You, Me and Kathmandu: Global art practices reach Kathmandu via social media actors
KATHMANDU – Broadsheets and broadcasts are abuzz about “social media” revolutionizing how information is exchanged and consumed. Driven by increasing accessibility to advanced, portable technology, social media allows for, at least what appears to be, more democratic and active participation by users.
Documentary filmmaker, Ram Devenini, a who’s who in the New York City literary scene, spoke with filmmakers and poets in Kathmandu earlier this summer during the US-sponsored Iowa Writers Program. He talked about the new transmedia movement and showcased his web-series film, VERSE: A Murder Mystery.
The film was shot entirely with a Canon 5D and a 50mm lens, giving the film a varied depth of field. Devenini says that cameras like the Canon 5D are “revolutionising cinema, and the use of web series is allowing a lot of filmmakers to subvert traditional distribution and go directly to their viewers.”
Users can watch such productions directly through outlets like YouTube and Vimeo, and they can then play critic and critique the film through online commentary.
Months later in Thamel (the tourist district in Kathmandu), I ran across a local crew of literary artists including Pranab Singh, who hosted the Iowa Writers, and photographer-turned-cinematographer Sworup Ranjit. The crew was shooting a similar film with the same specs.
Evidently, social media gives social art practices a globalized channel where artists can share and collaborate. Recent additions of globalized art projects to Kathmandu include Pecha Kucha and Inside Out.
Pecha Kucha hosted its third edition in Kathmandu last month. Something resembling the Ted Talks except minimized to 20 x 20 (twenty images in twenty seconds), Pecha Kucha is a Japanese import and networking event for likeminded, design-tweaked folk. Kathmandu University lecturers Sujan Chitrakar and Chris Haughton founded the local chapter.
Participants in Pecha Kucha present ideas through a twenty-frame slideshow. The concise, image-based format attests to the reduction of information—particularly news—to headlines, sounds bites and eye-catching shots in an instantaneous stream that contrasts with traditional long-form reportage and in-depth coverage found in publications like The New Yorker.
Among the speakers at Pecha Kucha Kathmandu was Likna Anne O who presented the Kathmandu branch (see the Facebook group) of the global art project, Inside Out.Inspired by the Ted Talk by artist JR and sponsored by the Ted Prize, Inside Out has individuals snapping shots of people around the globe. The photos are then uploaded to a central site, enlarged, printed and posted guerrilla-style across the urban landscape.
Social art projects spearheaded by social media action, like Pecha Kucha and Inside Out, beg the question: just as social media enables culture dubbing and collaboration across distances, does it in turn homogenize art in a globalized fashion?
Perhaps, it’s inevitable.