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Sacred World Foundation - Art and Technology Rooted in Tradition


Gandhi project courtesy Ranjit Makkuni

Last August, ICHIM 2004, a congress on digital culture and heritage was held in Berlin. Digital artists, architects, researchers, computer scientists and designers displayed their work on the subject of presenting art and culture using digital technology.
One of the most interesting presentations came from the Sacred World Foundation from New Delhi, India. The use of hands in traditional art and craft in India, as well as the symbolism of Indian culture and Mahatma Gandhi's central ideas and values are the subjects of the latest works of the The Gandhi Multimedia Museum foundation. The museum demonstrates an impressive extent of research and also respect of Indian tradition and thought. Tradition is meaning and simultaneously art, symbolism. The Sacred World Foundation gives us a new approach on how to present tradition and art using the newest forms of technology. Artfacts.Net interviewed Ranjit Makkuni, director of Sacred World Foundation.



What inspired you to create this foundation?
The aim was to develop bridges between two kinds of consciousnesses; between a consciousness based on ego and technology and a consciousness free of ego and tied to tradition.

Why is this foundation perceived as a laboratory?
Because we are researching for something.....

Who are the current collaborators? Who decides which theme will be explored?
We are tied to a network of 200 scholars and artists and also have connections with HP labs in Ivrea, in Milan (Italy), glassmakers in Murano (Italy), craftsmen in Oaxaca (Mexico), Bali (Indonesia), Thailand and Myanmar. A vision statement focusing on sacred arts documentation, the reversal of the digital divide, new musical instruments and cleaning up India, has been made. This is the vision that I created.....

Are you planning to work on themes from the ancient cultures of other developing countries, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Egypt and Peru, for example?
We are interested in the world's goddess traditions, and are currently looking at musical instruments from Burma to Indonesia. We are also looking at the understanding of the value of compassion throughout Asia.

The Gandhi exhibition focuses on the use of the hands. Does the laboratory work also on the use of other parts of the body or the whole body for an understanding of interaction with technology?
The use of hands was an important discovery in the evolution of the human.
Most mammals have hands, but only human hands are able to create from nature; to create fire, architecture, computers and music… I think the mind reflecting on itself is a crucial tool that differentiates humans... and I believe that hands and the mind are a whole.

What are the next projects?
Magic Strings, it shows the different use of the lute from Burma across to Indonesia.

Art and technology rooted in traditional thought. How do you understand this relationship?
Traditional thought shows the man/nature symbiosis, as well as the yearning to question the meaning of existence. In western culture, people have decided that the body is a computer and have devised various strategies to accommodate and validate this. However, when you explore other ways of experiencing consciousness in which physical reality is not the ultimate reality, we arrive at different notions of consciousness... and from this to different relationships with nature, with communities, and so on.....
The Gods created the world but kept for themselves the secret of the creation and their address.
Sacred World Foundation uses technology to preserve and express communal identity. 'In the context of developing nations, the laboratory is pursuing a model of development in which the introduction of techno-culture in developing countries will not wipe out traditional communities, but instead preserve tradition, reintegrating skills and traditional aesthetics in the design of new tools. Such culturally-rooted technology and design will enhance the accessibility of computing technology to a greater number of people', it states.
Sacred World Foundation won the Prix Ars Electronica Center in Linz (Austria) in 2002 and other important design prizes in New York in 2002 and 1998.

For more information about the foundation projects and recent research venues, visit the webpage:www.sacredworld.com


Interview: Katerina Valdivia Bruch
Translation: Katerina Valdivia Bruch
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