Raqs Media Collective: ‘‘A Phrase, Not a Word“

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© Courtesy of Nature Morte, New Delhi
Raqs Media Collective: ‘‘A Phrase, Not a Word“

A-1 Neeti Bagh
110049 New Delhi
December 2nd, 2012 - January 12th, 2013
Opening: December 2nd, 2012 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Mon-Sat 10-6
prints, installation, video-art, sculpture


After an interval of six years, the Raqs Media Collective returns to Nature Morte with a solo show featuring videos, large-scale prints, a typographic sculpture and a sound installation. Their last show at the gallery was 'There Has Been a Change of Plan‘ in August 2006.

In the meantime, Raqs have embarked on an exciting trajectory, exhibiting and developing ambitious artistic and curatorial projects around the world and gathering critical acclaim as artists and thinkers, even as they remain accessible to a wider audience by telling stories, sharing their discoveries and committing themselves to a deeply dialogic ethic of work and life. Their return to Nature Morte can be read as an account of a partial itinerary of some of their many recent artistic, intellectual, and collaborative adventures.

With “A Phrase, Not A Word”, Raqs' diverse and eclectic practice becomes a playground for ideas and reflections on conversations and the notion of language. The exhibition will gather an arsenal of images, objects, voices, replicas, shadows and organisms, and sets them to work with and against each other in order to undertake detonations at the limits of thought. Raqs observe the contest between phrases and words, playfully glossing a lively debate within the Sanskrit philosophical canon about how the making of meaning hinges on an explosion (the 'sphota') that marks the relationship between the formation of a thought, the naming of an object and the launch of an utterance.

On view will be several works never seen before in India, along with a suite of new works. Amongst the works that will be displayed at Nature Morte are “An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale,” shown as part of Raqs's exhibition at the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto in 2011 and recently at their solo show for the re-opening of the legendary Photographer' s Gallery in London. This looped video glosses a photograph taken in Calcutta in the early 20th Century by the British photographer James Waterhouse depicting the interior of a Surveyor’s office with workers earnestly absorbed by their tasks to produce a calibrated meditation on stillness, duration and transformation.

“Strikes at Time” is a video diptych that connects thoughts on time and labour that was sparked off by a conversation with the French Philosopher Jacques Ranciere. It entered the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris after being included in the exhibition "Paris- Delhi-Bombay" in 2011 and is currently being shown at the 2nd Ural Industrial Biennal in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

The works "Forthcoming Titles" and “The Philosophy of the Namak Haraam” deal with the desire for language and its capacity to both speak and be silent. In “The Philosophy of the Namak Haraam” we are all namak-haraams, defaulters to the debt of purloined knowledge, while “Forthcoming Titles” undoes written ideas to tie them up in knots. Two new works in the show, “Constellation” and “Fibonacci's Insomnia,” have emerged from their most recent body of work created for Raqs' on-going solo show at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (until January 7th, 2013).

Based in New Delhi, where it was founded in 1992, Raqs Media Collective (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta) have been highly visible on the international art scene for the last decade. They enjoy playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as curators, and sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs. They create art and films, curate exhibitions, edit books, stage events, collaborate with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors and discover processes that have made deep impacts on contemporary culture in India. Raqs follows its self-declared imperative of 'kinetic contemplation' to produce a trajectory that is restless in terms of the forms and methods that it deploys even as it achieves a consistency of speculative procedures.

Raqs have exhibited their works in Documenta 11 in 2002 and the Biennales of Venice, Istanbul, Taipei, Liverpool, Sydney and Sao Paulo, amongst others. Their work has been shown at the Centre Pompidou (Paris), Tate Britain (London), Art Unlimited (Basel), Mori Museum (Tokyo), SALT (Istanbul) and at the Hayward and Serpentine Galleries (London), as well as many other international institutions.

Raqs curated “The Rest of Now” for the 7th edition of Manifesta: The European Biennial of Contemporary Art and “Steps Away from Oblivion” for the international roving exhibition "Indian Highway” initiated by The Serpentine Gallery, London, both in 2008. “Sarai Reader 09: The Exhibition,” a curatorial process initiated by Raqs, is currently on-going at the Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon (until April 15, 2013).

In 2000, Raqs co-founded the Sarai Program at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. They are part of the editorial collective of the Sarai Reader Series