Ghats as a superorganism

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“Splice: The Iconic Joint” is a collaborative project formed in close association with the Law+Environment+Design Laboratory the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology and the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania. The project was designed as part of the Undergraduate Professional Diploma Program for the academic year 2014-2015. Copyright © Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology 2015. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

CONTENTS INITIATE Introduction : The Project Process & Immersion


NAVIGATE Material Splice Immaterial Splice Field Trip

05 07 10

EXTRACTED Constructing the Plots Plot : Udupi Temple Procession Plot : Malpe Fishing Village Plot : Malpe Beach

19 20 24 27

Concept 1 : Forest Structure Concept 2 : Connecting the Plots Concept 2 : Searching for a structure Visual language Superorganism : Designing the Panel Motion Graphic

32 36 37 38 42 46







“We are all glorified motion sensors. Some things only become visible to us when they undergo change. We take for granted all the constant, fixed things, and eventually stop paying any attention to them. At the same time we observe and obsess over small, fast-moving, ephemeral things of little value. The trick to rediscovering constants is to stop and focus on the greater panorama around us. While everything else flits about, the important things remain in place. Their stillness appears as reverse motion to our perspective, as relativity resets our motion sensors. It reboots us, allowing us once again to perceive. And now that we do see, suddenly we realize that those still things are not so motionless after all. They are simply gliding with slow individualistic grace against the backdrop of the immense universe. And it takes a more sensitive motion instrument to track this.� - Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


INTRODUCTION : THE PROJECT ABOUT THE PROJECT This project is part of a larger body of work that entails the re-imagining and imaging of landscapes of the Western Ghats. The objective is to propose a new ways of looking, studying and interacting with the landscape. This mode of enquiry may translate into interventions that lay the ground for a more resilient environment. The project aims to use design to research, understand, interpret and represent complex environments to bring out and represent the richness of its processes, forms, function and relationships. The project work to be undertaken is premised on the approach developed over the past 15 years, by Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur, faculty at School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. The work is based on the belief that places demand invention and imagination in how they are articulated and experienced. The project is in collaboration and housed in the Law+Environment+Design Laboratory under the mentorship of Deepta Sateesh, together seek to critique the current constructs and

create qualitative approaches towards unpacking and engaging with our environment. Each student was encouraged to develop and design their own process to create a lens, and finally create an intervention that allows viewers to see the Ghats through that lens.

lenses acquired through an education of a certain kind. This inability to view the Ghats as a whole is a result of our built environment or our institutional structures or the legal and disciplinary regimes that constrain our relationship with nature.


An approach is necessary that begins with a new visualization of the Ghats and its complexity in space and time. The purpose of this approach would be to create new ways of seeing, representing and engaging with the region, through diverse research, experience, modes of design and imagination. Ways of visualizing, situation and engaging these complex environments may begin to expose the nature of places and construct new images and imaginations, working from the particular to the larger idea and vice versa.

With its recent designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (July 2012), the Western Ghats of India has become the focus for many kinds of research, activism, development and observation. It is a highly contested terrain between environmental and developmental concerns. Geologists may see it as an escarpment of basalt in the north turning into gneiss and laterite in the south. Industries may see it as a fertile ground of minerals, especially iron, that can be exploited and quarried. Ecologists may see it as of the eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity in the world, being the unique natural habitat for rich varieties of flora and fauna. Social ecologists and anthropologists may it as distinctive place of cultures that have made a home for themselves. The Ghats have been looked at through dominant frames through a colonial past or contemporary disciplinary

In this studio, the Ghats will be viewed as a splice : a joint of two things that does not call attention to itself so much as to the new ‘singularity’ that it creates.

FIELD VISIT For the purpose of this study of the Ghats as a splice, a lens was developed. A lens is a unique way of seeing, a tool to observe and traverse the Ghats. This lens was used to conduct field research and make observations as we traversed the splice across different terrains of rainforest, grassland, coastal island and temple towns. We visited in the following areas: 1. AGUMBE; name of a quintessential village in the rainforest adjacent to the ARRS (Agumbe Rainforest Research Station) that is known for its conservation efforts and tourism

2. UDUPI; town near the coast known for cuisine and pilgrimage 3. MALPE; a natural port and fishing hub on the west coast of India 4. ST. MARY’S ISLAND; extrusions of basalt that are tourist landmarks for their formation and ecology


Process & IMMERSION IMMERSION INTO PROJECT METHODOLOGY To acquaint ourselves with the context and methodology, we began with secondary research by reading various articles and reports (The Gadgil and Kasturi Reports) written with regard to the contested lands of the Western Ghats. After reading the Gadgil and Kasturi Reports, one could see that the decision makers were alien to the nuances of the space. The landscape is always changing, but people, who always want to manage everything, tend to draw lines that creates divides and controls our movements, separating us from engaging with the actual context. People see themselves as separate, and nature is something that needs to be conserved or managed. We change things around us rather than change ourselves. To further understand human behaviour, “The Western Illusion if Human Nature” by Marshall Sahlins and “The reworking of conservation geographies : Non equilibrium landscapes and Nature-Society hybrids” by Karl Zimmer were read. Human cultures are driven by self-preservation and fear of uncertainty along with the fear of not having enough for the present and future generations. Survival in a developed world is governed by adhering to the constructed frames in which we live in, trying to constantly achieve human development measures. Laws do not allow for adaptation, the fear of change and not understanding things drives people to seek comfort, stability and therefore security. This does not allow us to try to understand complexities. We fail to realise that the landscape itself has its own qualities of time and space.

landmarks by trees or other objects and not by the physical maps. The way the land is interacted with is important, and shifts in perspectives allows one to adapt to the changing landscape.

brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. It becomes difficult to distinguish the individuals by observing the kind of movements within the colony.

Then, not just a point of view, but a whole new ground that challenges the boundary lines with new possibilities. Constructing a new ground and developing a design language to describe the new way of structuring the new ground using new terms. These help to develop and construct a new lens by which one may traverse the Western Ghats.

So absorbed with constantly counting the individuals, that people forget to step back and view the Ghats for what they could be viewed as, which is a giant “colony”. The Ghats aren’t just a network of individual species, fields and grounds. It is too complex a system to be simplified to the individuals. They all operate together as a whole, allowing us to view the Western Ghats as a “superorganism” through their interdependencies.


The superorganism, in this case, operates as a temporal phenomenon inscribed by movements. Two parallel investigations were conducted:

Through the material and immaterial explorations, the notion of the joint was given into and a new language and a lens was developed through the process. The process allowed us to actually see the splice in the making and the multiplicity by which a splice is made. By allowing the process to guide you, new subjects of exploration emerged and relational grounds could be constructed as the splices explored could be read in multiple ways, thus creating a ground for invention. With the lens, new thoughts were being structured and a totally different experience of place began to form while engaging with the landscape.

1) into the movement as a joint in between two moments in time, 2) and into the ant colony as an example of a super organism These explorations contributed to crafting the lens of viewing the superorganism as a field of movements.

The design project can be viewed as a scene of transformation, something that could potentially inspire change. The systems and processes help define a splice, and here operation is key and things are not done at random. Structures in the form of meaning emerge.

What if the lens by which people perceived things was altered, allowing them to grasp complexities and change the way they see the landscape?


In Bruce Chatwin’s “ The Song Lines”, songs about the land are passed on from generation to generation. As the landscape changes, so do the songs. The way the land was traversed too It changed the way the land was seen and interacted with, and so the songs too change in accordance to that. Similarly, the way the trackers in Bandipur navigate is through eyes that are trained to see objects that represent multiple meanings. They know

Generally speaking, any individual comes from two other individuals in what we can effectively call a hybrid. It is the case with human beings as it is with ants. But in the ant community the colony acts as a super organism, where the individual is lost in a larger structure. It makes the hybrid of the ant a more effective splice, losing the visibility of a “joint” to a field because thousands of ants come together to form a collective



MATERIAL SPLICE MOVEMENT AS A JOINT IN BETWEEN TWO MOMENTS IN TIME Initial explorations included documenting a journey or a walk, using photography as a medium. In this way, one may capture the splice in the ground by walking through contrasting spaces and landscapes, without reading too much into it. On an experiment to capture contrasts of light, photos were taken of the same space in the day and in the night. On observation, it was noticed there was a transition in the kinds of activity take place in the time (4pm to 9pm). It became interesting to note what was moving through frames and what was static. These movements were related to time and each other, this was an interesting insight that was further pursued. The use of movement as joint in between two captured moments in time was investigated. By inserting frames of constructed moments in between the two captured frames, the frames could be spliced together by movement. As the investigation continued, more observations were made It was noticed that people, vehicles and animals move freely in and out of the frame, their movement is quite obvious; but was everything else in the frame really still? Do the trees not sway with the wind? Shadows and light also are constantly in motion with relation to the time of the day.

Through this process and through observation, five types of movements were discovered:

1) The movement of the lights and shadows as the position of the sun changes, and how natural light was replaced by the street lights 2) The still structures of the lampposts, pavements and houses remain constant in all the frames 3) The movement of force, speed and wind are invisible but can be felt when a car passes by 4) People, animals, vehicles, etc. ; the obvious movements that move freely out of the frames

Printing on OHP sheets to layer the frames on top of each other

5) The movement of the trees and their leaves. As night time takes over, the movement of the leaves becomes less because they hide in the shadows.




Photographs taken of the same place at different times. 6PM



Details of

Printed out on

each frame

OHP sheets.

IMMATERIAL SPLICE INTANGIBLE EXPLORATIONS The immaterial exploration started out with a series of investigations : the idea of home as point to generate interdependencies, the ant colony as a superorganism and the idea of a hybrid as a splice. The idea of home began with the inquiry into the origin of species in the Ghats. For example, a eucalyptus tree that was never supposed to be a part of the fauna in the Ghats now blends perfectly into the forest. Based Charles Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. Survive if you’re fit and fit if you survive. Home is where you fit. An investigation began into the animals that make their home in the Ghats. A nest is a designed product of the bird. The bird doesn’t think of networks and relations, it may just want to build a nest. How it builds the nest brings other factors into the world of the bird. Where does the mud or leaves used to build the nest come from? These all can be viewed as chance by-products, but what must be understood is it’s making as a splice. In a sense the bird splices trajectories/origins/materials. There are factors that contribute to the making of that nest. Anchoring everything known about nests, one could construct an ecosystem from the point of that bird. This generates the idea of one thing as an amalgamation of other things brought together through interdependencies.

acts as a super organism leaving no room for the individual. It makes the hybrid of the ant a more effective splice, loosing it’s “joint” to a field because thousands of ants come together to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. One can look at the Ghats at a microscopic scale to examine the macro landscape. By zooming in and out to see how the individuals have functions in a larger context and how they are connected to other species directly or indirectly, creating webs of complex networks. However, within this there is no hierarchy, each individual has its role to play in the Ghats as does an ant within its colony. Complex environments of rain clouds, flocks of birds, colonies of ants, swarm of bees, crowds of humans, etc. all have something in common that can be easily called out : movement. The super organism doesn’t draw attention to the individual, but moves collectively and thinks as one. Perhaps these superorganisms can be looked at through movements.

The idea of interdependencies led the investigation to the ants. Ants have a unique ability to adapt to their surroundings and thrive on interdependencies within the ant. The highly organisational structure and distribution of functions revealed a sense of relationship and order within the colonies. When we see how the colony of the ant operates, no one can help wonder how they all operate as one. Regardless of the reasons that bring them together, the colony has a remarkable ability to act like a collective mind. An ant colony has been referred to as a superorganism where the individual is lost in the larger structure of the colony. The superorganism is a splice. Each individual comes from two other individuals in what we can effectively call a hybrid. It is the case with human beings as it is with ants. But in the ant community the colony



Graphical representation of the ants as a superorganism.


IMMATERIAL SPLICE GRAPHICALLY REPRESENTING THE ANTS AS A SUPERORGANISM To represent what was observed, a graphical interpretation was created relying on the visual impact of the drawing to convey the feeling of being lost inside the swarm and to get the sense of the field of ants. Movements were constructed on the drawing itself, creating a series of sequenced movements that were representative of the kinds of relationships that were observed in an ant colony.

Within an ant colony, there were various types of movements discovered: 1) Leading or pioneering movement that lead the movement of the entire colony, have knowledge on what to do and what not to do. 2) Following movement of the other ants that follow the chemical markers of the ant in front of them, all working together to ensure the smooth running of operations within the colony. 3) Herding movement (as seen when ants herd aphids for their honeydew secretions or other flora/fauna that come into contact with the colony in some way).

Through the two explorations made materially and intangibly, the lens crafted is to view the Ghats as a superorganism that can be seen through movement. The kinds of movement revealed in the study of the ants was used to study what was observed during the field trip. The structuring and restructuring of movements are activated by time, as seen in the explorations. The field trip covered various different terrains that could be observed at various points in time, and the movement within those time frames were documented.


FIELD TRIP Dates of field trip : 16th to 21st February, 2015 The field trip to the Western Ghats was aimed to develop an experiential understanding of a space and it’s components. Equipped with the lens developed through the material and immaterial explorations, we traversed the landscape by visiting four very different key places : Agumbe, Udupi, Malpe and St. Mary’s Island. The journey itself was a microcosm of the diversity of the Ghats. The methodology of documenting experiences in the Ghats and collecting data was done through photography, video recordings, taking notes and sketching. At the end of the day we would meet as a group, and reflect on the day’s experience through writing, doodling and discussing. When entering the field, we had to suspend our preconceived notions and doubts which we might have had from all the knowledge we might have gathered previously. We had to directly experience the richness and complexity of the Ghats, and truly see the places we passed through with observant eyes and with our lens in the back of our minds. In Agumbe, the scientists of ARRS were very helpful with providing important information, and taking us on guided treks across grasslands in the early mornings, to the Onake Abbi Falls, catching the sunrise at Kundadri, through the forest at night, etc. They allowed us to access their library and presented to us all their work over the years. The camera traps ,that had been set up in the forest, focused on fixed paths and captured the movements of animals at all hours of the day, particularly from midnight to dawn. In Udupi, there is a daily ritual and procession that takes place in the temple square of the Shri Krishna Temple that takes place over the span over a few hours. The most frequent movements by the seascapes were those of the waves as seen both on St. Mary’s Island and on Malpe beach. The presence of salt water had an effect on the growth of the coconut trees as seen on St. Mary’s Island and on the tiny fishing village of Padukere. The realisation that the trees were also moving, in terms of how they grew, though their


frequency was considerably less as compared to the frequencies of the waves or birds. Movement is so closely related to time that the growth of tree is overlooked as an example of movement because it’s frequency is considerably less compared to other objects that surrounded its immediate environment.


Agumbe : Forest trail to Onake Abbi Falls

Agumbe : Resident of Agumbe Village passing through the grasslands

Agumbe : The grasslands

Agumbe : Nocturnal frog seen during the Night trek

Kundadri : Sketching and observing the sunrise

Kundadri : At sunrise




Udupi : Temple and Raath

Udupi : Temple Square

Rice paddy fields near Manipal

Udupi : Creating a ‘rangoli’ in front of the temple before the procession

Shri Krishna Temple and priest

Rice paddy fields near Manipal


Malpe Fisheries : Day the fish market was shut

Malpe Fisheries : Boats at the dock

Malpe Fisheries : Day fishing market is open

Malpe Fisheries : Shed where sorting of the fish takes place (Market shut)

Malpe Fisheries : Boats at the dock

Malpe Fisheries : Fish market activities



Malpe Fisheries : Fish market activities by the boats

Malpe Fisheries : Fish market activities

Malpe Fisheries : Fish market activities

Malpe Fisheries : Shed where sorting of the fish takes place (Market open)

Malpe Fisheries : Fish market activities

Malpe Fisheries : Crows drawn to the fish



Padukere Fishing Village : To the dock

Malpe dock viewed from Padukere Fishing Village

On St. Mary’s Island

Padukere Fishing Village : Coconut trees growing towards the salt water

On the way to St. Mary’s Island

St. Mary’s Island




St. Mary’s Island

St. Mary’s Island : Waters merge on the island

St. Mary’s Island : Looking for shells

St. Mary’s Island : Basaltic rock formations

St. Mary’s Island : Looking for shells

St. Mary’s Island : Man-made structures for tourists


Red ants on concrete

Brahminy Kite flies overhead

Ducks being herded by the sound of the plastic bag

Nest in the fields made of soil found in the region

Monkeys observe us as we walk by

Red ants in trees



Constructing the Plots THE PLOTS


On returning from the field trip, footage and images needed to be sifted through, and plots needed to be constructed to represent our observations. Based on the places visited, three plots were constructed to study movement in the spaces of the Fishing Market in Malpe, the sunset on the Malpe Beach and the procession in the Udupi Temple Square. Each place had a variety of movements and different readings. Each place was so complex that hey could be viewed as superorganisms of their own.

The way the plot of Udupi was read different from the way the plot constructed for Malpe fishing Village was read. Each landscape demanded a different way of engaging with the movements within the frame.

UDUPI PROCESSION PLOT Frame moves with the movement Entire field of movements set to timeline Moments of the procession are extracted Relative movements within the frames

FISHING VILLAGE PLOT Movement within a frame Anchor movement onto object Relative movement to anchor

SUNSET PLOT Single/Static Frame Movement through the frame Frequencies of the movement to anchor

The terms derived from the immaterial splice exploration were to be used as a way to combine the three plots. However, during the process of constructing the plots and trying to fit the movements in the categories of leading, following or herding, it was discovered that this was not a holistic approach. Each term itself came with a baggage of predefined notions. Also it was found that nothing remained solely a leader or follower. The roles constantly changed as the moments changed. An example from the videos of the camera traps that were shown to us in the ARRS. There was a footage caught of buffaloes passing by, and a few seconds later we see a leopard stalking these buffaloes. At an elementary level, one knows that the buffalo are herded by man and the leopard is the top of the food chain, so automatically he is a leader. In this case, isn’t the leopard following the buffalo? Whatever the purpose for that following is, it’s movement changes according to the moment. Similarly, in the temple plot, an observation was made. There is an elephant and it’s handler leading the procession. The elephant and handler seem to know each other. The elephant is aware of the path is it supposed to take because,maybe, this ritual is a daily occurrence so the animal having traversed it multiple times now knows the path. The handler does not have to guide the elephant, the elephant follows the path already laid out for it. The handler does carry a stick which he signals to bring the elephant to a halt. Then the elephant seizes to be a follower of the path as it responds to the signal and is therefore herded to a halt. The handler

himself takes the cue to stop when the rest of the procession stops. Technically the elephant and handler are at the front of the procession, yet they are not leading the procession. Signals are constantly transmitted in between objects within the moments and their role as a leader, follower or herder constantly change as they move through the space. Within this linear timeline, the movements are non-linear and not based on physical position within the temple square, but also the role it is playing. Having been an active participator in the event, there were some things that were not documented but were based on assumption. It may be an assumption that the elephant knew it’s path. The problem with the categories was that they were circumstantial and based on the purpose that the movement has rather than the way the movement is actually happening. A more holistic approach would be investigate and understand how they are moving, rather than why. An Odissi dancer once mentioned that while dancing they often move their hands in certain ways to depict the movement of a snake, fish or bird. This becomes apparent to the audience that the movement is of that animal just by the way the dancer moves their hands. This became the inspiration to extract the movements from the object, and allow viewers to see the superorganism through a field of movements and not a field of objects. Objects may be seen through an accumulation of movement. This process of extraction was a rigorous one and continued till the end of this project.


PLOT : UDUPI TEMPLE PROCESSION In Udupi, the whole event took place in the temple square. A timeline of the procession was constructed and moments from the procession were highlighted. In each moment, the various movements within the frame were called out and each frame within the larger frames were further extracted. Having previously observed the categories of leading, following and herding movements in the immaterial splice explorations, initial explorations were made to see which movements or objects came under which of these categories. Then, the qualities of each category were identified and further observations were made to see how the movements took place within the space.

Detailed view of part of the plot : trying to understand the qualities of the movement and extracting movement relative to other elements in the frames.

Entire plot created


PLOT : UDUPI TEMPLE PROCESSION Each frame was extracted till only the parts that were moving were seen. One could see how the movements were related to other objects the frames contained. In the two plots here, the arm of the priest and the elephant’s trunk has been extracted as they move the most. One can see what arm or trunk is moving in relation, and the frequency of their movement is can be seen in relation to the other objects moving in the frames. The relative movements and their relationships change from moment to moment within each moment.

Detailed view of the moments in the larger plot.



The whole plot created for Udupi. (A & B are parts of the same plot as it was too large to fit on just one page)





Whole Plot of Malpe Fishing Village



PLOT : MALPE FISHING MARKET For the fishing market in Malpe, only a short video of 36 seconds consisted of a lot of movement within each frame. The framing of the moment was static and things moved in and out of the frame, unlike what was seen in the temple plot, where the framing followed the movements from moment to moment. Initially, after watching the video, all the movements seemed chaotic. In an attempt to try and “organize” this “chaos”, a similar method of extraction of the movements was done as in the Udupi temple plot. After spending more time with the plot, the seemingly chaotic frames actually were highly organized, and the method of extraction needed to be modified. If the movements were anchored to any one thing within the frame, the movements extracted were different in relation to that anchor. For example, if the anchor is a basket, then all movements generated as a result of the movement of that basket were extracted. The relative movements changed when the anchor changed. In the frames on the right, the one on top depicts how the extraction took place after drawing out all the baskets within the frame. Then the lines were further reduced to reveal the lines of movement. The image at the bottom is where a person has been chosen as the anchor. The woman and the other objects with which she comes into contact with are only extracted.


Detailed view of the main plot : Extractions based on chosen anchors.

PLOT : MALPE BEACH Like the framing done in the fishing village, the framing of the Malpe beach too was static. People, animals and vehicle moved freely in and out of the frames. However, one had to wait for a longer span of time for there to be frequent movement in contrast to the short timeline of the fishing village plot. In this plot, the frequencies of each movement were represented keeping the frequency of the waves and the sun as an anchor because of their centred position in each frame. First, the movements of the different objects were abstracted as the lines of movement were called out. By doing this, it was possible to see the actual movement rather than the object that is moving. Each frame was extracted at five seconds intervals each and the frequencies of the movement are mapped accordingly. The sun moves at the slowest speed, so it is represented at long intervals, while the waves that are changing in every frame are present in each frame. A person standing in one place for more than a frame is placed accordingly relative to a person who passes through the frames faster (their frames might be at one second each).



Full view of the



plot constructed.



“The unsolved mysteries of the rain forest are formless and seductive. They are like unnamed islands hidden in the blank spaces of old maps, like dark shapes glimpsed descending the far wall of a reef into the abyss. They draw us forward and stir strange apprehensions. The unknown and prodigious are drugs to the scientific imagination, stirring insatiable hunger with a single taste. In our hearts we hope we will never discover everything. We pray there will always be a world like this one at whose edge I sat in darkness. The rain forest in its richness is one of the last repositories on earth of that timeless dream.” - Excerpt from “Diversity of Life” by E.O. Wilson

CONCEPT 1 : FOREST STRUCTURE The representation of the lens should allow viewers to observe moments in time through movements and be able to imagine what those movements could be. This constructed visual would provide the viewer with the “how they move” while giving them the space to fill in the “why they move” or “what is moving”. The viewers may then interact with a piece that would consist of visualized movements, images and perhaps even text. The frame is constructed allowing the viewers to imagine that the movements move in and out of the frame as well. Seemingly unconnected moments could be related through the kind of movements or signals that the movements respond to.

The previous material and immaterial explorations stilled the backgrounds in time and the movements were constructed on top of this frame. A constructed landscape that acted as an amalgamation of all the places visited in the field trip could act as the frame on which moments and movements could be constructed onto. In choosing a landscape that itself is so dynamic, with different terrains and seasons that transform the landscape entirely, the one of Agumbe came to mind. The diverse terrains of Agumbe transects over grassland, forest, village, waterfalls, etc. The space of the unknown has room for constructed imaginary moments that had the power to generate movements,

Sketch (full)


unlike those of Udupi or Malpe which would have viewers casting their assumptions of why the object was moving in a certain way as they were familiar with an urban setting. Multiple interactions and simultaneous moments can be constructed here, and they may connect to each other based on direct or indirect connections in between the moments, creating a complex web of movement.

CONCEPT 1 : FOREST STRUCTURE TEXT EXPLORATIONS The moments during the field visit to Agumbe took place in a non-linear fashion, and it was not easy to construct a structure or a timeline as had been done in the other plots. It became necessary to create a narrative structure to articulate the connected moments. Describing movements through words that don’t call attention to the object, but draw the attention to the way something is moving in that constructed moment in time was attempted.

Sketch with text Text explorations


CONCEPT 1 : FOREST STRUCTURE Videos and pictures of the animals specific to the Western Ghats were studied, and then hand-drawn. While drawing, the parts of the animal that were actually moving were called out by using a thick and darker stroke with a 4B pencil. The animal behaviours were studied in order to create a structure where the movement of the animal was to become part of the collection of moments that I was trying to create. According to the timings of the moments, the objects and their movements were placed on the larger structure. Through this process, it was clear that even with extracted lines of movement, the whole animal could still be recognized. Therefore, the object was still visible.

Attempting to extract the lines of movement from the drawing by the process of elimination.


Scanned, edited and reversed (negative effect) of the sketches of various movements of animals

CONCEPT 1 : FOREST STRUCTURE The feedback received was that different things were being drawn each time, and the process that was developed before was getting lost in this concept. If the visuals were not powerful enough to show the complexities with which were dealt with, then it was time to divorce this concept and step back again. Each drawing still represented the object in some way, and the process of extraction was not followed here. The aim was to allow the viewer to engage with a constructed superorganism, but it was evident through this visualization that it was dealing with a small section of the Ghats. This did not stay true to objective of the lens. All the moments constructed here were being located in a specific place (Agumbe). The superorganism needed to be a collection of movements across all landscapes in the Ghats, dealing with various things that moved and not just animals. The panel needed to be very powerful, structurally and visually. The style of white lines on black would remain, as the use of colour tended to separate movements from each other and did not allow for the creation of a complex field of movements. All moments hand-drawn that would go into the scroll.



Black on white iteration

White on black iteration


CONCEPT 2 : CONNECTING THE PLOTS HOW ARE THEY MOVING? As the first concept didn’t work out, a step back was required and the plots previously constructed were revisited. The first challenge was to connect the three plots that were complex on their own. An attempt was made to try connecting them through frequencies or the categories of following, leading and herding. When both approaches were not holistic, a new process was pursued. The movements across the various plots that were looked at and each line of movement within the plots was called out. Then they were put together on the basis of how they were moving and whether they were visually similar. As this process evolved, four flipbooks were created so that the movements could be studied more closely. Each page was a frame and, as one flipped through the books, the viewer could see the similarities of how they were moving and the frequencies of their movements became evident. These flipbooks were turned into a motion graphic for the sake of presentation. As the movements came together, four new qualities of movements emerged from this process. It was discovered some movements acted as signals independent of other movements but had the potential to generate movements around them. The movement types were mostly oscillatory where they were swinging within their frames. Some movements were constantly negotiating around other movements and the pattern of their movements were mostly radial. Other movements were navigating within the space of the frame, while others were simply “wandering” as they moved in and out of the frame possibly responding to a larger signal but were no clear paths and the movement was relatively slower.





This led to the construction of a new structure of a panel that could visually represent a field of movement using movements extracted across various constructed plots, and in turn construct the superorganism. Flip-books


CONCEPT 2 : Searching for A STRUCTURE

Basic initial structure for larger panel


VISUAL LANGUAGE EXTRACTING MOVEMENTS Below is the video of the walk cycle of a large cat1 where each frame has been captured (as done with previous plots). When one extracts the movements out of each frame, one can find that the spine, ears, feet and tail are the parts of the creature that are moving the most. Through further extraction one finds that each part is moving in a different way from the others, whether in it’s frequency or the way it is moving. One may call the entire creature a superorganism made up of different types of movement that call attention away from the object. To explore this insight, each frame was drawn out and the parts that were moving were separated. Then the movements of each part were studied to see how they were moving - were they wandering, negotiating, signalling or navigating.

Extraction of a large cat (tiger) walking 1



Extraction of an elephant walking 2

Extraction of a frog leaping 3



An inventory of movements to be placed in the final panel


VISUAL LANGUAGE Once the inventory was created and all the movements were in one place, one could see that the objects were still very visible in the extractions. Further extractions were made to call out lines of movements. Examples of how this was done can be seen below :


SUPERorganism : DESIGNING THE PANEL THE MOVEMENTS AND MOMENTS OF THE SUPERORGANISM THAT IS THE WESTERN GHATS The entire Western Ghats may be viewed as a large superorganism made up of moving edges, frontiers, points, etc. Movement is the essence of the lens that has been designed and negotiating, navigating, signalling and wandering are the qualities of this essence. Through this lens, one can see the Ghats that isn’t just a “hill range’ or an “escarpment’, but a field of movements. For the design representation of this lens, a large frame of movements documented and extracted across the Ghats has been put together in a large frame of movements captured in a moment in time. Here the superorganism is being constructed and not taken apart like in the previous processes. It is a field of movement where one cannot see the objects that created the movements, and it is a constructed visual of the lens developed over the course of this project.

Printed out version (estimated 6 ft by 3 ft)


Iteration 1 of the large panel

Receiving feedback from various facilitators and peers


Final Iteration of the Panel


SUPERorganism : DESIGNING THE PANEL MOVEMENT IS A TEMPORAL PHENOMENON Having followed a process that acknowledged movement as a temporal phenomenon, a single panel did not depict how movements changed from moment to moment. Three frames, which behaved as snapshots of a moment in the superorganism, were constructed to reveal subtle variations in the field of movements and the relationships to one another.

THE FINAL EXHIBITION The three panels are to be placed horizontally one after the other, as done in previous plots and extractions of movement from each frame. The motion graphic will be played on loop besides the panels and the inventory of the movements will be tangibly available for viewers to access.




MOTION GRAPHIC The power of motion graphic is that it compliments the project, as the project does deal with movement. While creating the structure of the panel, it was easier to see movement through the flipbooks and short motion graphic created then. The purpose of the motion graphic is to show the viewer how the movements are related to one another,. It allows the viewer to engage and actually see how they are moving similarly or in relation to one another as they are constantly negotiating, navigating, wandering and/or signalling within a frame. The movements that move about a frame similarly have been connected to one another and this shows that the movement is not specific to a particular object. A bell can move like a tail or trunk, and like this we can create a field of movement where the way something is moving doesn’t change just because the object does. In the motion graphic, the audience can also see the different frequencies, ways and how the movements are relative to each other.

PROCESS As each line of movement was extracted from their frames on Adobe Illustrator to create the panel. The frames were imported to Adobe Flash and placed so the entire sequence of continuous movement may be viewed. The treatment is white on black, as are the panels. (The movements are grouped into the four qualities that were previously created, as seen in the inventory on page) On the right are the screenshots of the motion graphic being worked on.



PERSONAL REFLECTION The studio has taught me to explore new ways of situating, visualizing and engaging with complex environments Before diving head-first into the project, I was wary about dealing with such a large context. Initially, my mind was limited to physical boundaries and I found myself looking at maps and articles online to understand my context. However, I eventually learned that Google was not the answer and broke away from this approach. As we progressed, the studio methodology became more comfortable and we dealt with material and immaterial explorations, allowing ideas to emerge from them. Only once we actually went on the field trip did I truly experience the complexity of what we were dealing with. I shed my preconceived notions and took note of everything around me. Still, I was fully not there yet. Even after the field trip, while constructing my plots, I found myself trying to see why the objects in the frames were moving rather than how. It took me a lot of time, a failed concept and revisiting my plots to re-build a structure to best represent my lens. My lens too was constantly developing the more I engaged with it. It was growing as I was, as did my lens’s vocabulary and the possibilities it opened up. Many times I found myself trying to force what I was looking at in the older structures I had created, but it took a while for me to be able to divorce my earlier concepts and rebuild as the work evolved. Speaking through abstractions and developing a language based on constructed notations and appreciating the invention in the thing I have constructed was all part of the studio’s environment. I know it is from my own readings of the landscape that shaped this lens I created over the course of the project. The most important thing was to be open throughout the process, constantly reflecting and being patient in allowing the graphic language to develop as the process continued. The studio allowed us to constantly modify our concepts based on our findings as it was research oriented, dedicated to developing a process. Structuring was very important as was articulating the language. My learning goals were to explore new ways of researching and developing a methodology of my own. It was challenge to see how I could demonstrate


my existing skills within this project. Even after developing my lens, I initially tried to fit the representation within my comfort level, but eventually I gave into what worked best for my project. This ability has made me a better designer, is what I personally feel. Having dealt with projects in the past that have had clear outcomes and clients to interact with, this project was a little terrifying at first. The eventual panel created was both conceptually and materially challenging. Working on large sizes was not an area I had worked with before. For the structure I accounted for rhythms, frequencies and time while laying out the panel. Turning down my first concept was especially hard because I had been attached to the idea of representing animals from the beginning and was quite married that. I found that what I was creating was not true to my own lens, and if I was creating a divide in between the way animals and people moved then I myself was objectifying things. I stepped away and began to restructure a new panel. The structure I eventually constructed was a collection of the sites visited in the field trip along with constructed moments. Here there is no boundary in between village, meadow jungle, etc. That way the movement in a fish market can be similar to one in a forest or a temple square. A temple bell can move like the swinging of an elephant’s truck. During my process, I found that there were so many factors regarding movement that I needed to deal with. Accounting for visual and audio signals that commanded attention, acknowledging the fact that it was my own path through the Ghats and the way I documented everything that contributed to how the images were later read. Other times, there were evidences of movement in the form of traces, foot or paw prints, etc. on the ground. Even the type of physical ground, like that of concrete and sand, could change the way the same objects moves in that space. There were so many possibilities and directions to push this project in, but due to the limited time frame and the challenge of representing the lens, it was difficult to factor all these into my project. Every stage had outcomes that were meaningful and reflective. Each plot was a work of design and a very huge part of the process. At each stage of the process someone could essentially take it to new levels and create a different outcome with what they read into my findings. That is the beauty of what we have managed

to create, something that deals with multiplicity and it’s application too contains the essence of that multiplicity. Throughout the project we have been trying to look at things differently, even the outcome which could be an intervention need not have been a literal one. This studio’s core has been about change and it is my responsibility as a designer to communicate that change. The intent as a designer is to change the viewer. Using the language daily and challenging the language other’s used. Once people around me got used to my vocabulary, they began to see things through my lens as well. This was encouraging as the challenge of the studio was to allow people to view the landscape through movement and give them the opportunity to spend time with the constructed superorganism, easing them into viewing the landscape though this language.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology and Dr. Geetha Narayanan for providing me with the opportunity to engage with this project. Secondly I would like to thank our project mentors Deepta Sateesh and Dilip da Cunha. The working methodology of the project is part of a studio environment. It is impossible for this project to have manifested the way it did without the critical feedback of our facilitators. Their systematic approach to the project created an environment that is professional and encouraging. With their insightful knowledge I saw the strength of design as a tool of research and analysis. With them constantly pushing us forward and giving our project direction, developing our lenses and helping us shape it into a design intervention through which we present our findings. Their support and guidance throughout has helped me remain focused on my project, and they encouraged me to try new things outside my personal comfort zone. Thank you for sacrificing a lot of their time to come and review my project, and give me vast amounts of invaluable feedback that pushed me to think of things from new angles. For giving me faith in my own project when I started to lose some of it. Encouraging me throughout the entire process and really pushing me to get to work. Thank you Sreemoyee Roy Choudhury, Sanika Sahasrabuddhe, Advaith Pawar, Namrata Singh and Henal Jain; my peers whom I worked with closely during the initial stages of the project. We constantly reviewed each other’s works and always were there to help each other out. Anuradha Mathur and the students from the School of Design in the University of Pennsylvania who also worked in the same studio. They travelled with us on the field trip. We shared our work with each other, which was very interesting because we had received the same project brief, yet our interpretations and conceptualization was so different. My jury panel during my seminars who were nothing but encouraging and understanding. Thank you to my tutor Mary Jacob for the same. The references, critical feedback, and excitement to see where my project was heading was the encouragement I needed. Thank you Chaitrali Bhide, Spenta Wadia, Aakash Doshi and all the others whom I irritated and got them to give me feedback at every stage of my project. Thank you to Ram, Ajay from the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station for the information and experience, it helped shape my understanding of the Western Ghats as a place that is full of multiplicities, complexities and richness. The ARRS took time to feed us amazing food, answer all my questions about the animals that were in the forest, etc. Thank you Kolor Kode for meeting my printing demands with ease. Of course, special mention to my loving parents, and family, who emotionally and financially supported me throughout.



REFERENCES VIDEOS USED FOR REFERENCE - 5may70. (2008, May 24). Elephant walking [Video file]. Retrieved from - Hanadokmai. (2009, May 31). Tree frog Jump Slow motion [Video file]. Retrieved from - James Kasapi. (2012, Aug 18). Tiger walkcycle [Video file]. Retrieved from - Media Space. (2014, Mar 4). INDIAN GIANT SQUIRREL - BIGGEST OF ALL SQUIRRELS [Video file]. Retrieved from watch?v=bwKXUqKgLGQ

- Ed Yong (2013, Mar 19), How The Science Of Swarms Can Help Us Fight Cancer And Predict The Future, Retrieved from : http://www.wired. com/2013/03/powers-of-swarms/all/ - Len Fischer (2009, Dec 17) “The Perfect Swarm – The Science of Complexity in everyday life“, article : This time Perfect Swarms, Retrieved from : - Maggie’s Science Connection! ,Interdependence in Nature, Retrieved from :

- Ravindra Apte. (2011, May 14). Draco the Flying Lizard [Video file]. Retrieved from

Image of ants on page 7 : Ingo Arndt, The world’s best animal architecture - in pictures. Photograph retreived from : artanddesign/gallery/2014/apr/22/the-worlds-best-animal-architecturein-pictures



- veryinteresting11. Agumbe Rain Forest Research Station : https://www.

To Make Flipbooks : - Andrew Davidhazy. Flipbooks for a Change!; Retrieved from : http://

- Western Ghat documentary : watch?v=erLNVG9j5BY,

INFORMATION ABOUT SWARMS AND ANT BEHAVIOUR - Carl Zimmer (November 13, 2007 ), From Ants to People, an Instinct to Swarm, Retrieved from : science/13traff.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 - Dr Himender Bharti. Retrieved from :


- guy (3 Jun 2013), Flip Books; Retrieved from : flip-books

OTHERS - Use of personal and borrowed equipment from the L.E.D. Lab to document during the field trip via photography and videos - Information provided by the A.R.R.S. (Agumbe Rainforest Research

Station) during the field visit. - Secondary research through books, reports, articles and interventions previously designed with relevance to the Western Ghats - Dilip da Cunha and Anuradha Mathur’s books - Mississippi Floods: Designing a Shifting Landscape (Yale University Press, 2001), Deccan Traverses: the Making of Bangalore’s Terrain (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2006) and Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary (Delhi: NGMA and Rupa & Co., 2009). Most recently they have co-edited a book entitled Design in the Terrain of Water (Applied Research & Design Publishing, San Francisco, 2014)