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Raqs Media Collective

Indian Contemporary Artists’ Group

Jeebesh Bagchi
Born
1965, New Delhi
Lives and Works in New Delhi

Monica Narula
Born 1969, New Delhi
Lives and works in New Delhi

Shuddhabrata Sengupta
Born 1968, New Delhi
Lives and works in New Delhi

Raqs Media Collective came into being in 1992 with three independent media artists— Jeebesh Bagchi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, and Monica Narula. Their initial impetus in documentary filmmaking has evolved to now work within a field occupying a position somewhere between historical research, philosophical musings, scholarship, and theory— often taking the form of installations, online and offline media objects, curation, performances, and encounters.

Education

Jeebesh Bagchi : 1992

Mass Communication & Research Center, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi

Monica Narula : 1992

Mass Communication & Research Center, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi

Shuddhabrata Sengupta : 1992

Mass Communication & Research Center, Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi

 

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Selected images      View all

LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Raqs Media Collective

Interactive dialogue between medium and content

They make videos, high-tech objects, installations and online projects exploring a world reshaped by globalisation, from the blazing lights of India's fast evolving cities to the shabby gloom of a Tyneside dock. Their work is not limited to installations for exhibition pieces. Its output includes talks, websites, conferences, publications and research produced in collaboration with Sarai. Accordingly, Raqs’ works often stem from the structure and processes of theoretical inquiry.

Works like The KD Vyas Correspondence, 2006, demonstrate the collective’s attempts at negotiating the idea of concrete space and defamiliarising perspective. In this case, the enigmatic title refers to a fictive correspondence with the author of the Mahabharata, presented as “18 Video Enigmas”. The implicit aim seems to be to force the intended audience to reconsider time and the aspect of disseminating stories in myth.

Raqs Media Collective, The Kd Vyas Correspondence Vol 1, 2006, 18 screens, 9 soundscapes, metal architecture, thermocol casing, 287 x 110 x 94”.

Dissemination is a key element of their practice

Every text they have ever produced is available on their website and this is where they share information about their past and future projects. The Building Sight demonstrates Raqs’ attempt at manufacturing a network of knowledge which serves to highlight the fragmentation that defines a contemporary Asian city, in this case, Delhi. The cacophony of sound and flickering of projected images that envelop the visitor seem like an appropriate by-product of the show considering the extent to which the collective’s work revels in the aesthetics of modern information technology.Building Sight, as the name suggests, builds cumulatively to focus on a coherent set of issues and concerns. Most obvious is the Indian city, and in particular their native Delhi.

Raqs Media Collective, Building Sight, 2007, Curatorial Project, Variable size installation with 9 video projections, sound, photo prints and slide projections

Reworking of iconic pieces of western art, placing them in either ironic, or as speculative rendition

Raqs Media Collective oftentimes places their ideas and works in relation and in sequel to past work of past artists. By the way of appropriation and intervention and reinvention of works of art from earlier produce interesting juxtapositions in ideas across time and genres.

However Incongruous, 2011, the fibre glass sculpture as a three dimensional rendition of Albrecht Dürer's Rhinoceros, is strapped to transform the very existential essence of the woodcut image into an in-situ installations object and convert it into a carriage carousel. While on Earth as in Heaven is conceived as an epigrammatic annotation, or speculative sequel, to J.G. Ballard's novel on dystopic shopping Kingdom Come thus proving that great art always has a place and can be contemporised to convey new meanings in its present location.

Raqs Media Collective, On Earth as in Heaven, découpé acrylic stack, using transparent, translucent and acid orange sheets, 3 x 5”

Raqs Media Collective, However Incongruous, 2011, in-situ installation fibre glass, 126 x 63 x 36”

Urbanism is the realm for creation and re-creation of contemporary relations

With their subliminal intention of depicting urbanism as a systemic field of contemporary relations, Raqs Media Collective’s forays into cityscapes is not limited to architectural concerns. They adeptly embrace the private- public binaries, while simultaneously negotiating social and economic factors through their diverse media and techniques of re-presentation.

Whenever the Heart Skips a Beat (Street), is an array of billboards scattered across the urban landscape of Birmingham.  Each billboard shows a clock-face that features a set of words instead of numbers in order to indicate the hours. The words are pairs of adjectives and nouns that qualify each other.Every clock-face features two words or phrases that relate to each other in counter-point. Taken together, the billboards produce a set of permutations and combinations of states of mind and being through an invocation of the actions of the hour and minute hands in a clock.

Raqs Media Collective, Whenever the Heart Skips a Beat (Street), 2012, array of billboards 48 sheets

As a group their practice is diverse and their interests varied

The three met at university and loved working with each other on the assigned film projects. And since then they have been working together as a team. For them this team works so well together is because they love sharing ideas, dreams, questions and curiosities. The conversations they loved having have been continued in their works which include videos, technical objects, installations, online projects that involve communities and explore issues of globalisation. They founded Sarai in 2000 and since then they can hardly be defined as only artists or rather they have expanded the world of art to include research projects, engagement with the local community, publishing a journal, curating international exhibitions.

They are keenly interested in the harsh reality of industrial forms and human feeling so that in Escapement (2009), they install huge clocks that can be seen at airports and railway stations but they do not show time but emotions that we as humans go through in a day- nostalgia, guilt, ecstasy or anguish. For them time also becomes a marker of experience and interpersonal relationships.  

Their interest in time also lends their research and creation a historical approach. For them time is not a linear progression and with time new things are created and old things decay just as with all regimes of power there is an inevitability of abdication and fear thereof. This a theme they explore in Coronation Park at Venice Biennale 2015.  

RAQS Media Collective, Coronation Park, 2015.

Bibliography