A collaborative arts studio based in Mumbai, India, CAMP is known for its experimental art practice that uses tools and approaches associated with state power and authority — such as CCTV cameras and radio — to show how technology and infrastructure shape the cultural and political landscape of a people or region. At the time of its establishment, one of the aims of the studio was to spark critical thinking through art. It was also aimed at finding spaces to create and present artworks using mediums outside of conventional art market formats, such as video installations.
The studio was established in 2007 by filmmaker and media artist Shaina Anand, architect and artist Ashok Sukumaran and Sanjay Bhangar. Over the years, social activists and artists including Simpreet Singh, Zinnia Ambapardiwalla and Zulekha Sayyed have contributed to various projects by CAMP. According to its founders, the meaning of CAMP as an acronym keeps shifting with time and with the audience in question. In addition to its artworks, the studio is also known for its online, free-access media and film archives — pad.ma and Indiancine.ma — established in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
Their use of CCTV is one example of CAMP’s alternative approaches to acquiring footage for video works, and the artists aim to bring to notice the ubiquitous presence of surveillance devices, while exploring its possibilities as an art medium. In 2008, CAMP collaborated with the Manchester Metropolitan University and the Arndale Shopping Centre, both in Manchester, United Kingdom, for a project titled CCTV Social, in which thirty–six participants were allowed into control rooms of the sites, giving them a chance to examine and critique existing surveillance systems. A film, Capital Circus (2008), used footage from 208 CCTV cameras at the Arndale Shopping Centre, which is a structure that was rebuilt to its present state after a bombing by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1996. The following year, for the project Al Jaar Qabla Al Daar (The Neighbour Before the House), CAMP installed CCTV cameras in East Jerusalem. In the film, Palestinian families used CCTV camera access to look at their neighbourhood, with the CCTV acting as a narrative tool in the exploration. Other projects centred in Amsterdam (In Camera Res, 2019) and Mumbai (CCTV Landscape From Lower Parel, 2017) also explored this view of examining urban narratives, of the past and the future, overlaid with technology.
Another set of projects and works examines the centuries of maritime trade and history linking western India, West Asia and Africa. Wharfage, awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Sharjah Biennale in 2009, explored the network of culture, people, trade between the regions through the format of pirate radio. Broadcast during the Biennale from the Sharjah port, the radio allowed sailors, workers and traders from these locations to converse with each other and a public audience, and share and request songs, and also included live interviews of locals conducted by CAMP members. The strands of this cultural and historical network were explored in the feature–film–length work From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf, for which CAMP collaborated over four years with a group of sailors from the Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat. Combining footage shot on professional cameras and mobile phones, the latter contributed by the sailors, the film presented the rhythms of the trade route and life at sea in the modern world.
CAMP’s projects are also local in scope, focusing on histories and social development in Mumbai. One such project, Pani Sare Dhaga Ma (2008), involved a collaboration between youth associations and CAMP in which the metropolitan city’s water supply system, its issues of access and subversion of the official distribution network were studied from the lens of Jogeshwari, a suburban area of Mumbai. In 2016, CAMP collaborated with the Indian architects Prasad Shetty and Rupali Gupte to create a community space in Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd, a residential colony created under the city’s Slum Redevelopment programme. The project created space for community activities, open to adults and children, in the tightly congested architecture of the colony and the studio remains involved with the project. Past, Present and Future (2020) is an ongoing project chronicling the public histories of Mumbai, and within this, the work Ghar Mein Shehar Hona: City Housing in a Cultural Matrix (2019–20) examines the city’s complex housing situation.
Ethnographical and sociological outlooks on development and its factors, as well as the Indian political scenario have also featured in CAMP’s works. The leaked telephone conversations of an Indian political lobbyist, Niira Radia, which were made public in 2010, form the starting point and content of an audio installation, Two Stages of Invention (2011). An observer could read the transcript of the telephone conversations or could pick up a telephone and use the Interactive Voice Response system to pick a specific excerpt to listen to. A more recent video–format project, A Passage through Passages (2020), looks at the politics of development through road infrastructure in South Asia and is based on research conducted around newly laid highway projects in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and the Maldives.
CAMP’s works have been exhibited in museums and galleries in India and internationally. It has also participated in several biennales around the world, including at Shanghai, Gwangju, Liverpool, Chicago, Lahore and Kochi. In 2020, the studio received the Nam June Paik Art Centre Prize, which was followed by a solo exhibition at the Nam June Paik Art Centre, Seoul, South Korea in 2021.
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“CCTV Social.” CAMP. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://studio.camp/projects/CCTVsocial/
ET Bureau. “Radia tapes, now available at art gallery near you.” Economic Times, November 15, 2011. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/radia-tapes-now-available-at-art-gallery-near-you/articleshow/10736437.cms?from=mdr
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“Jogeshwari Video Project.” CAMP. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://studio.camp/projects/pani/
Park, Yuna. “‘CAMP After Media Promises’ at Nam June Paik Art Center challenges conventional media art.” Korea Herald, December 29, 2021. http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20211229000646
“The Neighbour Before the House.” Slought. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://slought.org/resources/the_neighbor_before_the_house
“A Passage through Passages.” Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London. Accessed May 09, 2022. https://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/a-passage-through-passages/
Ratnam, Dhamini. “Art review: ‘CAMP, From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf.’” Mint, March 16, 2015. https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/BpHTampfVRa0pLR8TgZZiK/Art-review-CAMP-From-Gulf-to-Gulf-to-Gulf.html
“Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran.” Gasworks. Accessed May 09, 2022. https://www.gasworks.org.uk/residencies/shaina-anand-and-ashok-sukumaran-camp/
Vali, Murtaza. “CAMP: Privilege Escalation.” Bidoun 18 (June 2009). https://www.bidoun.org/articles/camp