Unscientific Storytelling

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Illustrations, Cover Design and layouts: Gauri Sanghi and Rajasee Ray This book is a collection of thoughts, ideas, dialogue & communication and documentation from an independent design and pedagogy project titled, Unscientific Storytelling. Works, methods and process of this project were also presented at the Orecomm festival 2012, in Malmo, Sweden. We thank the Swedish Art Council, Malmo University and Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology for their support in producing this book. A big thank you to Joana Griffin for initiating this inquiry during her time at Srishti as artist in residence, for enriching dialogue and sharing capacities. Thanks to the extended communities of the Science Institutes, the Government school at Madivala and the Srishti design team that worked on Kalpaneya Yatre 2010.




Unscientific Storytelling Of stories from science...

Unscientific Storytelling is an interwoven and fragmented commentary of a culture’s connections to science. The project works in two parts, one that broadly explores the role of imagination and inquiry in modern science education. The other connected inquiry probes the role and representation of forgotten narratives of key scientists’ biographies. Through this process it attempts to initiate a critique of public perception of modern science, its practitioner & practice. Both inquiries use performance as a medium through which they pose their inquiry, conduct research and generate material. This project evolved through a process of workshop and dialogue with schools, school-going children, scientists and the general public and was initiated during the astronomy festival, Kalpaneya Yatre 2010. The process & output are now presented here as a book. This book complements an interactive website, www.Unscientificstorytelling.weebly.com and documents the process of inquiry. Hoping to elaborate on the process of using performance as a medium for inquiry and dialogue, this representation consists of reflections and communication between various collaborators. We revisit the performance and process of Unscientific Storytelling, hoping to generate further conversations on the role of modern day science practice, philosophy and politics in the public sphere. Unscientific Storytelling asks and builds on a fundamental question, “how has Indian modernist thinking influenced and institutionalized approaches to science pedagogy and practice?” Rajasee Ray and Gauri Sanghi worked with Deepak Srinivasan in 2010 on a pedagogical project titled Design for Dialogue. This led to the production of Unscientific Storytelling, a hybrid media performance project. They have further expanded scope of this project by conceptualizing an interactive website (work in progress) and collaboratively compiled this book with Deepak Srinivasan. Deepak Srinivasan is a performance artist, media practitioner & researcher, currently serving as faculty at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore. Deepak’s current interests and practices are an amalgamation of science, storytelling, performance and media and their psycho-social interfaces. deepak@srishti.ac.in



-gauri




From: Joanna Griffin <jomagriff@gmail.com> Date: Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 11:13 PM Subject: Re: workshop with koramangala school To: Rajasee Ray <rajaseeray@gmail.com> Cc: gauri <gauri.sanghi@gmail.com>, Deepak Srinivasan <deep.srin@gmail.com> Hello Here is - why I want to do the workshop Satellites are things people make that go into the ‘natural’ environment of space and like any other piece of architecture, or engineering, or objects we make - they tell us about ourselves and I think that the spacecraft tell us something about what we think of space. There are clues in their forms that tell us about the mythologies we project onto the environment of outer space- there are these bird like resemblances for instance. So one thing I’m interested in is uncovering the poetics of the orbital environment and spacecraft of the solar system. The other is the stories of the people who made them and thinking of the satellites as having imaginary tethers to all the people who made and conceptualized the technology. There’s a way that a person telling me about the satellite they know, draws a picture in my head. As an artist, I found it very intriguing that this kind of drawing could happen through sound, through a person’s voice. It seemed to me that there is a very strong reason for passing on these oral stories of satellites because they form a link between the human known world and an infinity of unknown. There is something in the humanness of spacecraft and the collection of aspirations, hopes, stories, clumsiness, oddness that is familiar, in an environment that is beyond experience. I want to use the festival to investigate Bangalore’s connections to space through its satellites.I could just get access to ISRO and talk to people, but it makes more sense to use workshops to create a shared project and to allow the stories to mean different things to different people and have them transfered in different ways. Why I want to do the workshops is to make a space for co-production and co-inquiry and to do workshops that seem to be doing one thing - like making satellites - but also solve something else - in this case the social divisions created by institutions and particularly to open up the project of space exploration to more democratic processes. I want to use art processes to mix cultures/communities that have through habit tended to stay separate. That’s enough for now!! I have some workshop ideas that we could use as the basis. If I have energy I’ll email them out tonight. night-sleep well! Joanna


shapes which allow you to move 11/09/2010

symbols, representation, movement how do children relate to outer space? How would they represent objects in this space? how would they show this, if they only had to use their body? but of course, the first thing we would all like to do is symbolically create, with familiar symbols that represent, say, a star the way it is drawn: a 5 limbed starfish, or a ball of the sun, with rays shooting out- but what would be the essence of this? one such representation leads to more one imitation triggers more imitations


so how can we get to an essence, to the understanding of these objectifications of space entities, and how can one ask a child to think this through, to ask questions, to say, wait a minute?

Back to the body!

Scramble around, draw more, more imitations, more creations, more stars, more similar stars.

And then, I see a bulb! Light! The star is equated to light! so if we were to ask for meaning, meaning of this symbol, and essence of the object, and if a child were to pedagogically ask what this could be- these stars, these suns, these bulbs, what makes them the same, in some sense? without the way we see them being, drawn, shown and represented -D


Notes from the plan The day will be about the body in various spaces. We will have basic theatre exercises of space exploration, voice exercises, inhibition exercises and some exercises to connect with scale, that we talked about in the morning session. We can also bring attention to the different emotions associated with scale and distance. We will have screenings about satellites, orbits and the forces in the solar system. - Rajasee


Notes from the ground Word game (lets make a story) - 1 min Word association - 30 seconds Factory - 5 mins

“Nothing is working” CHALKS!!! I drew the sun where would the earth be? where would the moon be? what is satellite? upagraha???? where would that be draw the solar system here is when they started discussing telling each other what to do not copying but correcting each other :) divided them in groups two groups drew a satellite appointed a sculptor she did a great job the other group also made another satellite themselves :)

“some confidence.. smile also came” repeated the same thing with the other group with a different satellite


now made these satellites move in a circle had to break i knew it so made them stick to each other with “FEVICOL” “i was always in love with fevicol.. now i have another reason to love it” they got my point at once :)

then gave chalks to all of them it was kind of empowering for them to get chalks wonder why one because now they had access to a medium they can best express in also because this is smethign they never get access to in general chalks are teacher things :) they all started drawing satellites but once we told them to make their own they went mad



“paper art” they called it


School textbook hero and Astronomy superstar, Galileo Galilei who brought the sun to a standstill for the rational world- had a daughter. Sister Maria Celeste. She wasn’t an ordinary girl, she was an ordinary nun. She wrote letters- many of them, many, many, many of them, all to her father. History, literature and art that explore Galileo’s relationship with his daughter draw from these historic letters…

Father I have something to return to you. My one possession… Please do not consider me ungrateful. At night, when the pain kept me up, I looked through it and saw Jupiter. Your instrument was magic. You were my magician. But father, this reasoning with the church, this imaginative image of the sky, makes me know that the magic is real. Does this also mean that what I see is not God’s heaven? And what I see through your instrument is the truth? I saw a street performance today. The earth was swinging on a string like a pendulum. A fool dressed like the pope ducked his head to aviod being hit. The earth swung back and knocked him down. The crowd cheered. They called your name. Galileo, Galileo! Your science was on the streets!

- from the Unscientific Storytelling performance, 2010


“What do you want to reveal? it’s one thing to talk about scientist’s science - what was he motivated by... do you really want to understand a scientist as a person or the motivation behind some of his significant experiments? it’s always useful to try to say something about the motivation behind an experiment or a hypothesis. the scientifc motivation is always a good thing to put in to the narrative of the textbook, it actually clarifies the science. ...but how much you want to talk about the personal life is different because there is no end to it - depends on how much you are interested in it - it has no proper place in a scientific narrative” -Excerpt from a conversation with a scientist from Raman Research Institute, Bangalore


School meant dinghy corridors, dark classrooms in a sleepy city, a boring, uninterested but abusive teacher, and some meaningless “Newton’s laws of motion”… Physics was so dry and boring, I was tuned out most of the time. Who was this “Newton” and why did I have to care? - Deepak, from the performance Unscientific Storytelling


Ring out the battle call of Duty! Unfurl the flag of Faith and Toil! We deem our soul’s eternal beauty A lifelong Victor’s worthy spoil -one of our school songs


NEWTON - THE SECRET




Newton the gravity-guy “I have not as yet been able to discover the reason for these properties of gravity from phenomena, and I do not feign hypotheses�



Newton the alchemy-artist “This philosophy, both speculative and active, is not only to be found in the volume of nature, but also in the sacred scriptures.�



Newton the integration-einstein “Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.�



Newton the light-lord “But the most surprizing & wonderfull composition was that of whitenesse. There is noe one sort of rayes which alone can exhibit this. Tis ever compounded & to its composition are requisite all the aforesaid primary colours mixed in a due proportion.�



Newton the mechanical-maniac “God created everything by number, weight and measure.�



Newton the heresy-head “Christ comes as a thief in the night, & it is not for us to know the times & seasons which God hath put into his own breast.�



Newton the private-person


what’s that? it’s an apple. This one is golden, isn’t it? or Red? DISCORD! youth, yes youth!! Sexuality!! or is it knowledge? here - catch it. i’m passing it on. keep it safe. it’s tradition. it’s memory.

no. it’s the future. it’s going to fall catch it! CATCH IT!!

Catch it! - from the Unscientific Storytelling performance, 2010


Here it is - the apple of discord from Greek mythology. It’s big, round and red - and it shines gold in the morning light. Over the years, we’ve seen it disappear, return, disappear and return again and again garbed in the cloaks of youth, love, sexuality, sin and science. It could be a separate religion by itself - with the number of well-known characters that are associated with it, whose lives are in a way determined by the apple, who are remembered for their relationships with the apple. We could look at the apple as something that has come into close contact with these characters - and thus has grown in terms of symbology and semiotic baggage because of this contact. Or we could look at these characters: Adam and Eve, Hercules, Atlas, Newton, Iduna - as characters who have grown and remained in human memory because of their close association with the apple - a kind of philosopher’s stone - that turns the everyday into history and mythology. - Rajasee 13/09/10


“Keep up Edison” “Einstein! Stay in line.”


- Rajasee, Unscientific Storytelling performance, 2010


Somewhere along the way, science triggers various memories, of “like” “love” and “hate”, of memories, of school. Yes, it is somewhat intrinsically connected to school and it also perhaps is intimately connected to the icons of science we learn about in school. The Newtons, the Einsteins and the Galileos. So who were these people, and how did we inherit their legacy? Legacies of science minus their lived lives, personal lives… - Deepak





Galileo’s second daughter, Sister Archangela speaks as she rebukes him about saddling both scientific temper and religious faith, tradition and modernity (inspired from Starry Messenger, an Ira Hauptman script) “….you don’t know this and the world calls you a genius! Man has E V O L V E D from apes…”

- Gauri, Unscientific Storytelling perfromance, 2010





Mad Scientist

A mad scientist or mad professor is a stock character of popular fiction, specifically science fiction. The mad scientist may be villainous or antagonistic, benign or neutral, and whether insane, eccentric, or simply bumbling, mad scientists often work with fictional technology in order to forward their schemes, if they even have a coherent scheme. Alternatively, they fail to see the potential objections to playing God. -Wikipedia



Alpha Male

Scientists have an image problem. Just ask any fifth-grader. Chances are, they’ll probably tell you that a scientist is Caucasian, male, can be found wearing a lab coat, and leads a lonely laboratory existence. Perhaps he has eccentric character traits or odd-looking hair - Peter Eugster http://www.scq.ubc.ca/the-perception-of-scientists/



Inventor

…we also have the benevolent inventor who comes up with interesting instruments that save the day. h.g. wells, for example has created many such inventors in his novels… today’s scientist is not necessarily an inventor. he or she often works with theory - and observational data, gathered from instruments that are in popular use. does an engineer then qualify as today’s inventor? in which case, is an engineer the mad scientist of the present age? -Rajasee



Man in a black suit

A lab coat is understandable but where did the suit come from? I remember many of them who were shown in suits in textbooks, passport photos showing their faces, stern, educated‌ the odd ones were C. V Raman who wore a mysore turban (peta) with a coat and a tie. -Deepak



“Come we’ll take your picture”

Unscientific Storytelling perfromance, 2012

BUST SHOTS



Biographies always have different forms to take… “Scientists of the East” is such a strange term if you look at it. Conjures up images of the three mystical Magi who brought gifts from the East, the mystical, traditional, old world How would scientists from the East look like? How do we start seeing them, viewing them, imagining them? What would these real and imagined intersections and tensions between tradition and modernity have manifested like?


A chemist who dressed as a saintly mystic Acharya P C Ray was a chemist, entrepreneur and a passionate educationist. Much can be said about how he integrated his science with his cultural milieu. The 19th Century scienceeducated Indian had many aspects of tradition and modernity to integrate, reconstruct , re-articulate and discard. In their zeal for development of society and being influenced by the freedom movement, many scientists with an English higher education returned to their homeland to serve, primarily through teaching. Apart from being a researcher and an educator, P C Ray is said to be an early pioneer to help set up pharmaceutical industries while facing difficulties in finding investment. Directly or associatively, he also aided in setting up textile mills, soap factories, sugar factories, chemical industries , ceramic factories and publishing houses.

Praful Chandra Ray (1861 - 1944)


Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861 - 1944)


Should Ray have dressed in a suit in the late 19th Century to maintain consistency between his modernising self and modernised science?

Portrait of a traditional modernist

Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


(1861 - 1944)

Prafulla Chandra Ray


P C Ray chose education over research and advocated learning Science in Bengali. Would it have been easy to integrate a ‘hybrid-traditionalist’ approach like learning sciences in a regional language?

Vernacular Science

Negotiations of traditional and modern

Scientists of the east


Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861 - 1944)


P C Ray is almost never seen in a chemistry lab. Most documentation of Ray in popular culture is a bust shot of a man in robes, saintly looking and sombre.

The Bengali chemist

Negotiations of traditional and modern

Scientists of the east


Technical physicist, biophysicist, botanist, archeologist or a mystic...what was he? J C Bose is often described as the Indian Polymath for having dabbled in various sciences from technical physics to plant biology. He also was an archeologist. Unlike his peers and comrades like P C Ray, he was less into educational and social activism and more commited to science research and instrumentation technology. Bose innovated and built many novel instruments for research. This unique aspect of his polymathic enquiry was the fact that he seemed to work within the paradigm of a spiritual universe and quested for rational and technical knowledge within a world of spirit. “...the first impetus of western education impressed itself on some in a dead monotony of imitation of things western; while in others it awakened all that was greatest in national memory� - J C Bose

Jagdish Chandra Bose (1858 - 1937)


Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


(1858-1937)

Jagdish Chandra Bose


Bose is said to have refused salary for three years while he taught physics in Colonial Calcutta. He was revolting against race coloured differences in pay scales. His admirers and critics regret his not producing enough “technical physics� knowledge and attribute this to his being seduced into spirituality by prevalent tagorean sensibilities.

Science Satyagrahas and Scientific Spiritualities

Negotiations of traditional and modern

Scientists of the east


(1858-1937)

Jagdish Chandra Bose


J C Bose christened the scientific instruments he had built with Sanskrit words. Was this a sign of Bose’s “syncretic approach” or is it to be read with anxiety- that of a ‘Hindoo’ scientist eager to culturally traditionalize his modern technological expressions?

Yantra Gyan

Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


Jagdish Chandra Bose (1858-1937)


When Bose sat down to pen his first fictional novel, how did the scientist in him reach out to fantasy? How did cognitive polarities- the rational and the fantastical merge within the mind of a modernizing Indian researcher?

Birthing fictionalized science

Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


A prolific astrophysicist, a dazzling theoretical physicist and one who envisioned institutionalized Indian science. Definitely iconic, Saha is symbolic of a newer wave towards the synthesis of modernism in the early 20th century. A small petty-shopkeeper’s son, Saha earns a Mathematics post-graduate degree and self trains himself in the discipline of physics. It is quite a spectacular story of a young lad from a poor socio economic background being able to find opportunity and education in colonial India. Even more spectacular is his ability to dedicate himself to building a “culture of science”- by dogged pursuit of research. What philosophical mores would a scientist of his calibre have, as Saha lived and worked in a time that spanned local and global political influences such as British imperialism, world wars and Indian Independence?

Meghnad Saha (1893 - 1955)


Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


(1893-1955)

Meghnad Saha


For two groups, science inclined intellectuals and industrialists, Gandhi’s approach to industrialisation and progress had spelt indigestion. While Saha and other scientists set their rockets for progress in pursuit of science and industry, would Bapu’s cultural-political movement have presented a dilemma in conviction?

Moulting tradition

Negotiations of traditional and modern

Scientists of the east


(1893-1955)

Meghnad Saha


Gandhi’s propositions of traditional mechanization and progress fueled by cottage industries was not viable to build a nation. To further modern science’s progress, Meghnad involved the Congress party in science affairs within India that was under the queen. With the exit of the East India Company, was Nehru’s image to be a bittersweet part of the Saha scientific? Did he retrace his “modern is forward” steps?

Nascent Nation

Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern


(1893-1955)

Meghnad Saha


“Scientists are often accused of living in the “Ivory Tower” and not troubling their mind with realities and apart from my association with political movements in my juvenile years, I had lived in ivory tower up to 1930” - Meghnad Saha

Perhaps, Saha envisioned modern science’s role in society responsibly. Through his career, being a brilliant contributor to the development of atomic physics, Saha saw excellent potential for India in development of nuclear knowledge. Only, he didn’t elaborate how, except that sciences within universities should be within public reach.The social and the scientific cooked as new national stew producing different tastes. Modern was officially birthed but stumbling.

Social Irrelevance

Scientists of the east

Negotiations of traditional and modern




Na Yeh Chand Hoga... A letter to the moon. For a culture that is so connected to film music and cultural icons of romance like the moon/Chand, how do we feel about technological advances that take us to the moon, or, say, mining on the moon? Will the moon be target to our greed? Will the moon be gone some day? With a soundtrack where the lover vouches his undying love to his lady as the moon, stars, and other imperishables vanish we’ve found a newer way to interpret our love for the moon and our moon lover. So here’s a song that is our interpretation of the addictively hummable and mesmerising, old Hindi film song rendered by Hemant Kumar.


Dear moon, you may be gone, and sometime perhaps the stars too, but memories of you may remain and perhaps, i will stay yours and you mine eyes yearned for a glimpse and here you were every night, all nights, my bosom heaves with hope in those visions i clutch on to I’ll remember those ten of thousands of nights.. Dear Moon, If I did transgress if i did sell out, and walked out on you, don’t assume mine love for you untrue I will hold those memories, and for ever be yours Dear moon, you may be gone, and sometime perhaps the stars too, but memories of you may remain those others, people, they would fabricate but oh sweet white face, don’t distrust mine love its delicate, but I will, i swear I will remain yours forever, i will Dear moon, you may be gone, and sometime perhaps the stars too, but memories of you may remain


- from the Unscientific Storytelling performance, 2010