Walking into the most recent installation, Escapement, by Raqs Media Collective (Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta) is at first sight like walking into an airport waiting lounge. Twenty-seven oversized world-clocks encapsulate the Frith Street Gallery, marking all of the usual places—Hanoi, Mexico City, Johannesburg, New York City—and forcing viewers to immediately recognize society’s propensity for time and measure. The exhibition is small but great—successfully taking viewers to an oversaturated world marked not only by ticking clocks but by video screens and noise, emotion and thought.
Escapement (2009) is a full-room installation from which the exhibition takes its name, and is the most striking work in the show. The beeps, rings and bubbles from a four-screen video add layer upon layer to the ticking of the clocks, making the exhibition sound like life outside of the usually quiet gallery space. The work is a not-so-quiet reminder that to exist today is to be bound by the hands of time, to be measured in the syncopated rhythms of dawn and dusk, alarm clocks, bus schedules and overtime. It is pertinent to remember, however, that we are also measured in emotions known the world over; the clocks count epiphany through anxiety, instead of numbers one through twelve.
One thousand four hundred and forty (2009) is an exquisite sculptural work that is overshadowed by, but mysteriously complements Escapement. In it, viewers see a collection of clear acrylic crystals set atop a traditional white plinth. Standing at random heights, the crystals appear to be growing, cultivating in a futuristic realm which viewers are not yet privy to. This contrasts sharply with the ambivalent title of the work, which is both a numeral and a leap year—a standard, but anomalous measure of time.
With Escapement, Raqs Media Collective sharply deconstructs and reconstructs the way society quantifies experience. By redefining the interior space of the gallery, it also breaks down the boundary between the art world—abiding by its own set of rules and regulations—and the world outside of it.
-- Ashley Vaughan
(Images from top-bottom: Raqs Media Collective, Escapement, 2009, 27 clocks, high glass aluminium with LED lights, four flat screen monitors, video and audio looped, Dimensions variable, Edition of 2; Raqs Media Collective, One thousand four hundred and forty, 2009, Acrylic, 64 cm diametre. All images Courtesy the Artsits and Frith Street Gallery, London )