Lahore Digital Arts Festival

In conversation with Khayal Trivedi

Khayal is a curator and researcher, with a background in computer engineering. Currently working at the intersection of arts and technology, he is one-half of Media Art South Asia that aims at documenting and mediating media arts practices in the subcontinent. He was previously the Cultural Coordinator at Alliance Francaise d’Ahmedabad for three years, where he produced several concerts and exhibitions. Khayal enjoys developing spaces for multi-disciplinary and collaborative creative practices. In Ahmedabad, he founded platforms such as Art Speaks, Cafe Philo and Boomerang: An Eco Fest.  He has also worked as a designer, photographer, editor and web-developer.

As the year comes to a close, Lahore Digital Arts Festival is gearing up towards our March opening. We have already confirmed over fifty artists from fifteen different countries. This time for our interview series, we talk to someone who already has experience with curating a digital arts festival and an advocate for bringing media arts in South Asia to the international stage. Last month in November, Khayal and his colleague Proiti Seal Acharya curated the digital arts festival <de>confine : A South Asian Digital Arts Festival, a project of Media Arts South Asia. 

Naturally, due to the pandemic, there has been a push towards digital arts. But it’s not just the artists who have to rethink their work. Khayal notes that presenting and exhibiting work in a digital space is a new challenge. He remarks that a lot of artistic works, although they use digital technologies, are not necessarily meant for exhibiting on web-based platforms. In fact, some of the artists presenting in <de>confine were not ‘net artists.’ Khayal worked with them directly to create works specifically for the virtual space. 

Archiving Media Arts Practice in South Asia

Khayal’s main project is centered about Media Arts South Asia, which he hopes will become a comprehensive archive, database, and network for media artists in South Asia. He notes that while there is a lot of content and practice of media arts in the sub-continent, there are very few dedicated institutions and networks to its study. The biggest issue is documentation, as often the information is only available in physical archives. 

While media arts refers to a broad swatch of artistic practice, Khayal in particular is interested in AI and machine learning and the intersection of art and technology. He finds the integration of extreme research and experimentation along with the artistic expression fascinating. As for a potential future in which AI systems create art, Khayal is particularly interested in what it implies for how we define and perceive art. 

Post reality or just reality?

When it comes to post reality, Khayal notes that we have always inhabited multiple realities, such as through literature, written or oral. Digital technologies create for us another form of reality. The difference, however, is the growing invasiveness of these technologies in our lives. More and more of us are spending more and more time in a digital space. And yet, we still live in a physical space. Khayal postulates that for our minds, our lives are an accumulation of data, memories, and knowledge gained to survive. It gathers this data through our senses as we interact with the physical world. Therefore, he wonders what happens when our mind is occupied in a virtual space every hour of every day, while still living in a physical space. He hopes that the artists responding to LDF’s Post Reality call engage with these ideas, such as comparing social behaviors in physical reality and social behaviors in virtuality and how they differ.

Generally, Khayal doesn’t see the physical and virtual as opposites. Rather, he sees that the virtual is an extension of ourselves into another reality. Like other artists we’ve interviewed, he notes that the virtual world is actually very physical due to its infrastructure; however, the two realities manifest differently in their respective spaces. 

He ends with a note of encouragement for LDF for its work in bringing South Asian media arts to the international stage: “LDF will be a huge contribution to the South Asian media art context and practices and I’m very happy that this is happening!”

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