Bio- digital Jazz

Proto- architectural explorations- Somnath Ray

 The Butterfly Cloud: A Prosthetic Extension of Imagination

About dealing with virtual communities in real spaces and real communities in virtual spaces

“Bio- digital Jazz as we perceive at Gallery Ragini is art at its pinnacle of aesthetic, technical and visual precision. The gallery endeavors to showcase an art form that emerges within the feedback loops carefully set-up between the processes of human intentions, computational intelligences and machinic will. We at gallery Ragini attempt to touch a realm of art that explores such paradigmatic interconnectedness between these seemingly disparate processes, states Nidhi Jain, Director, Gallery Ragini.

A graduate from Columbia University, New York and the Design Computation Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (MIT) + Media lab, Somnath Ray is a ‘communicator of spaces’. According to the contemporary theoretiians of Architectural Design, Architecture is not about designing spaces for the fast growing urban locations but it is all about creating communication between spaces that could develop ‘communities’ both in the real and virtual spaces. Somnath Ray is an architect-artist, an urbanologist –designer who visualizes spaces through models which could expand their aesthetical, philosophical and functional possibilities in all directions.

Somnath Ray’s ‘Butterfly Cloud’ is at once an urban architectural design and a work of art meant for bringing the communities together both in the virtual and actual spaces. Somnath speaks of the dichotomy of locating the communities as an a priori (given) and as a self growing organism with an automatic cellular cogency at the same time having a set of very flexible rules that changes not only with each time it is played but each time a new player is involved. He quotes Snodgrass, “Like the game itself , the rules only exist in the actual playing of the game. The rules only take actual shape, when the game is played.”

‘Butterfly Cloud’ is a game architecture or it could be interpreted as a form, which has the rules of a game ‘that take actual shape only when the game is played.’ Bringing an architectural model, which need not necessarily be actualized in a public/actual space, Somnath proposes the possibility of developing such spaces, which have a sort of autonomy within the field of art and design as well as in the actual fields of constructions; that is the urban spaces. Though there is a definite shape therefore a rule to the ‘Butterfly Cloud’, it implies a sort of kinetic dynamics within the form. Each component of this architectural and sculptural installation is independent of the component next to it, at the same time experientially and intuitively connected to the next component. Hence, Somanth says, “Rules however are not constraints. Rules give autonomy, they allow variation to occur and most importantly they can be made up, broken and substituted. Like the rules of the croquet game in Alice in Wonderland, that keeps getting changed by the Queen of Hearts.”

It invites the viewer to make out his/her own meaning by providing them with a flexible sign. As the meaning production happens in the virtual plane of interpretation, the form in itself in a way reflects the basic idea of it being an ‘opportunity’ within the virtual sphere of communities rather than it ‘becoming’ a reality in the public domain.

Somnath also uses prosthesis as a theoretical base for his ideational structures, here the ‘Butterfly Cloud’. Prosthesis is an external scaffold that helps the human beings to perfect his tools and mechanisms. At times the prosthetic scaffolding could be perfect in themselves that without it getting transformed into tools or mechanisms, it helps the artist-designer-architect to ideate on further structures both in the virtual and actual spaces. ‘Butterfly Cloud’ Somnath summarizes his theory explained in the following words:

“The proposed assemblage of machines demonstrate a design dynamic of a playful mediation between a human and an autonomous computational intelligence. The dynamics of its play are based on the rules, the designer/ designers make up as simple logic instructions (for eg. Cellular Automata) and by individually programming the devices. By inscribing itself in such a dynamic, the device establishes; in the manner of a prosthesis, the two ends in the continuum of thought and action or the cerebral and the corporeal of the architectural subject. And as a transformative device in the co-evolution of itself and the architectural subject in a continuous, simultaneous and mutually determining manner.”


VENUE: F- 213 C, Lado Sarai,
New Delhi-110030

DATE: 21st January 2011

Somnath Ray, The Butterfly cloud, Acrylic installation, 4×4 feet diameter

Somnath Ray, Paracity II, print on archival safe paper, 66x 88 inches

Somnath Ray, Paracity, print on archival paper,29×39 inches