotated.

These are tools that now people have started using and it’s a really rich and exciting moment because we believe the future of film studies is here. With this you can go into just the timeline (this is the nerdiness and the beauty of the archive) and do cut detection. You can jump from cut to cut, and you can also choose to see this film as a slitscan. You can see how long the cuts last for, and as you can begin to understand what’s happening in slitscan, you can begin to understand that this film has six long takes, and this is a left to right pan and a zoom out. You begin to start seeing connections. This is just inside the timeline, but you could go to a wave form view if you want as well ….

Xiaofei Mo (XM): Is it the same algorithm for both analog and digital film?

SA: Once it’s here, it’s digital. Here’s the audio.

AS: We’ve tried to recognize songs, but it’s not so easy.

SA: So if I’m the film scholar and I’m trying to annotate, I go to editor view, where you’ve got an ‘in point’ and an ‘out point’, and add an annotation. It is really the notation and the adding on of history, art history, film history, film studies, on to time clips that will enrich this archive.

Here is a sample film, Devdas, which is an iconic story written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. This is the start of the 1935 film, and this band here provides a bit of annotation for the opening scene, which is by one film scholar for one shot.

AS: So she’s going to the temple alone, without a husband to meet a lover probably.

SA: The same take has this annotation which is an art historical and sociological one, talking about the relevance of this act of a woman going alone to the temple without her lover, but it also [talks about] its mise-en-scene, why it was a certain kind of shot, etc.

AS: Formally, this film has no shot-counter-shot.

SA: Now you see the scene shifted to the next cut, and the single shot had its annotations and next cut. Devdas is highlighted because that’s what I searched for.

AS: But you can also search for ‘feebleness’ or some other word.

SA: But maybe you don’t want to read the film studies annotation. Maybe you just want to sit and watch the film. Here you can watch it in full screen. The last thing we want to say about this is that this needn’t be just one annotation. This is just an example. For this film there are books written about it by over 10 film scholars so eventually this is going to be populated [with a lot more information]. What we’re doing at the moment is getting film scholars who have the rights to their book to say ‘just take it and stick it on.’ We have a lot of master’s students from JNU whose task is going to be to take this material and cut/paste it and figure out a way to make sure that citation always gets back to the page in the book.

XM: Can you talk about how was initiated?

SA: Last March was the 100th year anniversary of Indian cinema and this was our gift to the cinephiles and to the film archive. Because their metadata system is so lousy, they just keep this open and copy the metadata from this into their archive.

AS: We’re also stealing from IMDb so it’s fine. The whole idea of the parasite is it works if you’re parasited as well.

SA: We started off as this super-autonomous radical open source pirate project, but what will happen when you start collaborating with these [established mainstream] institutions? Well, we get a lot of grey hair, and we’ll be making less art because dealing with that bureaucracy will be a nightmare, but if they agree to the system [we’ve set up], we think that culture will be richer. There is a way of having material reappear and be cited.

AS: The basic idea [of] is the reverse of With you can produce texts that are linked to very specific pieces of film and therefore videos and films becomes a kind of universal reference, [referred to] the way you would reference a page in a book. And that changes how you teach and study history or political science and many other things. But in regards to, if you look at Bombay through the history of images and not the history of text, it looks like a different city in many ways because these images were made by certain people [who made] careful choices in a certain political context, so it really opens up the way people understand contemporary life. Historically it will at least be known that these images have existed, and [the archive] changes the relationship to film history because you’re now able to see it through different eyes.

SA: This is a good example because you’re able to see someone’s scholarly work which was based on doing research on bar dancers. Where do you find interesting info on bar dancers? It happened to be on because two NGOs worked on a project that looked at the whore, the courtesan, the wife, and the bar dancer in popular cinema. The whole cluster of film tapes that we see here that went [into this project] were annotated. Then there was an NGO who worked on women’s legal rights. When bar dancing was banned they documented the art and did a lot of interviews so there is an archive for that and a range of material here. So this person is citing academic work, and she’s also citing precise video clips and whether they [contain] interviews with bar dancers or so on.

AS: But now, let’s move to our first love, the original idea, Today’s proposal was to consider an ordinary world of video. Cinema is cinema and then there is video and [certain] practices that never fit into a film economy or a film history. We were always interested in those practices because we practice them ourselves. In the beginning’s intention was to find a way to deal with the stuff that is left over, that never became film, that never wanted to be a film but still borrows the techniques of filmmaking. Footage is what started with and today’s playlist which we made and which you can make also on forms a guide through some of the stuff on it. Also in a way this playlist is a bit of a personal ride because a lot of the footage was shot by us or reflects some of our relationships with people around us. It’s more like a journey through which we can talk about the evolution of the ordinary of video, not the ordinary of ordinary life which we kind of understand, but the ordinary of video practices. We’ll just talk a bit over each clip. This is a loose series of clips that you could think of as an Internet movie that’s playing off the archive. The archive has something like 1200 hours of material and a lot of the videos we transcribe and have written about. This is a very small slice through it that we did quickly and freely. So now, let’s draw back the curtains.

SA: The woman in red is an Odissi dancer; she’s my dance teacher. the old man in white is the architect or the revivalist of Odissi which is a classical dance form. The guy in the back with the camera, his name is Ashok and he is the husband of the dancer, Kumkum. It’s midnight and it’s 1986 and it’s Tokyo, in a tiny apartment in Tokyo. Ashok has a tripod up here because there’s a need to document the very precious moment and he’s also taking stills because this guy’s face is worth taking close-ups of. For us as dancers, there’s really very little documentation or even a living archive of performances. This personal footage therefore becomes really important. This is 12 hours of the 6 months in Tokyo. Now we’re jumping to another hour and another day in the same living room. Kumkum’s in an apron, she has served them dinner, and now she’s opening imaginary windows.

Audience Member: Did you get this from Kumkum’s archive?

SA: Yes, Ashok’s; he lovingly shot it all. They were just hanging out and there’s a musician there who’s playing the violin. He’s the one who designed most of the music for the repertoire.

AS: What Shaina didn’t say is that they are composing the piece here.

SA: All of these items are really important. They’re all rehearsals. This one goes well into 3 a.m. Ashok keeps showing the clock. She’s in pajamas half the time. The story is: after having committed adultery, the lover is trying to tell his beloved Radha that she is the most supreme, trying to woo her back after all his adulterous deeds, saying ‘you’re as beautiful as a full moon.’

Audience Member: So they were in Tokyo for a performance?

SA: They were in Tokyo for six months, composing the performance and then touring many cities, and performing in old theaters. Kumkum [Lal] speaks Japanese so there were a lot of areas of overlap.

SA: This is a scene from ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro’ or ‘Don’t Cry for Salim the Lame’. (I’m buying time because the next scene is what’s important.) I worked with Saeed Akhtar Mirza. I assisted him when I was 20 years old. He is my mentor in many ways. Saeed was one of the key filmmakers in what was called ‘parallel cinema.’ It was an art cinema but it was called parallelism because we would always run parallel with Bollywood but never the twain should meet. That’s where the movement came from. This next scene is a screening of a documentary on a video monitor in a local Basti, which is a local neighborhood or slum in a Muslim locality in Bombay. We have a history of these Basti screenings in Bombay and the pioneer of this was Anand Patwardhan who is a key figure in independent documentary film history. He is the first filmmaker and 50 years later still going strong with what he’s doing.

AS: Anand often used non-actors in his films. There was a moment where he made documentaries and there was a moment where this possibility of working in the city with these two forms was really alive.

SA: The film begins with a police [officer] firing in the very neighborhood where this screening is happening – Ramabai Ambedkar Colony – in 1997. Anand spent the 15 years before 2012 documenting the history and current moment of Dalit rights in India. This is an important screening because it’s being returned to the site and it’s one of the first screenings that happened in Ramabai Colony. Anand’s quite proprietary about his films but one of the most electric scenes in the film is being filmed as a camera print by Ashok so that’s why we’re able to see it now.

AS: There are about 3,000 people gathered to see the screening. It’s a spectacular large scale political documentary screening, which still are possible [in India].

SA: Bhim is Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar who wrote our constitution, who coined the phrase balance, and who converted untouchables to Buddhism. This is really important because Ambedkar has been co-opted by the right, by the left, by the center, so what is the new Bhim is quite a good question. This is a different part of the same film. It was filmed in 2002, and I was there. That face in the mask was that of Narendra Modi. He is coming in from the Western Express Highway from the airport to attend a political rally in Bombay two months after the Gurajat violence. That’s a protest and that mug shot is quite eerie because now people wear masks of Narendra Modi in support of him. Voting started a few days ago and there’s every dark chance that this fascist killer is going to be our Prime Minister.

This is 2005, and here is Sanjay Bhangar who co-founded CAMP with us, Ashok and myself camped up on the roof of Lawyers Collective, collaborating with Alternative Law Forum for something we called World Information TV. We made a series out of a local program which was generated around issues of intellectual property and economies and was aired to 3000 homes in Bangalore. This was the film Sanjay made over cable. It was a collaboration that lasted two years with the cable operator. These are also the early community media practices that CAMP comes from that read very directly into an idea such as

Sebastian was here for that week-long festival on alternative information ecologies. We all met here and so Sanjay’s interviewing him and then he co-founds CAMP with us a few years later. Lawyers as Pirates.

This is a really beautiful moment, part of that same project. It’s a TV channel [that was] run out of a home in Bangalore. It’s a Dakhni channel and Dakhni is a particular dialect of Urdu that is spoken in the south. It’s not the north Indian form of Urdu. Programming is generated in this house because people in the south speak Kannada or Tamil, but there is a huge Urdu Dakhni speaking population for whom there is not much programming besides the mainstream channels. So there’s a little box up there with the R/F modulator. There is a little terrestrial cable going out. This feed is then going to the local cable operator who is then beaming it back to his homes. Other cable operators are sucking his feed and beaming it to other homes. This is a moment that’s gone — these terrestrial networks where it was possible to generate local programming. Telejam could switch off the Bollywood movie and insert things, but now everybody has to have their own proprietal desktop box and their own dish.

AS: It’s run by this brother and sister and the channel is called something that is hard to translate but means pleasurable, or intoxicating, like a pleasurable high. They would wear these coats and [present the news]. It was really good; they would read the papers and do news analysis. All of this is available on for you to re-look at.

SA: This clip shows two girls from a youth group whose name आगे (Agaaz) means forward and progress and they’re learning how to film and they’re looking at the ecology of water in their neighborhood because it’s going to be privatized soon.

AS: This is how water comes in India; first there’s air, then there are flowers…

SA: The film that was made was called Eka Dozen Pani which means ‘One Dozen Waters’ because it was 12 short films made by a group. It was Ashok, myself and an anthropologist coordinating with them.

AS: You can see the hole for the lock. Many of these outdoors taps needed to be locked because it was a form of private control of the outdoor tap but many people learned how to unlock them. This group of people was actually part of a much larger group of people who fought against the World Bank’s privatization plan and the bank’s proposals of pre-paid water meters which meant that you had to pay money up front and when your money runs out they can stop your water supply and other really bizarre plans. Thankfully both in Delhi and Bombay this didn’t happen. This was in 2006, and all of these groups were involved in a very big campaign against it. Here’s a broader type of conceptual problem. Here’s the old well and you’ll see what happens. It produces strange kinds of new hierarchies, like the network appropriation of otherwise common village space creates people who have larger pumps — in other words new hierarchies develop within this system that we were trying to work towards.

This is Shaina making a film in Bombay soon after 9/11 about the political landscape of the city. But also it’s engaged with television and in a way it was a massively ambitious project that was never fully realized, except for some things, and in some ways it led to

That’s Shaina a couple of years later, in a changed world in a certain sense, where you had to be scanned and fingerprinted at every border. But as we began to travel as artists in 2007 we began our own attempt to make sense of this, to find a more global resonance for the questions that up to then had been extremely localized because we had no sense of what was happening elsewhere. This is a very specific problem for film because there’s already a thousand cameras in the city of Manchester, so if you go there you have to have some humility and/or some other politics and approach for this kind of problem. Now we’re dealing with an already pictured world and an already imaged landscape which is also not accessible to us in a real sense, the horror of it. This is a project in which members of the public were invited over five days into a CCTV control room and were able to speak with the police and argue with them…

SA: They’re not police, they’re just watching us.

AS: Well, the CCTV operators who are hired by the police.

SA: I think what was important was the locals who came into this CCTV station in Manchester…

AS: This guy’s a local DJ. This footage is really old school now; it was taken in 2007 or 2008. A lot has changed since then, and the sheer quantity [of footage] is amazing. So we showed this series of videos in the city [of Manchester], quite close to where the control room was, and it had a quite interesting effect.

SA: Oh, we missed the last line; it’s ‘at least you got a video of it’.

AS: This guy and girl are having a fight, just everyday life on the streets of Manchester.

SA: They also have audio surveillance.

AS: This was taken at the largest mall in Europe.

SA: And it was the site of the biggest IRA bombing, in the heart of Manchester. When the bombing happened in 1996 they said that every dark cloud has a silver lining and that Manchester has been saved by the bomb. They took advantage of that moment to use Manchester as a model city. Regeneration plans were put into place and one major thing around the regeneration was the placement of CCTV cameras, so ‘Gunchester’ attempted to reclaim its history of being Manchester at this moment in 1996. That’s what’s really creepy and interesting about this footage. I hope it really creeps you out too. You can see how one guy is going to be tracked in full continuity as he just walks around. Some of the street names are interesting because when they rebuilt the mall it spread to new areas, came up in the Center. Across the road is Chetham’s Library where Marx and Engels wrote Condition of the Working Class in England. On this side is the cotton exchange, so you see these strange names inside the mall — these are historic streets but now there’s a mall over them. Getting all of this footage was part of an art project. We had close to 300 people in the mall sign image release forms just like documentary filmmakers do in the States. What we did in the image release form was list parts of the Data Protection Act, which in the UK entitles you to your own CCTV image if you feel you are being watched. Not many people know about this so we were trying to make that public. We would approach people in the mall and ask if they knew about this. But we also had them sign this, saying we can return these images to you. That way we can make a mass call of images from the mall that day. Once people signed we said ‘we’re going to follow you for a few minutes’ and that was the second part of the CCTV project, apart from people coming into the control room. When the London riots happened in 2012, after 24 hours of rioting they had a half year of footage to go through. That really showed the failure of surveillance, or like the girl says ‘at least you’ve got a video of it but I still got mugged.’

AS: People remember being mugged, but nobody remembers the police coming. People said ‘you can see us, but nobody comes and we still have to go through this process of calling the station and it takes 15 minutes.’ Statistically [surveillance] doesn’t reduce crime, that’s known; it just moves it around.

SA: It just pushes it to other neighborhoods.

AS: You can protect businesses in a certain context, so there was a lot of interesting discussion around this project. Here he’s actually holding image release forms and talking to people.

Audience Member: So this camera was manned by you?

SA: If he meets someone and speaks with them, we’ll follow them for a bit as well, then they point out the cameras, and we can use their image.

AS: There are 300 or so cameras in this mall.

Audience Member: All of these cameras can zoom, pan; it’s not just a stable one shot?

SA: They’re all able to tilt as you can see and this is what inspired us to make the Jerusalem film. We took one pan/tilt/zoom camera and we could film all of Jerusalem. Not we, all of the Palestinian families; it’s the same joystick control. Here [the CCTV man] has a keypad and you can type in which camera you want.

AS: This is raw footage straight from the console; it’s everywhere and in every shop, in every clinic, in a beauty parlor, it’s beyond…

SA: I think there is a pre-CAMP history that was very much to do with community art and community media and was about shifting this paradigm of developmental media which said ‘let’s make local media about local people’s problems because they’re different from ours.’

AS: Almost everything that you saw was pre-CAMP.

SA: For us it’s now important to enter these kind of systems because the everyday life of video is here now. It’s not just about finding a critique but about about being able to turn images into use.

AS: This is CCTV turned on its head and married to television, state-free. This is a project by Shaina in 2006.

SA: This is a beauty parlor, a phone booth, a feudal household with five daughter-in-laws…

AS: This is a series of eight long episodic films, day-long video events made by connecting different sites in an urban village in Delhi. This is a camera print of a film shot in a cinema full of people talking over the film. There’s a longer essay which is quite nice but we wanted to show an excerpt of that whole economy.

SA: But don’t be thrown off by that time code. That time code is in the film because the film is about this boy who is filming his whole life through a video camera so the entire film has the time code running through it. It’s as seen through the eyes of the boy with the film camera. The rowdy lumpen audience is what you should pay attention to in the transcript.

AS: This kind of lumpen audience, which is what it’s called in Delhi, actually has a kind of real ability to reinterpret what they receive through this media because they are sitting in a space together and not in their homes watching television.

SA: And the furtive hand-heldedness is on one level [due to] the guy who is making this stolen video print in the cinema hall. The further jerkiness is in the film itself. It’s about honor killing all viewed through the video camera.

AS: We are not filming. This was an old camera print that Namita found from a cinema in, I think, Bangalore, which has people constantly talking over it. This is a clip that we found in which this kind of actor prepares to make a clip with music with his phone propped up and then his friend interrupts him and this becomes an opera.

Okay, the last two clips.

SA: This is in Kashmir and is a really beautiful song.

AS: The CFL is the Cease Fire Line between India and Pakistan.

SA: It has actually cut Kashmir in half and this is a campaign video made by people in Azad Kashmir for Azad Kashmir. It’s a really beautiful video, over two hours long, made by people in a video center in Azad Kashmir, which is in Northern India and Pakistan. This is Indian TV but it has BBC footage.

AS: This is a BBC raw footage show by the British security forces and they’ve made it a kind of ballad about the loss of Kashmir.

Audience Member: And the music?

SA: It’s all been added during the edit.

AS: These are a few clips we’ve included from a recent project we did that is related to our Indian Ocean interest. What we learn from the expanded world of video is that there are all these places that we don’t and cannot see somehow. Part of the potential things that we’re interested in is how to enter these kinds of spaces and how to be alive to the kinds of possibilities that are receding from visibility, from sensibility, our ability to sense them. This is the inside of a container coming from China which you’ll never see, which is inside a barbed wire fence, nowhere near the port, 7 miles inside where the port is no longer a place of encounter. We just see this Lego version of global trade where the containers go up and board the ship and go off, but all the world and materials go into these customs areas which nobody is allowed to enter. On these pieces of ridiculously weird plastic we found the footsteps of the Chinese guys who had packed it. It seems that so many parts of the world retreat from our senses. We see so many images of containers but almost never see an image of them being loaded. And that’s the end.

SA: So I want to proudly tell you that the Internet held up and this entire film was streamed live inside of, so please go home and look at these images and more, because the beauty of is the anti-film moment. We have just given you glimpses, but each one of those clips is part of many hours. Thank you very much for coming.

CAMP is a collaborative studio based in Bombay that combines film, video, installation, software, open-access archives, and public programming with broad interests in technology, film, and theory. CAMP are co-initiators of the online footage archive and the cinema archive is a web-based video platform and software that offers a practical technical and legal framework through which video footage can be shared, cited, and reused. proposes that film and video-based ‘production’ can be thought of as an expanded field of activity. For example, as a filmmaker publishing video that is not a film, a researcher probing documentary images, a film editor organizing footage using the archive, a writer commenting on one or many video pieces, an artist working online, or an institution offering material for public use. as an interpretative archive encourages recirculation and debate around material that is often easily forgotten. It was launched as a public website in 2008 and is a collaboration between members of CAMPAlternative Law Forum, and 0× In 2013 this group announced, which aims to act as an online encyclopedia for Indian cinema. is supported by its many contributors and by grants from Foundation for Arts Initiatives (FfAI) and the Bohen Foundation.

Transcribed by Hilary Chassé, edited by Jane DeBevoise.