Radical World-building – Virtual Residency by Sahej Rahal

The virtual residency by the Indian visual artist and Human-Machine-fellow Sahej Rahal will unfold as a series of episodic vignettes. Each episode acts as a fragment of a digital mythology, that weaves together, folklore, speculative texts, found documents, video footage, drawings, computer generated animations and 3D scanned sculptures. This virtual collage will act as a precursor to his residency project in Berlin where this myth-world will begin taking shape in the real world. – The Human-Machine-fellowships are a joint program by the YOUNG ACADEMY and the VISIT artist residency by the E.ON foundation.


The City of Begumpura

The complex relationship between human and machine has been the subject of art and artistic practice since the beginning of the Industrial Age. In the face of digitalisation, the topic has taken on new meaning worldwide with artificial intelligence, its possibilities and dark sides. By discussing concepts, playing out scenarios, and speculating on futures, the arts can generate a specific aesthetic knowledge in this area. A talk with the Indian visual artist Sahej Rahal, the first recipient of the “Human-Machine” Fellowship, created by the YOUNG ACADEMY in partnership with the VISIT artist-in-residence programme.

Interview by Clara Herrmann

Clara Herrmann: As the first fellow in the programme “Human-Machine”, you are proposing a remarkable multi-layered project titled “Citizen Strange”, combining AI-programs, national myths or mechanisms of myth-building, and political issues. Could you explain the context of myths and mythology in your work and how your artistic intention will come to life aesthetically?

Sahej Rahal: In India, the steady rise of right-wing nationalism is foregrounded by a return of the mythological past within the present, to create a state of collapsing time. All semblances to democracy and its institutions have been practically obliterated. We march headlong into a majoritarian “Hindu Rashtra”: A Hindu Nation that is based on a half-baked idea of Indo-Aryan civilisational purity.

The State orchestrates this through the abduction of myth itself. It spreads false archaeological propaganda; archaeological objects that precede even the writing of the Vedas are wrangled into the Hindu pantheon. For example, the rechristening of the bronze “Dancer of Mohenjo-Daro” as the goddess Parvati. The State promises the resurrection of absentee Hindu temples in place of mosques. Even as coronavirus infections ravage the country, our prime minister himself leads massive processions delivering silver bricks to the contentious site of Ayodhya to inaugurate the construction of a temple to Ram, set to be built on the demolished site of the Babri Mosque.

The state propagates these mythic narratives that confirm its authoritarianism, conjuring a mythological past as historical truth that lends veracity to its actions in the present. I am interested in interrogating this mythological narrative through scenarios populated by a multitude of fictions that cohabit while contradicting each other. These scenarios take shape as absurd rituals of world-building that are enacted collectively by spectral creatures, shamanic beings, and quasi-sentient AI programs.

The central objective of these world-building rituals is to imagine possible worlds where human and non-human systems converse across the boundaries between the real, the imagined, the physical, and the virtual. This conversation begins with musical instruments that I create using found objects from the real world, and interactive AI programs that I create using the video game design software Unity. These programs act as “living musical instruments” that are capable of reacting to external audio feedback and produce procedurally generated soundscapes.

Antraal, AI simulation, 2019, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal
Antraal, AI simulation, 2019, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal

CH: How do you explore, understand, and articulate the human-machine relationship in this context? Are there any theoretical/philosophical ideas you are inspired by?

SR: I am interested in examining the entanglements of human-machine intelligence, through the lens of the non-human. The non-human can be understood as a body of mutating processes that inform, expand, and unravel the boundaries of the human, to produce strange morphologies on a bacterial, technological, and planetary scale. In my project “Citizen Strange”, the non-human becomes a fellow conspirator in acts of world-building and myth-making.

CH: You refer to the idea of “citizenship”, which is – in its definition as the right to have rights, such as voting rights, equality, freedom of speech, non-discrimination – currently under threat in India. What are the legal and political developments and what effects do they have on the lives of people

SR: Citizenship in India is being codified and structured through the revocation of the fundamental rights of minorities, turning citizens into ghosts who wander in this state of collapsing time. The clearest example of this is seen in the amendments made to citizenship laws through The Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, both of which have, by design, weaponised the state bureaucratic apparatus against Muslims.

This violent form of othering by exclusion finds its roots in an ancient form of segregation that is embedded deep within the heart of Indian society: the historical violence of the caste system. The peculiarity of this system is such that, unlike other forms of bigotry and oppression, it is premised on a purely metaphysical belief system. An elaborate mythology where the cadaver of the cosmic patriarch lies at the centre of the universe. The universal All-Father, who is either Manu, Brahma, Vishnu, or Vishwa Purusha, depending on which Vedic Shastras or WhatsApp forwards are being regurgitated to invoke his zombified remains. This celestial corpse forms the basis of caste hierarchy in Indian society. His head gives birth to the high caste Brahmins; his shoulders become the warrior caste Kshatriyas; his thighs become the Vaishyas, the merchant caste; and from his feet the low castes are formed. The highest are separated from the lowest in a cosmic laceration between mind and limb.

This division creates a mythological system that oppresses those who find themselves at the bottom of this metaphysical hierarchy.

CH: Has the situation become worse with COVID-19, as is the case in many far-right countries?

SR: COVID-19 has only made things worse. On the one hand, we are witnessing the return of natural history. Biology has once again taken centre stage. Typhoons and hurricanes are becoming as commonplace as the afternoon rain, as we struggle to stitch our lives back together under the shadow of this global pandemic.

Urban areas that were already on precarious ground are witnessing a complete collapse of infrastructure, forcing migrant workers to walk back to their home states on foot.

Furthermore, while there has been a steady rise in coronavirus cases across the country, the state remains in denial, choosing to crack down on voices critical of the government. All dissent is being silenced through the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Intellectuals, academics, journalists, progressives, and students who challenge the state are systematically targeted and jailed with the silent sanction of the supreme court.

Contingent Farewell, Performance, 2016, photography: Christie Yuri Noh, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal
Contingent Farewell, Performance, 2016, photography: Christie Yuri Noh, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal

CH: Are there myths about diseases that stabilise the Hindu nation?

SR: Pandemics in the Indian subcontinent have historically been linked to the extra-terrestrial domain of spectres and apparitions. During the time of the Raj in India, diseases were believed to be caused by spirits and supernatural beings that inhabited the same space of abjection that was forced upon those who found themselves on the bottom rung of the caste hierarchy.

We find extensive examples of this belief in The Folklore of Bombay by Reginald Edward Enthoven, a Civil Service officer in the British Raj. In one passage, Enthoven describes how the outbreak of both Cholera and the Bubonic plague were thought to be caused by goddesses of disease, Sheetala Devi and Mahamari Devi, who were believed to be worshipped by people of low castes.

CH: Could you give an example of the impact AI programs have on the exclusion of diverse voices and the confirmation of the class, caste, and heteronormative structures on which this nationalist system is based?

SR: An example of how existing hierarchical systems are exacerbated by artificial intelligence can be seen in the matchmaking app, which uses an algorithm to pair individuals based on their CVs, by inviting its users to “Get connected with professionals working at top notch companies like Google, Amazon, Adobe, Accenture etc. and send/accept their request based on your compatibility score with them to end your exhaustive search of finding a life partner” – in the process future-proofing class biases for the digital age.

CH: You use artificial intelligence in quite a playful way in your virtual environments and guerrilla sculpture installations, as you call them. When did you start using digital technologies in your work as a visual artist? What was your practice like before, and what do they allow you to show or to work on now?

SR: My practice can be seen as a growing mythological narrative where each work acts as a piece in an ever-expanding puzzle. The conceptual and physical shape of this narrative is formed by found objects, embedded histories, sci-fi, folklore – and by viewers who bring their own subjectivities to the work, in fragmented acts of collective world-building. Using these found objects, I create strange artefacts, totems, and musical instruments, which are used as props by strange shamanic beings in absurd ritual-like performances. I gravitate towards video games and AI programs because I see these technologies as an exciting way of incorporating non-human intelligence into that conversation of collective meaning-making.

CH: What strikes me most about your approach as an artist is the ability to propose alternative ways of thinking and world-building in the stories you tell, in the models you propose, and even in the quirkiness of the non-human objects that stalk through the landscapes you build. Allowing myself to read this slight optimism in your work, I would ask whether you think Begumpura could be a world to come?

SR: The poem Begumpura by Ravidas is an act of radical world-building. Ravidas was a 15th-century mystic, poet, and philosopher who worked to abolish social hierarchies of caste and gender in India. In its literal translation, Begumpura means the place without sorrow. Ravidas describes it as a place that is free from violence, torture, and pain – because in Begumpura no one owns property. It is a city of freedom, where people come and go as they please for everyone is welcome. However, the most radical aspect of Begumpura is that Ravidas situates this place not as a fictional utopia that lies in the realm of the imagined, but in the present, declaring that he is heading there, and those who walk beside him are his friends. Today, in the face of the exclusionary nationalism imposed by the Indian state, we find the city of Begumpura located between the porous boundaries of the real and the imagined, an ethereal site of resistance that remains open to all possibilities.

Episode I: Grimoire

Urban Legends, Mythological Narratives, Speculative Sci-fi

The Litigant God.

The year is 1949, we are two years into the greatest experiment in democracy the world has ever seen. The people of India find themselves in a nation divided by the communal shibboleth of the Partition. Prime minister Nehru is grappling with the founding idealism upon which the nation itself had been imagined, while his second-in-command, the Sardar Vallabhai Patel struggles to hold its precarious contours. The India that was born, as Nehru declared “at the stroke of the midnight hour”, is now about to witness a collapse of myth, memory and history, spiralling into the abyss of fundamentalism at 3AM.

These events began much earlier in 1526 AD, when General Mir Baqi built the Babri Mosque in honour of Emperor Babur, the forerunner of the Mughal dynasty. A rumour began to grow that the Mosque was built upon the sacred birth ground of Ram, the seventh avatar of the Vishnu, and the protagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which chronicles his vanquishing of the ten-headed demon king Ravana.

Four centuries later, Ram returns to Ayodhya. On 23rd December 1949, Hawaldar Abdul Barkat brought the issue on record by filing an FIR (first information report) stating that he saw a “flash of lightning” where immediately after, “a beautiful child” was seen locked inside the Babri Masjid. This alleged child soon vanished, leaving behind an idol of Ram in its place. This alleged apparition mobilised the Right-wing Hindutva movement to ‘reclaim’ the birthplace of Ram, and led to the violent demolition of the Babri Masjid by Hindutva forces in 1992.

The alleged child has come to be known as Ram Lalla Virajmaan – the Infant deity, and he is the chief litigant in the most divisive property dispute known to the Indian nation state.

In the FIR lodged on 23rd December 1949 however, there exists an explanation that is much more earthbound. The officer-in-charge of the Ayodhya Police Station, Pandit Ramdeo Dubey named three individuals – Abhiram Das, Ram Sakal Das and Sudarshan Das, charging them with sections under rioting, trespassing and defiling a place of worship.

The same charges are levelled in the FIR against another 50-60 unknown people who; “… entered the Babri Masjid by breaking open the locks of the compound and also by scaling the walls and staircases and placed an idol of Shri Bhagwan in it and scribbled sketches of Sita, Ramji etc. in saffron and yellow colours on the inner and outer walls of it” Further stating “Committers of crime have desecrated the mosque by trespassing through rioting.”

Hymns from the void

The Cosmographical song of creation, the Nasadiya Sukta (Rigveda 10.129) reminds us that the world was created ex nihilo.


Darkness was, at first lost in greater darkness.

Neither non-being nor being was then.

There was no air nor the sky above nor the space beyond.  

In what was it enveloped and where? In whose keeping?

What Churned in that unfathomable dark?

Neither death nor immortality was then

Nor any sign to divide night from day.

The One who breathed, did so without breath and windless.

There was that One then, and there was no other.

 All else was undifferentiated, In that cosmic black.

In that formless void he arose self-created, devoid of creative impulse.

Desire engulfed that one in the beginning, Desire the germ of that first mind.

Only the arcane wisdom of poets has known

What bonds hold non-being to being.

What was below the umbilical line stretched across, and what above?

Who really knows? who will here declare it?

whence it was born and whence came this creation?

For even the gods came later.

Perhaps it created itself, perhaps it did not. He who sees it

from the highest heaven only, he knows or perhaps he knows not.


The birth of the universe itself in the Nasadiya Sukta is a tentative one. It refrains in ascribing any intent to our cosmic beginnings. It even contemplates itself to be an error of celestial proportions, unguided by any intelligible hand Divine or otherwise.

The possibility of this error is superseded by another. At the Centre of the first darkness lies the cold body of the first man. He is born ‘Svayambhu’ – self-created.

The body of this celestial being arose from the eternal black of the first night that reigned before all mornings. And his corpse rots at the centre of the universe, exhaling a black miasma that festers into the present.

The cosmic anatomy of this being is the basis of the Indian Caste system. His head gives birth to the high caste Brahmins, his Arms become the Kshatriya Caste of Kings, Warriors second generation CEOs. His thighs become the Vaishya Caste of Merchants & trades workers, and finally his feet give birth to the low caste Shudra.

The highest are separated from the lowest in cosmic laceration of mind and limb. Consequentially creating a mythological system of oppression aimed towards those who find themselves at the bottom and outside this metaphysical hierarchy. Solely by virtue of birth the lower castes are deemed them less than human, and subjected to indescribable aggressions, all in the service of a fairy tale.

The dancing exorcists of Bombay Presidency

‘The unwilled is spirit-caused in the Presidency’, ominously declared Sir James Campbell, who was from November 1891, stationed in Bombay as collector of land revenue, customs, salt and opium.

During the Colonial Raj, diseases were said to be the work of trickster demons, malevolent ghosts and wrathful goddesses. These spectral forces were believed to arise from the same abyss of abjection that was forced upon those who found themselves at the bottom of the Caste hierarchy.

The persistence of this belief in the Bombay presidency during the onslaught of Cholera, small-pox and the Bubonic Plague, gave rise to own twisted inverse. One that threatened, however briefly, to upstage the violent metaphysic of Caste. It began with a rumour, a secret that spread as fast as the clutch of the Plague itself, that the lower castes could negotiate with the disease gods- coax them, charm them and drive them away from the bodies of man.

The ritual would begin with the burning of incense before the exorcist. Drums are beaten. Then the exorcist raises a burning wick in one hand, and a broom made of peacock feathers in the other, performing a vigorous dance to frighten the spirit possessing diseased person. He cries out loudly, drawing the evil spirit from the body of the patient and captures it in a bottle that is either carried out of the village and buried under an old tree or cast into the Arabian Sea.

In certain cases, the exorcists would call upon deities of disease, allowing themselves to be possessed through dance. The ritual for this possession begins with songs of summoning, that are performed with the slow but loud beating of a leather drum. The exorcist prepares their own body for possession by bathing and sitting on a small prayer carpet, with a bowl of rice on one side and a copper pot filled with water on the other. As the drum beats, they slowly begin throwing grains of rice into the pot, pronouncing the name of the spirit that has afflicted the patient with disease and their reasons for doings so. Next, they begin their dance, shaking as if in a fit, hurling abuses at the spirit and threatening it repeatedly, growing louder and vigorous till their words and movements become an illegible turbulence of noise and fury.

It was not uncommon to see the patients themselves partake in the chaos of the ritual, rising to dance or sing or cry inconsolably, some are seen to violently throw their fists to the air, attacking the invisible demons, while others are known to stand solemnly making long oratory speeches, locking their afflictions in debate.

Night of the stolen city

On August 15, 1947, as the sun was setting on the British Raj, came a directive that would irrevocably transform the subcontinent. Approximately 100million Muslims living across the nation were given scarce more that seventy days to remove themselves to the north-western and eastern frontiers, the modern-day nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The borders for these new nations were drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, an Englishman whose absolute ignorance of Indian culture and history, was seen by the colonial government, as an assurance of his impartiality.

The state of Punjab was split in half between India and Pakistan. The Latter would retain Punjab’s capital- Lahore. In the wake of this dissection, the Indian territory of Punjab would find a new capital: one which would not only house the of the state’s administration, but announce to the world, the coming of a modern, prosperous, and independent Nation had arrived.

This new capital city that would awaken to an Indian sun; was paradoxically called ‘the moonlit city’ – Chandigarh. To conjure this city of strange light, Prime Minister Nehru recruited the man who had dreamt up a masterplan to vandalise Paris with a business district that was made up of concrete citadels and massive cruciform skyscrapers.

Enter the high priest of modernism – Le Corbusier.

For Corbusier, Chandigarh would become the perfect coda to his legacy – the chance to create an entire city based on his austere approach to urban design, in a tyrannical vision, that sought to annihilate all that had stood before it. Entire villages were razed to the ground in service to this grand plan of high modernity, covering up entire histories in the grey amnesia of concrete.

Yet as is often the case, memory manages to slip through.

Nek Chand Saini was born in 1924, in Northern Punjab. He was a farmer’s son, and it was assumed he would grow up to work on his father’s land. Young Chand would spend his afternoons making little figurines from clay, adorning them with found baubles and trinkets.

Then one day, Independence came to India, and with it came the partition. Nek and his family fled as Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew a line across his home. And In 1951, Nek found himself under the rising shadow of Corbusier’s concrete utopia. Chandigarh was rising, and there was work to be done. Nek soon found employment as a road inspector, and became witness to see first-hand, Corbusier’s vision taking shape. 27 villages were turned to rubble, piles upon piles of shattered crockery, broken armchairs, tattered sarees, motorcycles mangled into clocks and plumbing. Bloated mounds of debris laced the horizon.

Nek was drawn to this rubble. It reminded him of his own past. The little village he grew up in, where he heard tales of gods and demons and where he would gather trinkets that the townsfolk would leave behind, to fashion upon his clay toys. It wasn’t long before he found himself gathering up the remains of Chandigarh’s past. These remnants became his toys, once again, and he began to steal them out of city at night, into a forest at the outskirts of Chandigarh, where he was certain no one would find him. He would return here at sun fall, to conjure another city-one at odds with the city that occupied his mornings. Every day as the clock struck 5, Chand would load up his bicycle with the treasures he had found, and haul them into the forest.

Here Chand would secretly sculpt into the night. He gave shape to entire bestiaries that included apes, tigers and gorgons. He conjured goddesses and demons and princesses that presided over vast armies, and sages that meditated in the quiet of the forest. All of them adorned in the worn pastels of kitchen tiles, flecked with the glint of broken bangles.

Chand worked on this secret utopia for almost two decades till he was discovered in 1975, when the city government sent a team to tear down the forest as well, to make way for more construction. When he was caught, Nek was arrested immediately, for violating his duty to the state. However, rumours of this forest city had spread across Chandigarh, and people began finding their way into Nek Chand’s secret cosmopolis.

Those who discovered Nek’s city began to protest-demanding for his release, and the preservation of the forest that housed his work. In 1976, the city of Chandigarh agreed to preserve Nek’s visions and gave him a staff and a salary to continue with his work.

In the forest outside Chandigarh, Nek Chand’s figures can be found even today, where they stand adorned in the rubble mosaic of lost histories.

The Gamblers of the Quantum World

The Nobel prize in physics in the year 2020 comes with a tacit acknowledgement, our universe is a collection of holes. Vast and ancient emptinesses, that could drown out the oceans, the skies, the entire nuclear arsenal of a million stillborn stars. These edges of the universe are eternal gateways to nights into which all suns shall eventually fall.

The Sufi theologian and astronomer Al-Ghazali once pronounced that each night Allah creates the universe afresh, for Allah is unconstrained by the burden of following cause with effect. Being the expert rhetorician that he was, Ghazali conjured his own opponent. A shadowboxer of the mind who might argue, ‘I do not know how to reach the Library of Babel, all I remember is I left my own book there. But if what you say is true Ghazali, perhaps that book has turned into a horse, defiling the library with its excrement.’

Al-Ghazali admits; Allah might ever so often recreate the same set of accidents, to create a sense of regularity and to keep people from complaining about the horses in their libraries too often. However, this apparent regularity does not necessarily imply causality. An effect may or may not follow the cause.

Every quantized instant of time presents Allah with an occasion to create a fresh set of accidents.

In Bombay, this state of affairs is explained with a time worn term- ‘Aiseich-hai’ (It is like this only). An idea that roughly compares to accidentalism; the doctrine that claims, any attempt at comprehending the universe devoid of chance, is an exercise doomed to fail, for the universe is incomplete without chaos.

This doctrine sets the table upon which, quantum physicists, theologians, philosophers and astronomers gamble for the true shape of the universe. However, Laplace’s all-knowing, all-seeing demon finds no seat at the table, and neither does a God that refuses to play dice.

On certain nights the chips belong to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, a secret rule that is equanimous in the shadow movements of both spy-craft and subatomic particles.

The more one knows of your position, the lesser is known of your movement, with the inverse also being true. The uncertainty principle is a game of bait and switch, played on the ethereal edge of reality.

On other nights, the celestial chaos of the universe, takes the shape of the Boltzmann Brain- A mind that imagines itself into existence, and by extension imagines the entire universe. It then imagines itself as an intelligent observer within this complex conjuration. Complete with a fictional back story rife with memories and desire. All precariously held together on mere chance.

Every once in a while, the winning hand is held in the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, proposed by Henry Everett II. Incidentally this interpretation of the universe, holds within itself, all the other hands that have both won and lost, simultaneously and in superimposed timelines. In the year 1957, Henry wagered that the ultimate shape of reality is one that seekers of ancient artefacts, lovers and revolutionaries have known all too well;

The universe is the shape of all possibilities, nothing is ever lost.

5 years from now

Dhoob begins growing slowly in the gutters, emerging from the cracks in the pavement caused by the flooding. Carpets of Arugu and Pemba engulf entire shopping malls, but they only exploit existing weaknesses. The Buddleia is far more aggressive. It penetrates through brick and mortar to find moisture. It grows fast and high, scaling government offices and investment firms, where its light seeds are easily dispersed by the wind, returning to its ancestral home in the Himalayas.

65 million years from now.

An asteroid 40 km in diameter, comes hurtling towards planet Earth. It strikes the planet just off the western coast of India, near the Bombay High, releasing thermal energy equal to the entire nuclear arsenal of the Earth.

“The Shiva crater is approximately 500 km in diameter, and we discovered it from geophysical evidence and drill core samples in the Bombay Offshore Basin on the western continental shelf of India,” Prof. Sankar Chatterjee, a Horn Professor of Paleontology and Curator at the Museum of Texas University, said in a statement. “I have been invited to participate in the Koyna Drilling Project to study the core samples that may unravel the genesis of the Shiva crater. Unlike typical known extraterrestrial impact structures, the Shiva crater is shaped like a teardrop. It is also unusually rectangular, measuring 600 km in length and 400 km wide.” Chatterjee argues that the low angle of an impact combined with boundary fault lines and unstable rock led to this unusual formation. The age of the structure is inferred from the Deccan Traps which overlie part of it.

6 years from now

On the 7th of July, 122 nations adopt the first international treaty banning nuclear weapons at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The initiative, led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and New Zealand, was approved by 122 votes, with only the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining. Nine countries recognized for possessing substantial nuclear weaponry—the U.S., Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel—were noticeably absent from the negotiations, as were most members of NATO. Friday’s ten-page treaty is extensive in its demands, prohibiting signatories from developing, testing, manufacturing, possessing, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. Nations are also prohibited from transferring nuclear weapons to one another. Having now been approved by the UN, the treaty will be open for signatures on September 20, at which point it will need to be ratified by 50 states before entering into international law. The major obstacle, of course, is that many prominent members of the international community—and their allies—remain vocally opposed.

65 million years from now

At the time of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction, India was located over the Réunion hotspot of the Indian Ocean. Hot material rising from the mantle flooded portions of India with a vast amount of lava, creating a plateau known as the Deccan Traps. It has been hypothesized that either the crater or the Deccan Traps associated with the area are the reason for the high level of oil and natural gas reserves in the region.

65 years from now

In his controversial treatise on fossil worship, the Iranian Archaeologist Hamid Parsani argues, that for primitive man, the world was made coherent by a theology of petroleum.

Prayers were thus offered to the geological movements and formations of oil, a subterranean daemon whose outer shell was the home of humankind. Parsani elaborates on this with a peculiar translation of votive hieroglyphs, – ‘Burrowing sounds are heard from within. Once they have nested within the solid globe, the larvae cut breathing holes and press their headless tails against the surface for air.’

5 years from now

The international community of earth sciences, remains unconvinced that the “Shiva Crater” is indeed an impact crater. Currently, the 500 km wide crater remains unlisted in the Earth Impact Database of the Planetary and Space Science Centre at the University of New Brunswick, Canada. Christian Koeberl, professor of impact research and planetary geology at the University of Vienna, Austria, regards the Shiva Crater as, “a figment of imagination.”

Ministry of Information & Broadcasting

Clarification Regarding Deletion of Anti-National Literature Materials Present in Document Marked for Censorship (Pending Review).


7th November 2020, 11:30 am.

It has come to the notice of the I&B Ministry that a deliberate, sinister, motivated campaign has been launched by rogue elements that have infiltrated our esteemed institution, to clandestinely tarnish the image of the Ministry of I&B.

We are greatly aggrieved that this heinous attack has come from within the newly established Censorship Certification Department, which was long been the sixth pillar of protection against the spread of anti-nationalist materials. It is our misfortune that the CCD has unfortunately fallen prey to the very snake whose venom it seeks to exhume from the body of our Great Nation.

This misinformation is based on ill-will and incorrect appreciation and is tantamount to causing loss of reputation of the Government in public eyes. It is patently defamatory in nature. Hence, it is important to bring the following facts to light:

– The Manifesto Review Subcommittee had convened from 3rd November 2019 to 7th January 2020 to deliberate on the matters of the certifying usage of certain anti-national words in the document.

– On 13 February 2020, the Subcommittee came to the conclusion that all words used in the Dalit Panthers Manifesto of 1973 are reprehensible in nature.

– On 15th April 2020 the document was duly submitted by the Committee to the desk of the Censorship Certification Department, marking the document to be deemed classified, and to be entirely censored (pending review).

– On 6th November 2020, the partially declassified sections of the censored document (pending review) were egregiously made available to the public in its contemptuous form to the public in a detestable attempt of slandering the good reputation of the Ministry of I&B and by extension the Government.

– The I&B Ministry has come to the conclusion that this detestable act could be committed by anti-national elements that have infiltrated the Censorship Certification apartment, and are well versed in the intricacies of the Indian bureaucratic process.


The I&B ministry hereby declares; the partially declassified Dalit Panthers Manifesto of 1973 (attached above) is an act of literary terrorism.

All copies of the document must be duly erased, deleted and/or destroyed with immediate effect in the interest of safeguarding the integrity of the Nation. Individuals failing to comply will be met with the strictest action.

The previous Keeper writes:

28 degrees 40 minutes and 35 seconds North, by 77 degrees 12 minutes and 47seconds east

At the foot of the Aravalis lies the hunting lodge of the Emperor, where his men set down their game, and settled back with their small poisons.

The Emperor’s men were known to be great admirers of logic and even of symmetry. So it can seem inconsistent, at first, to learn that they seemed to consider finding luck in their game to be the true mark of a man.

Certain moralists have argued that the game in its entirety was fraught, estranging, schismatic;

they saw this notion of the “mark of a man” as nothing more than a mere fable concocted by those who found themselves favored by luck.

Nevertheless, the keeper observes,

their game represents an interpolation of chance into the order of the universe, and that to accept its errors is to strengthen chance, not contravene it.

And there was great game to be found here – birds especially, huge birds, with feathers, he reports, that would “shine like the sun.”

The Keeper makes note of an incident that occurred towards the middle days of the structure.

A man, vanished one night, near a cenotaph in the apartment room on the first floor.

The structure was subsequently named after him, or rather, after the name given to him for his peculiar exit from the empire.

The keeper reports the accomplishments of the Emperor’s cartographers. He speaks of the purity of their relation to scale, and of their refusal to rest content until they had achieved perfection, and of how these traits combined lead them to devise a most singular map – one co-extant with the Empire itself, and coinciding with it point for point.

Successive generations caring less and less for this curious demonstration of cartographical veracity, saw the map fall into disrepair, and, before long, only tattered fragments remained.

the stargazers of the Empire would walk among these walls.

With eyes veiled from the glare of the day, and tempered under the soft glaze of moonlight, they met here to chart worlds that lay beyond their own.

The Keeper describes eighteen years of waiting for the precise instant when the moon would briefly stand still directly overhead so they may stare at through their zenith tube, and correct the clocks of the empire.

For what Emperor would pay his men, however adept, solely to stare?

Yet stare they did.

On some nights, spying upon heavenly clusters, they saw among them the image of a great bird floating beyond the clouds, with wings spanning eons.

On other nights they fashioned the stars into the likeness and form of their vanishing brother.

And In time, mastering a vision of his exit, they took flight.

That they have retreated is clear, but no signs indicate that they have departed definitively.

Nevertheless, in order to return, they will have to overcome:


the floods


torrential rains

storm and thunder




chemical warfare

yellow fever

psychological war

the cold war

the simulacra tactic

black magic

the inquisition

the sepoy mutiny

the second war

the synthetic image

the mines of earth and sea

the biological blockade

Absolute silence

the organic Eucharist

the electric chair

the gallows

the guillotine

the gas chamber


the pulling of nails

the repulsion of everything


massive mutilation






the atomic bomb

the hydrogen bomb

the hundred sons of Gandhari



The Death Star

the bubonic plague

the Trojan horse

Ulysses and Penelope

Ghibreel’s fall

the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse

Goya’s head

Saleem’s nose

The left foot of Krishna

the mummified corpse of Mao

the love of Marx


A thousand and one nights


the tongue of the fish and the toads

the theory of the holy trinity

the theory of progress and its antithesis


hate and love


the temptation of the saints

the virgin’s pain

Descartes’ doubt

Nietzsche’s madness

Ivan’s paranoia

Gandhi’s spindle

the Tao

The milky way

Dürer’s rhinoceros

the whistles and atmospheric pulsations that, at this time await with gathering force.

They shall have to face, what the fire of these years has not been able to burn, but has instead made stronger.



Sci-Fi Animation Film

Finalforest.exe (2021) is a sci-fi animation film that examines the relationship between caste, disease, demons, and state power, to speculate on the possibility of an exit into a better future.

Finalforest.exe is currently being exhibited online in the current edition of transmediale curated by Nora O Murchú.

The Machinery of Myth

Online Panel

The complex relationship between human and machine has been the subject of art and artistic practice since the beginning of the Industrial Age. In the face of digitalisation, the topic has taken on new meaning worldwide with artificial intelligence, its possibilities and dark sides. By discussing concepts, playing out scenarios and speculating on futures, the arts can generate a specific aesthetic knowledge in this area.

With theoretical and artistic inputs and discussion, the online panel titled The Machinery of Myth aims to discuss new approaches to the human-machine relationship connecting various disciplines such as technology, religion, philosophy and science. Old and contemporary mythological narratives, rituals of shamanism and theories of the non-human are starting points for the exchange on artistic strategies and practices of world and resistance-building.

Sahej Rahal, a fellow of the Human Machine programme by the JUNGE AKADEMIE, Morehshin Allahyari and Nishant Shah are joining us for the first panel in a series of online events as part of the programme.


Morehshin Allahyari: (Persian: موره شین اللهیاری‎) is an Iranian-Kurdish media artist, activist, and writer based in Brooklyn, New York who uses computer modeling, 3D scanning, and digital fabrication to explore the intersection of art and activism. Inspired by concepts of collective archiving and cultural contradiction, Allahyari’s 3D-printed sculptures and videos challenge social and gender norms, responding to, resisting, and criticizing the current political and cultural situation.

Sahej Rahal: is a visual artist based in Mumbai/India and the first fellow of the “Human-Machine”-programme by the YOUNG ACADEMY. He is primarily a storyteller and weaves together fact and fiction to create counter-mythologies, which interrogate narratives that shape the present. This myth-world takes the shape of sculptures, performances, films, paintings, installations, and AI programs, which he creates by drawing on sources ranging from local legends to science fiction. By bringing these into dialogue with each other, Rahal creates scenarios where indeterminate beings emerge from the cracks in our civilization. Rahal has participated in group and solo exhibitions worldwide.

Nishant Shah: is Director of Research & Outreach and Professor of Aesthetics and Culture of Technologies, at ArtEZ University of the Arts, The Netherlands. Knowledge Partner for the global art-technology Digital Earth Fellowship. Faculty Associate 2020-01 at the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society, Harvard University. Mentor on the Feminist Internet Research Network. His work is at the intersections of body, identity, digital technologies, artistic practice, and activism, with a specific focus on non-canonical geographies. His current interest is in thinking through questions of artificial intelligence, digital subjectivity, and misinformation towards building inclusive, diverse, resilient, and equitable societies. His new book “Really Fake” is out in Spring 2021 with University of Minnesota Press.


Sahej Rahal’s installations, films, performances and video games, are part of a constructed mythology that he creates drawing upon sources ranging from local legends to science fiction. By bringing these into dialogue with each other, Rahal creates scenarios where indeterminate beings emerging from the cracks in our civilization. Rahal’s participation in institutional, solo & group exhibitions internationally have included ACCA Melbourne 2019, Vancouver Biennale 2019, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, 2018, Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham UK, 2018; Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, 2017; PRIMARY Nottingham, UK 2017; the Liverpool Biennial, 2016; Setouchi Triennial, 2016; Jewish Museum, New York, 2015; Kochi Muziris Biennale, 2014; MACRO Museum, Rome, 2014. His work has been exhibited at Galleria Continua, Les Moulins, France, 2014 and Art Stage Singapore, 2014.  His most recent solo exhibition took place in 2019 at Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai. He is a recipient of the INLAKS emerging artist award 2012; the IFA Critical Arts Practice grant 2014; the Forbes India Art Award, 2014, for best debut show for his solo exhibition ‘Forerunner’ at Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai; the Cove Park/Henry Moore Fellowship, 2017, Akademie Schloss Solitude Fellowship 2018, and most recently the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation Installation Art Grant, 2019.

Human Machine Fellowship

More about Sahej Rahal

Clara Herrmann

*1982, lives in Berlin

Cultural Manager, Curator, Editor