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Cybermohalla Ensemble: A Search for the Eleventh Question

(An interview with Cybermohalla
and a story by Lakhmi Chand Kohli)

 Interview | Lifetime


(Andrea Pagnes) – The Cybermohalla project (moahalla being the hindi word for neighbourhood) is a community of young practitioners who share each other’s thoughts, ideas and creative energies in media labs located in working class areas of Delhi. They work with photography, animation, sound recordings, online discussion lists and text to create cross-media works, texts, collages, posters and wall magazines. The young people who come to these media labs are approximately seventy, between the ages of 15 to 23. The following interview took place over March/April 2011. 

“Any human anywhere will blossom in a hundred unexpected talents and capacities simply by being given the opportunity to do so.” I think the Doris Lessing’s sentence is a most appropriate one to portray your incredible experience. Can you tell us how the Cybermohalla project has begun?
“Capacity is something which can pierce like a thorn, intoxicate like a potent brew. Like the Dhatura plant. Dhatura is thorny. It has a long history for taking one into delirious states, even death. One doesn’t think of blossoming flowers when one thinks of Dhatura. One thinks of wild intoxication, the possibility to be in a travel without destination, giving yourself up to a dream state, become frenzied, tasting danger! That, to us, is capacity: an inescapable piercing, a frenzied dance, infectious, unmindful, active”.

cybermohalla lab

CyberMohalla Lab in Dakshinpuri settlement in south Delhi (ph. Nikolaus Hirsch / Michel Müller)

How is capacity recognised? Diversity and multiplicity are always, already present in everyone’s ways of thinking. They become significant when they collide with one another, and so bring forth possibilities, imaginations, wanderings. 

In 2001, we began to meet every day, to converse. The questions that confronted us once we began were—What is thought? What is to be in thought? What is thinking? What is thinking with many others? Thinking is a debate with oneself, which carries on without concluding. It is a debate so that one looks beyond frames of weighing-scale form of thinking: Good and bad, personal and common, inside and outside, thought which is ‘ours’ and thought which is ‘other’s’. Thinking battles these partitions. 

Who will produce the imagination for where we stay, where we live? What are the boundaries of this ‘where’: and do they exist? In hindi the word for ‘where’ is jahan, which also means ‘world’. How does thought extend between these two ideas of jahan? What will our resources for thinking this be? How many can participate in this unknown search, in which one has no way of knowing what she might find, or invent? 

Think of an entangled thread. Thinking is not to disentangle, but to inhabit and chase entanglement. Sometimes you feel stuck, and sometimes a vast expanse opens out before you. It is in how you face such moments that you define your challenge. A readiness to confront the unexpected is an attribute of thought. It makes one seek conversation. 

Conversation: with ones self, with that which surrounds you, with your peers, a group, those resources through which you move beyond yourself. Conversation is neither about being heard, nor is it merely about lending an ear. The challenge in a conversation comes from not knowing what might elicit questions, the surprise is of what the questions are. The self gets challenged and its boundaries are pushed. When we bring into conversation those thoughts that we have been thinking, we make a move from being consumers to becoming creators. Conversations are where potential bursts forth so that our self, our thoughts, our conceptions of what is around us lose their bearing, become fluid and flow towards creating new worlds”.

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