A bridge can be built and then transport can happen. Vehicles of any kind can pass along this bridge and serve their function. But architecturally speaking, an office is a very specific kind of bridge. An office is a stage for the public performance of an institution. The Museum of Vestigial Desire’s (MoVD) office complex is staging ground and incubator for initiatives that emerge from its work.
The office serves multiple services besides offering a web publication space. The services include the use of any text in its archive and build upon the critiques that it has initiated. The larger role of the MoVD has always been to make a particular kind or questioning of language possible. There can be different motivations for questioning and each office in our complex represents a different approach. Across different approaches, the shared objective is to lighten the weight of critical vocabulary by making it possible to assess each term in the space of a text or a group of linked texts in a book. Otherwise the critical assessment of terms is made difficult by the legacy of how they have been assessed before.
The point being made is not that a knowledge does not require an awareness and familiarity with history. The history of theory allows to move forward incrementally rather than remain busy engaging with the same questions again and again. The point being made is that the lateral entry and access to discursive knowledge needs to be maintained. The appreciation of a particular perspective shouldn’t make familiarity with an earlier body of work necessary.
Referring and building upon previous works might be necessary but in order to render the surface of a text as complete and whole, and not fragmented, a lyric and continuous writing style is needed. Text is not a piece of code and needs to be readable without referring to a key. The more specific we want to be, the more the language that we use gets standardised. In a standardised text, the same phrase means the same thing in every use. In such a text a specific term is used, established and used at the same time.
It is differentiated from the use of jargon. In the case of jargon, a term is established and qualified a few times and then the assumption is that the reader will be familiar of the entire body of work. In subsequent texts, the terms once established and are qualified are not dealt with again. This makes the task of reading and fully understanding one text dependent on the reading and understanding of an entire body of work. This makes the reading experience of such a text a specialised task that can be taken up only by people with a specific training.
This is not acceptable to us as it is a severe limitation. Scholarship cannot become a profession that speaks a language understood only by a few. Scholarship is a mode of enquiry which can be taken up by anyone who is inclined to do so.
Surfatial (pronounced like palatial) is a space to perform personally experienced sequences of knowledge and talk about these to others. Somewhere in this process learning emerges. We prototype formats of conversation that allow the emergence of knowledge.
In its first year (2014-15), Surfatial organised a season of six web based study groups. Each study group was a set of sessions on Google Hangout on Air. Each study group was developed on a talk-show format and had an anchor and invited guests. Discussions were possible across the board, between the anchor, the guests and the participants.
The distinguishing feature of Surfatial's study groups was the applied model and framework of knowledge. The guests and the moderator were only sharing elements gained and validated through a personal process. The development of arguments in the sessions of each group offered an experience that did not rely on an external narrative for its validation. Every strand of the narrative bore a consistent internal logic.
We are currently seeding a platform for the sharing and dissemination of alternate pedagogies and self-woven visions of the world. This desire responds to academia's hangover with the past and its inability to instil processes and incubate practices that can help students in a continual production of content. Academia, as we see it, does not deal with the substance and gravity of the present moment.
Surfatial was an individual effort from 2014-15 and a collective effort from 2015-17. Presently it is exploring different structural formats.
FOUNDING MEMBER: (Surfatial was founded in 2014) Prayas Abhinav
CORE GROUP MEMBERS: (2015-18) Satya Gummuluri, Malavika Rajnarayan