Bioscope (2022 onwards)

Bioscopewallah……bioscopewallah ayah….aao, dekho,nayi purani filme sirf ek rupiya.

(Bioscopewallah……bioscopewallah is here… come, watch new old films in just one rupee.)

 

The throw-back cry from the 1960s and 1970s of Indian street vendors trying to lure children and adults to the magic of movies in a box still reverberates in the serpentine bylanes of India, mingled with the smell of moss and decay. 

DSC_4896.JPG
DSC_4749.JPG

A considerable proportion of film exhibitions in India occur in itinerant form and in makeshift and often temporary establishments, pertaining to the class and caste divide. Traveling showmen - familiarly known as Bioscopewallahs put together many of these exhibitions and in doing so transform the quotidian streets into theatrical spaces, exhibiting moving images through a combination of vintage and obsolete projection equipment and collaged film scraps. The bioscopewallahs install their projectors in large wooden boxes fashioned with viewfinders for individualized collective viewing, and cart them from streets to localities to villages, halting at the clink of coins in the palms of children running towards the loud chants and songs they sing as they wheel the bayoscope around. With a deliberate aesthetic of fragmenting perspectives, such Bioscopewallahs call for a 'living-time museum' rather than a cultural establishment that combines a kind of mechanical poetry, an embodied synchronization between the rhythms of man and machine.

DSC_4680 copy.JPG

There is not a battle between old and new media. Rather, as the vintage apparatus of the peripatetic showman whirrs and hums; it contains within it shards of both the past and the future. It binds other media forms in shared affinities with the cinema. It conflates the media of pre-capitalism with the media of late-capitalism. Its work renders speculations on the death of film in the age of digital media either supremely outdated or supremely premature. This project therefore follows the Bioscope in history as it weaves in and out of private and public, official and nonofficial, commercial and artisanal worlds over the span of more than a century.

DSC_4742.JPG

This project is an attempt to hold on to the ingrained presence of these traveling cinemas, the experience of watching films in the interstices of everyday life with an organic unity of communal experiences. It is an attempt to protect its simple values as passed down to me in oral accounts by a generation that witnessed its decline. 

The traditional bioscope functioned through a reel of images that were cranked fast enough by hand to create the illusion of a moving film. Without disembodying the illusory experience of viewing a film created by still images, the bespoke digitized bioscope would be controlled by a hand crank and the films would be animated frame by frame. Relative to the speed and direction the viewer turns the hand crank, forward or in reverse, the film will unfold/fold. The Bioscope demands its audience to engage with speed and chronology in order to actually see moving images. Here, the act of seeing is subjectively constructed through each frame and view. 

By enabling a frame by frame viewing of (digital or digitized) films through the turn of the hand crank, the viewer becomes active and can speed-up time, stop time, reanimate time, as well as reverse in time. The Bioscope treats the movie not as a fixed narrative, but as one that is subjectively constructed through each frame and each view, engaging us to notice the discreet relationships which manifest personal meaning.

DSC_4706.JPG

The films in the Bioscope and soundtracks on the Gramophone present multiple perceptions of time, memory and perspective as it unfolds. The natural rhythm of the hand crank allows viewers to discover their own connection to the images on screen and rhythm to ear. Experiencing a bioscope in action involves paying attention to the detailed movement and vision that exists between real and projected worlds. Each turn of the crank induces this movement of the images, transforming static images into time-conscious constructions.

Films:

Mochu Painted Diagram of a Future Voyage (Who believes the lens?) 

5 mins loop. Silent film. 2013

Still from Painted Diagram of a Future Voyage (Who believes the lens_).png

Sangram Mukhopadyay and Kinnari Saraiya যত উপর, वैसा नीचे / जैसा ऊपर, তত নিচে  

15 mins 41 seconds. 2021

Saraiya Kinnari, যত উপর, वैसा नीचे 1.png

Soundtracks (printed on records):

Koh-I-Noor, from the EP Sultana's Dream, Aliyah Hussain

4 minutes, 2022 edit, first released on Sacred Tapes in 2015

Sangram Mukhopadyay and Kinnari Saraiya যত উপর, वैसा नीचे / जैसा ऊपर, তত নিচে  

3 minutes 40 seconds. 2021

DSC_4718.JPG