On Making

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The formal variety encountered in Bali is simply overwhelming — because everyone is a maker.

Salam dari bali. Greetings from Bali! This is a truly wondrous place from which to comtemplate the meaning and value of making. On the first of July the Vihara Innovation Campus will host its first ever Maker Pecha Kucha, conceptualized and organized by Namrata Mehta.

For the past week I’ve been surrounded by the most extraordinary things, made of metal, of wood, of stone, woven and stitched, painted, assembled and interconnected in more and more inventive ways.

Bali, as we know, is a rare gem of a society, descended from a royal court. Its traditions gradually gave way to a folk aesthetic and ethic, which encountered the modern world on its own terms early in the 20th century. Unlike so many other tourist centers in India and abroad, however, here you can actually meet the artists and craftsman who made the things on display to buy and take home.

This society seems fragile, and it is changing in response to the continuous waves of tourism that wash over it every year. Yet, I am optimistic that many of its key values will purdure into the future, even as they elevate all of us tourists who come to take back something of the culture and sensibility of this place, which so profoundly has to do with the material, the visual and the ethic of making.

We have now entered an age not of the silicon wafer or the social network, but of the replicator — the technology to print three dimensional things and to replicate existing things at will. Just as prior revolutions of technology have created informational abundance, so now we may be entering a period of even greater material abundance. There are deep questions ahead for whether this means we will all become makers or whether we will all become copier-consumers of what some few have made. Or both, in some new way we have yet to imagine. Perhaps there will be a new breed of unmakers, who return the detritus of all we make back into a more primary and bioactive state.

To make is to be human. Homo Faber, I learned in Architecture School days. My own maker pursuits these days are no longer architectural or sculptural, but now have merely to do with fermenting barley water into beer. In this hyperspecialized form of postindustrial living I now pursue, it is rare for me to get off a plane long enough to make even a nimbu-pani.

Through the Delhi Maker Group, Namrata Mehta has brought a new ethic of making to the Adianta School and to its wider Campus. Her efforts force us to rethink the value and power of the act of manual and digital ways of making. Gandhi famously extolled the virtues of weaving and charkha spinning to his followers as a practice that is generative while also being rejuvinating. Losing the charkha is like losing one’s right lung, he said. This metaphor seems to bring together practices of Yoga with material fracture, in ways which are elevating to the spirit and to the self. Indeed, for all of us who have ever been lost and consumed in the act of personal making, there is a new rhythm to the mind and the breath, unlike any other form of human activity.

Considered, finally, in terms of where our long-term current social and economic are headed, there is a grave question as to what humans are to do with their time, once the robots take all of our jobs. The answer may well have to do with perpetuating culture and building social relationships through creation and mutual exchange. In this way, the future may represent a more idyllic version of our pre-industrial past.

This Pecha Kucha promises to be a truly memorable and momentous event. Terima kasih banyak. Membuat tetap. Thank you and keep making!

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