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‘We encourage the practical teaching of science and electronics’

‘We encourage the practical teaching of science and electronics’

KARACHI: One heartbeat, two, then a combination of two which sounded like drumming. Add to that popping sounds that increased the tempo against some white noise, humming, machine sounds, jet engine sounds, beeps, sirens, horns and crashing and banging.

You want to cover your ears with your hands but the light show projected on the walls up front make you turn your attention to them making you forget about your initial reaction. In the flashes of light there are structures, textures, streaks of red, and blue in pools of brown and green. Using magnetic fields, liquid projections, cameras, VGA signals and analogue signals, the sound and the visuals are synchronised so well that you feel drawn into the entire aura created. No, this is not a description of an alien abduction. It was just Wolfgang Spahn’s ‘Entropie’!

The connection between art and technology was realised with gaining an understanding of technology activism at the ‘Hackers meet and performance’ organised by Karachi Biennale in collaboration with Goethe Institut at T2F here on Saturday evening.

“I try to balance visuals and sounds to create a beautiful combination. I experiment, thinking of different ways of how to go about it in my studio,” said Wolfgang, a visual artist from Berlin. “My work is not really developed for an audience. I do it for myself. It is like meditation for me. But taking it public, I tone down things. I balance it, adding more pace and higher sound pitches, sometimes after judging the mood of my audience,” he said.

Wolfgang and Stephen Kovats, who calls himself a media activist, work with communities in countries to get young people there interested in art and technology. About their work, Kovats while providing a bit of background said that after the knocking down of the Berlin Wall in Germany, he who hailed from the east side saw lives being transformed overnight in East Germany though West Germany saw no big change other than seeing East Germany as an inconvenience.

“The work I do,” Kovats said, “is about elements of change and how change can be manipulated. People everywhere want to be able to experience new things and I help them see the other side. I have worked with communities in several countries, including South Sudan,” he added.

Giving a presentation about his work there he shared a bit about South Sudan and things leading to its independence and what’s happening there. “South Sudan has a low literacy rate and the majority of the population there is young. There is a bad infrastructure, bad telecommunication and challenges of development in times of a civil war there. The country basically exists because it has oil, but the people there do not benefit as multinationals make the money. There is a major separation of those with access to resources and those who do not,” he said.

With that as a backdrop, Kovats realised that most people in that country and in others where he has worked also were interested in open source resources such as information technology. He helped them gain access to technology, access to the internet. “But those who have internet access get on to Facebook and use hate speech to incite violence. We try to counter that by helping them post messages of peace in an environment of opportunity. We have got them started into making apps for mobile phones using coding,” Kovats said.

It was with that kind of thinking to counter hate with technology and art that also took the duo to Orangi Town, where they held a workshop for some 30 schoolchildren, teaching and getting them interested in science.

Earlier, Atika Malik, representing Karachi Biennale, shared a bit about their work involving schoolchildren from low-income areas such as Orangi. “We encourage the practical teaching of science and electronics while promoting the culture of making things and innovating by looking at other technical inventions,” she said.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2016

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