Steve Dietz on Mon, 31 Mar 2003 20:07:39 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Translocations - 1 of 3

Translocations: part 1 of 3


A Conversation
March 11–22, 2002, Steve Dietz (Minneapolis), Guna Nadarajan
(Singapore), Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta of
Raqs Media Collective (Delhi), and Yukiko Shikata (Tokyo) engaged in an
online conversation that started from the idea of translocations and
ranged widely across the terrain of global net art practice and
philosophy. Following is an edited version of our conversation.

An online exhibition of network-based art from Brazil, China, Croatia,
India, Japan, Mexico, Phillipines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, and
the United States by Danger Museum, entropy8zuper! with Julie Mehretu
(launches April 6), Fran Ilich, Takuji KOGO, Andreja Kuluncic (launches
May 1, Fatima Lasay, Raqs Media Collective, Re:combo, Warren Sack +
Sawad Brooks, Sarai Media Lab, The Thing, Trinity Session, and (launches March 31).


From: Steve Dietz <> 
Date: Mon Mar 11, 2002 0:48am
Subject: Why "translocations"?

Dear Guna, Jeebesh, Monica, Shuddha (Raqs), and Yukiko,

I first came across the term "translocal" in the writings of Andreas
Broeckmann.[2] For me, one of the ways the term resonated most strongly
was the flip from terms such as transnational, transglobal, and global.
If McDonalds and Starbucks are the poster children for such
corporations—the near hegemonic presence of a single brand globally—then
translocal foregrounds the aspect of "situatedness" (sometimes
geographically local and sometimes psychographically?) while
acknowledging that we live and practice in a (potentially) networked

Tetsuo Kogawa, who also uses the term translocal—and said in a
conversation that he had coined/used the term independently—suggests a
similar flip in "The Global Transformation of Books and Reading” when he
states that the goal is not, in fact, to "think globally, act locally,"
as the popular refrain goes, but to "think locally, act globally."[3] In
other words, focus on the local, but allow the networks to propagate the
action globally.

Anyway, my interest is not in the term per se, and I recognize that
there is a complicated dynamic involved. Raqs, if I'm not off base, it
is precisely the complexity of this dynamic—of not being "Indian," even
though what Sarai does is very rooted—that you refer to in your Rhizome

I am also interested in exploring the network, and specifically new
media practices, as a fruitful way to approach issues of globalization,
especially the roles of the local and the trans in the global.

So my first question is: What do each of you think about the term
translocal and some of the issues embedded in what I have said and in
Broeckmann's and Kogawa's texts, as well as in other references to the
term and these issues?

From: Shuddhabrata Sengupta <> 
Date: Mon Mar 11, 2002 2:48am
Subject: Re: Why "translocations"?

Dear Steve and all the others on the list,

First of all, a big hello from Jeebesh, Monica, and me (Shuddha) in the
Raqs Media Collective at Sarai in Delhi. We look forward to a
stimulating few days of conversation.

I think Broeckmann is quite close to what many of us feel when he talks
(implicitly) about the tensions between the pulls of nomadism and the
search for the feeling of home, in his Translocal.Net interview.[5]

This tension, we feel, describes the predicament of translocality quite
accurately. The feeling of being transient where you are, no matter how
long you have been there. The sense of “internal” exile, even from the
context of mainstream art and media practice, that some of us have come
to recognize as part of our everyday experience. And also the unexpected
alliances that we find with our traveling companions—free software
activists, hackers, coders on the fringes of code, and other
free-floating intellectual and cultural artisans.

In this sense, for us, the creation of a sarai was to create a “home for
nomads” and a resting place for practices of new media nomadism.
Traditionally, sarais were also nodes in the communications system
(horse-mail!) and spaces where theatrical entertainments, music, dervish
dancing, and philosophical disputes could all be staged. They were
hospitable to a wide variety of journeys—physical, cultural, and
intellectual. In medieval Central and South Asia, sarais were the
typical spaces for a concrete translocality, with their own culture of
custodial care, conviviality, and refuge. They also contributed to
syncretic languages and ways of being. We would do well to emulate even
in part aspects of this tradition in the new media culture of today.

I was particularly struck once by what the Russian cyberfeminist Irina
Aristarkhova said in a panel on cyberfeminist practices in the last Next
5 Minutes conference in Amsterdam. I am paraphrasing her, but she spoke
of the importance to all who work in new media of the idea of
“hospitality,” of always being hosts and guests in each other’s

This might create oases of locatedness along the global trade routes of
new media culture.

We would like to share here with you a fragment from an e-mail interview
that Rhizome did with Monica.[7]

On “Locatedness” 

Rhizome: Are there unique Indian qualities to the media projects at
Sarai? Or do you consider yourself part of a more global aesthetic?

Raqs: For us, the idea of a "uniquely Indian quality" is not really
meaningful, or expressive of anything at all. India is the name of a
nation state, and "Indian" the term denoting nationality that happens to
be entered in our passports, but it does not really suggest anything
real or concrete in terms of culture to us; nor do the words French, or
Italian, or Australian, or American, for that matter. Those who use the
term "Indian Culture" usually mean a complex of values, attitudes, and
tendencies that have been processed to mark out a space that is
"uniquely" theirs, and which mirrors an obsession with territoriality.
We are puzzled as to what (in cultural terms) can "uniquely" be the
possession of any sets of people, in exclusivity. Culture is something
that never respects borders and territories. It is infectious, nomadic,
and volatile. We see culture, and cultural intervention, as an agile
constellation of people, practices, connections, and objects that come
into being when different disciplines, histories, and attitudes
encounter each other in a global cultural space. This does not mean that
we subscribe to the view that there are no cultural differences, but
that cultural affinities and differences are not reducible to the mere
notations of current political cartography.

The work that we do reflects the very specific conditions of a large,
chaotic, industrial, cosmopolitan city that is connected globally
through flows of information, finance, and industrial processes to the
whole world. While we may hesitate to use the term Indian to describe
our work, we are certain that our work speaks to the specific,
simultaneously global and local realities of working and living in a
city like Delhi, and of engaging with the diverse and complex histories
of modernity in South Asia, as reflected in media cultures and

It is because we are strongly located in a city like Delhi that we also
know that we are part of, and contribute to, a global domain of
aesthetic and cultural practice.

Looking forward to all our “translocal” conversations

for Raqs Media Collective

From: Steve Dietz <> 
Date: Mon Mar 11, 2002 11:39pm
Subject: RE: Why "translocations"?

Thanks for this response about sarai and Raqs’ thinking about the
interplay of nomadism and locatedness. I like very much the idea of a
"home for nomads" and understand your issues with "Indian Culture," but
I want to press a bit more on this interplay.

Is there are difference between "a city like Delhi" and Delhi? In other
words, there are of course experiences, attitudes, and possibilities
common to Delhi and Tokyo and Rio and perhaps to a lesser extent
Minneapolis. Are there also meaningful differences?

Yukiko, I know you were involved in Knowbotic Research's 10_dencies
project, which mapped urban flows in Tokyo and Rio among other
places.[8] Perhaps you can comment on your experience with this
important project in terms of the interplay between the transglobal
flows and the local locatedness of the participants.

I guess what I am asking—and we don't have to remain fixated on this, I
promise—is how does the "where" fit in? Is geography (physical) a
difference that makes a difference, to reference Shannon's theory of
information? Or is that a kind of essentialist argument, considering, as
Shuddha points out, that all geographies already are hybrid?

From: Raqs <> 
Date: Tue Mar 12, 2002 6:48am
Subject: Re: Why "translocations"?

The problem with a word like difference, like the word roots, is its
extreme ideologization. To be able to talk about a space one needs to
dig in different directions, but where this digging will lead is
somewhat unpredictable. Difference forecloses this unpredictability. A
“city like Delhi” is a product of a very complex weave of movement and
violence. This city has been destroyed, decimated many times by various
forms of power. New spaces and new rhythms have emerged within an
imagination of power's imprint and around its shadow. To be conscious of
this history, with all its complexity and contradiction, is to be aware
of the processes by which spaces and identities are destroyed, created
and sustained.

The problem is how to talk sensibly about these processes, being
conscious of one's locatedness but not valorizing location.

From: yukiko shikata <> 
Date: Tue Mar 12, 2002 9:00am
Subject: translocations

hi all,

It is so funny and nice that we share different time zones (caused by
the different latitudes) and social, cultural defenses . . . but we are
connected via the Internet. This situation is already translocal!

I read over the previous postings, and I will reply to some parts of
them, but first, as a starter from me, I’ll write down some random

I live in Tokyo, a city currently economically weaker than ever before,
but as Saskia Sassen has observed, Tokyo is (still) connected globally
to other big cities such as New York and London—so-called global cities
that share the same kind of reality realized by the global economy.[9]

Manuel Castells wrote that the global economic flow is predominant
compared with other kinds of flows. It is clear that this global
economic flow tends to foment a mono-political, -social, and -cultural
situation. It makes cultural diversity weaker.[10]

Guy Debord wrote that "spectacle" has "world time" and "world space.”
Time and space are strongly connected, and the Situationist attitude
embodied the disturbance of or resistance to those kinds of time and

How can we get beyond this initialization of time and space? I think
translocal is a strategy, and ideas such as Hakim Bey’s TAZ (Temporary
Autonomous Zone), being nomadic, can be omnipresent depending on the
Regarding the 10_dencies project, it was very important that no one
could have an overview of what was happening, as the totality of the
information flow was happening only invisibly at info-level—on the
server. Each participant had a different experience. No one could share
the same reality. 

With the Tokyo version of 10_dencies, what the user sees at the
interface depends on the information “tendencies.” Each participant can
visualize the flows as he or she wants and modify them in many ways.
Also, there is a kind of "ghost” of other users remotely influencing the
flows of the person's interface. You operate your own interface locally,
as do others, but some interaction or influences occur, which can happen
randomly, unexpectedly. 

Tendencies and density of flows operated by each user form a kind of
info-agency, which creates an applet that starts to seek similar
tendencies and connects to them to make stronger tendencies. Info-flows
are always in dynamic flux in these info-spaces. Over time, links
between local data grow to influence the whole; in other words, global

I use the term local not in a sense limited to Tokyo people, or
exhibition visitors, but rather as including any local participants
accessing from any place in the world, which I think could be called

KR+cF (Knowbotic Research) raised the question of urbanism and urban
planning to make the local participants face (invisible) realities and
possibilities—to have them start thinking of themselves as one of the
flows of Tokyo. 

that is all for now.


From: Gunalan Nadarajan <>
Date: Tue Mar 12, 2002 0:11pm
Subject: Re: Why "translocations"?

Shuddha and the Raqs Collective, I am particularly impressed with the
position (or refusal to position) that conceptually grounds the concept
of Sarai. The etymological and historical references of sarai upon which
you have developed a form of strategic nomadism have interesting
resonances, as you rightly noted, with notions of the translocal and
translocation. I wonder, however, if you had thought of the limits of
nomadic strategies such as yours, since there is a tendency for such
strategies not to have a life after their initial interventions and
effects. The strategic advantages of nomadism seem to issue exactly from
their mobility and lack of institutional baggage. However, this also
seems to limit the capacity for such nomadic strategies to have
long-term effects and sustainable structures to maintain the dynamic of
change they initially bring about or point to. Does Sarai see itself
becoming more rooted, or are roots always dangerous? Location may have
become less important, but the locatedness you suggest as being crucial
for your work may need to develop some kinds of roots, not for grounding
but for a sustained relationship to a location.

I am also a little puzzled by the notion of translocal being presented
in these discussions as somewhat antithetical to operations of
globalization. It seems to me that the “trans” in translocal is driven
by what Okwui Enwezor has called the "will to globality," which is a
desire for connectivity and access to what is perceived to be
global.[13] If translocation is a movement, and therefore a moment of
globalization, despite being attentive to the local, then how does one
really conceptualize and articulate its radicality vis-à-vis
globalization? If the translocal is strategically driven by the desire
to connect up to what turn out to be largely global operations (and I am
willing to accord that not all nonlocal activities are necessarily
global, for example, diasporic, religious, and regional activities),
then what possibilities does it represent for strategically articulating
the local?

While speculating on the notion of nomadism and on the translocal
connections that Raqs celebrate through the net communities they plug
into, I wondered about another translocal concept, that of the diaspora.
The diasporic individual seems to have been the first translocal insofar
as he/she has had to connect up to an imagined community in a manner
that transcends geographical positioning. 

I am wondering if Raqs need be so anxious to reject the label “Indian”
to articulate a nomadic position, since they could draw some ideas of
how such translocality can be managed by looking at the experiences of
many diasporic Indians like myself. I am not suggesting by this that the
diaspora is a successful translocal articulation that makes a seemingly
impossible reference to some distant (both culturally and temporally)
reference point, but rather that the diasporic experience is itself one
that flip-flops between connection and disjuncture, between mimicry and
invention, between roots and routes. Being a third-generation Indian
migrant living in Singapore who has never visited India but has been
consistently referred to and related to as Indian, though never quite
identifying with that label, these I draw connections between the
diasporic experience and that of translocation as a means to highlight
the perpetual indecision that characterizes such positions or lack

From: yukiko shikata <> 
Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 3:19am
Subject:  Subject: Re: Why "translocations"?

Dear Guna and the rest,

In my last mail I used the term globalization generally, from the aspect
of financial flows, which is done, in a way, top-down, driven by
corporations or nation states, or by the mixture of them.

But can I say that there is another, alternative layer of globalization,
which could be realized bottom-up by the people connected globally, or
as Guna wrote, by "the will to globality" according to Okwui? 

I think translocal is a condition that leads away from the existing
opposition of global versus local, but always faces the contradiction
between those two.

I locate translocal as a condition realized by an unlimited number of
people, each of whom is attentive locally and connected globally. The
translocal emerges through a kind of ever-changing interaction process
among these people and can be different depending on the reality of each
participant. It is multi-layered, and those layers are not always
synthetic but rather contain some contradictions. The reality of each
location can be shared in part with other locations. But at the same
time not all is shared, and in this lack or difference "imagination"
starts to work.

In 1996 I became involved in the exhibition atopic site held in Tokyo
(atopic contains the meanings "a-topos" and "a-topic").[14] Five
curators, including me, brought in artists to create site-specific
projects, each based on a specific local situation, such as Sarajevo,
Geneva, Okinawa, Indonesia, and the United States, among others. The
projects questioned whether such local realities could be shared in
Tokyo or not. I think the answer was both. Visitors discovered problems
similar to those in Tokyo, but at the same time realized the different
realities stemming from social, political, and cultural backgrounds.
Here, by experiencing several projects at the same location, the
visitors were expected to make many links between each project, and to
start imagining other possible localities that were not presented or
visible in the exhibition. I think imagining other possible localities
is a key factor for being translocal.



A Conversation
Online Exhibition
Part of How Latitudes Become Forms


1. A formatted version of the conversation is available online at <>.
2. See Andreas Broeckmann, “Networked Agencies,” at
“Sociable Machinists of Culture,” at
“Minor Media—Heterogenic Art,” at
<>; and
3. <>.
4. Raqs Media Collective interviewed by Mike Caloud about the Sarai New
Media Initiative, posted on Rhizome, April 18, 2002, part 1
<>, part 2
5. See “Construction of Dialogic Spaces,” at
6. “First, a bit about my work on welcoming differences and hospitality
as a cyberfeminist strategy. Thus far communities seem to welcome
differences at the moment of self-formation, while after being formed,
they often operate to level out differences and strive toward
homogeneity. A desire for heterogeneous online communities, specifically
among diverse women interested in the impact of technologies and their
proliferation, is the motivation behind me joining. In this case by
differences I mean especially geographical and cultural differences of
our members, as notions like race and color are pretty much defined by
where you are from.” Irina Aristarkhova <>,
“[undercurrents] moods and such,” April 2, 2002, e-mail to
7. Raqs interview, Rhizome, April 18, 2002.
8. See <>.
9. See Saskia Sassen, “The Topis of E-space + Private and Public
Cyberspace,” posted on Nettime, October 17, 1998; also published in
Read Me: ASCII Culture and the Revenge of Knowledge (Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Autonomedia, 1999). 
10. See Manuel Castells, Global Economy, Information Society, Cities and
Regions, special Japanese ed. in the Sociology Thoughts series (Tokyo:
Aoki-Shoten Publishers, 1999). 
11. See Guy Debord, La Société du spectacle (Paris: Éditions Gallimard,
12. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological
Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Autonomedia, 1985, 1991).
This text is also available at
13. Conversation with the author.  
14. The exhibition atopic site was held in August 1996 at Tokyo Big
Sight, within the framework of Tokyo Seaside Festa organized by the
Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The exhibition was cocurated by Hiroshi
Kashiwagi, Kenjiro Okazaki, Yukiko Shikata, Naoyuki Takashima, and Akira

Steve Dietz
Curator of New Media
Walker Art Center

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