Ravi Agarwal – Neytal Diary

<p>The film was shot over a period of a year off the coast of Tamil Nadu in South India. It is a continuation of Ravi Agarwal’s long engagement with a fishing community near the town of Pondicherry, which seeks to examine the ecological understandings and conflicts from their perspective, both culturally as well as politically. The texts are extracts from a diary (published as <em>Ambient Seas</em>, 2016) maintained by Agarwal over the years, and contain his reflections on the complex ecological underpinnings of the fishermen’s lives, and their absence in the dominant global debates on the anthropocene and climate change.</p> <p></p> <p>Extract from <em>Ambient Seas</em>: </p> <p></p> <p>Two years ago, I had close encounters with the sea, a first for an inland urban person. The ground changing experiences, led me to further my ongoing explorations about ideas which constitute nature. Today, the planet is in an ecological crisis. This is framed as a conflict between economic development and the planet’s limit to support a growing and resource intensive human population. The crisis is validated by measurable tipping points which indicate, scientists claim, that we have entered an age of the ‘anthropocene’ where for the first time in history, human actions will determine the future of the earth. The era arguably began with the industrial age of mass production. Here technology and capital combined to create economies based on natural resource extraction and waste generation on a massive scale, using fossil fuel energy. As a way forward, new markets for environmental solutions are being offered which involve making economies and markets more efficient and energy less fossil fuel based, but based on the same trajectory of extraction, consumption and waste. There is no guarantee of future survival. However ideas such as reducing consumption trigger fears of ‘going back’ in time and fly in the face of ‘growth’ and ‘progress’. Even more remote is a questioning of the deeply inherent and fixed oppositional binary positions we have over time taken about ‘nature’. In the Deluzian way, this may be an opportunity to re-consider evolution as a positive set of responses to ‘desires’ and uncover their genealogy and geology. Re-thinking a foundational human-nature relationship could be more critical to future sustainability than merely creating better markets….</p> <p>Ancient Sangan Tamil love poetry (akam), for example, reflects such subjectivities. It relates five physical landscapes (kurinji – mountains, mullai – forests, marutam – agricultural lands, neithal – sea, pallia – desert) to five interior ways of feeling (sexual union, yearning, sulking, pining, separation). Some tribal societies ‘inherit’ the planet for the future, not ‘own’ it as private property. Alternate imaginations and other relationships with nature can temper our actions, shifting us from certainty to creativity. Ideas about science, economies and futures need to be put on an equal footing alongside other ideas mortality, fragility, vulnerability, balance, equity and democracy. </p> <p>The works…are an outcome of my struggle to comprehend the times I inhabit. They are based on encounters in a fishing village near Pondicherry where fishermen friends helped/are helping me navigate new waters. The ever changing seas led me to these explorations. There is urgency in the air. Else, all will be still. </p> <p></p> <p></p> <p><br></p>