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The Khirkee Storytelling Project

The Khirkee Storytelling project was a participatory media art project based in Khirkee that explored the possibilities of vernacular media exchanges through the setting up of a phone recharge store.

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‘Khirkee Storytelling Project’, led by Swati Janu, was a participatory media art project based in Khirkee Extension, Delhi that drew from the vernacular media on the phones of the diverse communities living there over 2016-17. Every community’s vernacular media is a unique lens into its socio-cultural fabric, which the artist collected and shared through the physical form of a phone recharge shop that she set up. A utilitarian urban fixture on Indian streets, such shops often sell top-up coupons while surreptitiously selling pirated digital content (for instance, a movie for Rupees 10) through media transfer over phone memory cards (SD cards) to those without access to uninterrupted internet or the technical know-how to download media. Offering an alternate to the mainstream Bollywood media, the regional media shared at these shops helps cater to the demand and aspirations of rural migrant and lower-income communities across Indian cities.

Over time, the shop transformed into a local recording studio modeled on the media production processes of low-budget studios and the people of Khirkee began to be invited there to share their artistic talents and stories. In collaboration with filmmakers Pallavi and Purnima Rao, these interactions and performances were recorded as short videos. Through a creative process of co-production with the participants, mobile phones began to be increasingly used for recording, design, and editing with the participants. While the project evolved into a platform for self-expression and fostering conversations between diverse groups, it was simultaneously interested in further sharing the tools of the participatory process developed and nurturing its afterlife.




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