November 8, 2009

TED India - day 3, session 9: within you, without you

like the first day of the conference, the final session of the final day of TED India was broadcast live on the internet by the times of india.  i sat next to my buddy matt curtis, who had a delightful little notebook in his lap:

musician sivamani started the session with a short video of hands playing a beat on water:

sivamani then snuck into the crowd, playing live as he walked down the aisles to the stage.  his instrument looked like some kind of guitar hero joystick and he had strands of bells wrapped many times around his ankles.  once on stage, he stood behind an elaborate set of drums where he also had a large jug of water into which he played cymbals and sticks of bells.

sivamani's performed some deeply moving percussion (VIDEO).  he incorporated voice modulation to sound like a chorus of melodious, electronic monks.  he sampled from a. r. rahman's slumdog millionare soundtrack.  he played a suitcase (photo below), a wok, a watercooler jug, and various other random items on stage including a bronze elephant.

artist and sculptor a. balasubramaniam told us about how he won a radio in an art competition as a child.  on the train home, the radio attracted a fellow passenger who, after speaking with him, invited him to attend the college of arts.  he has been an artist ever since, creating pieces that challenge our notions of space and time.  several of his sculptures come right out of the wall (photos below).  he also shared other work including:  an "evaporating sculpture" made of air freshener solids, the interpretation of a shadow of a shadow of a shadow, and some "deflated" bodies wadded up and mounted on the wall.  he also told some cow jokes*, which i love.

credited with "single-handedly making twitter popular in india," shashi tharoor is a very popular politician and diplomat in india.  he spoke about india's world leadership, borrowing heavily from joseph nye's idea of "soft power" (VIDEO).  he talked about one india soap opera that was so popular in afghanistan that the country pretty much shut down when it came on at 8:30.  he said that the UK indian restaurant industry employs more people than the ship building, coal mining, and iron and steel industries combined.  he was a seasoned politician, very polished and very smooth.  he had the most delightfully pretentious british accent i've heard in a while -- the kind where the end of every sentence is delivered from the back of the throat.  favorite quote:  "you don't have to agree on everything all the time.  you just have to agree on the groundrules for how to disagree."

the famous TED talks concluded with his holiness the karmapa, odyen thinley dorje, who was selected as the next karmapa at age 7, escaped tibet at age 14, and is now 25.  he said when he was originally selected as the karmapa and taken away from his parents, he thought it might be fun -- might mean more toys to play with.  he says it has been much more difficult than initially expected to be away from his family and friends and countrymen, but that his love for those people has endured.  his reflections on the conference included the observation that the innovation and development opportunities discussed had all been outward, but that we cannot lose sight of inward development opportunities, as well.  much to the TED curators' disappointment, his holiness spoke through an interpreter (who was superb, by the way), but english words like "technology" and "design" would sneak into his sentences.  he talked about a group from afghanistan that came to visit him.  they talked about the bombings of the buddahs by the taliban and the different approaches to spirituality between buddhism and islam (idolatry is a big difference).  the karmapa said he was particularly intrigued by one interpretation that tried to look at the situation positively:  perhaps the bombing, a depletion of solid matter, was more like the falling of the berlin wall, signifying the destruction of a divide between two cultures so that they might understand each other better.

as with past TEDs, the conference ended with a light-hearted skit summarizing the days' events.  poet and TED regular rives, TED humorist tom rielly, and software executive sandeep sood performed a very funny, satirical skit, concluding with a rewritten, sing-along rendition of "we are the world."

* an aside about "cow jokes":  i use the term "cow jokes" to refer to any kind of joke or pop culture metaphor used to describe something more complated.  i think they're great because they help me learn.  in fact, i love them so much that i wrote about them as part of my application to attend the TED India conference in the first place.  my use of the term stems from a chain email that i'm sure you've all received before that uses two cows as a metaphor for different economic and political systems.


nikhil! said...

Thank you! Thats me on stage, and i can steal ur photo as evidence that i did get on stage. Stupid dance notwithstanding, i still did :P

But srsly, thanks a ton.

S said...

thank you for summarising 3 days of TED in 20 minutes, felt I was there...