A Phrase, Not a Word

Exhibition with videos, large-scale prints, a typographic sculpture and a sound installation

Nature Morte Gallery, Delhi (2012)

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 gathers 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.

Strikes at Time

Video Installation, sound, projections on two screens of varying dimensions, 17 minutes, 2011

Edition of 4. First edition is in the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Strikes at Time  is a lucid dream, readings from an occasional anonymous journal, and a long walk at the edge of the city of the night. In the ‘no man’s land’ annexed by the awakening mind from the fatigue of the labouring day, the work weaves together a disquisition on time in the effort of a discreet annotation of the philosopher Jacques Rancière’s The Nights of Labour together with renditions of the found text of a worker’s diary by the Cyber Mohalla Ensemble- a group of unorthodox proletarian urbanists that Raqs has been in dialogue with over a decade. 

The shadowy presence of a Yaksha and Yakshi – guardians of wealth in Indic mythologies – stands watching over the work, marking time with questions.

Five Uneasy Pieces

Audio Recording, Translated Text, Voices (in Korean), Printed Pamphlet, 2011

Five Uneasy Pieces is an intimate piece of audio theatre, performed in Korean, with an accompanying booklet that translates the content of the piece into English. This cycle of enacted spoken word recordings narrates five episodes of anchorage and dislocation. It reference real estate, urban folklore and architecture,  combining notions of utility and fantasy – to create particular resonances across private experience and public memory. Raqs work with a distant, unfamiliar language to explore a set of uncanny exchanges and encounters. 

One of these takes place in an elevator, another at a bus stop, a third is an exchange with an interior decorator, a fourth looks at surveillance camera footage, and the fifth is about piano lessons in apartment blocks. Taken together, the recordings (with narratives that move between public and private space) present a singular take on urban growth and its haunting, spectral consequences in any city, anywhere, in the throes of the kind of transformation that is driven by planning, inflected by speculation in real estate. 

An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale

Video projection of treated and animated archival photograph, 3 minutes, loop, 2011

Edition of 3

An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale is a looped video projection of an archived photographic image in which a room full of surveyors is transformed by the Raqs Media Collective through a series of subtle alterations. 

The photograph in question is titled ‘Examining Room of the Duffing Section of the Photographic Department of the Survey of India’. It was taken in Calcutta in 1911 by the British photographer James Waterhouse. 

Raqs intervene in this image to conjure a constellation of stars on to a drawing board, induce tremors too gentle to disturb the richter scale, reveal a dreamed up desert, make time wind backwards, stain the afternoon with indigo and introduce a rustle and a hesitation in the determined stillness of the surveyors hard at work at mapping empire. The work functions as a meditation on the condensation of time in the photographic image as well as a gentle, whimsical disturbance in the serious enterprise of recording and commemorating the imposition of order on a fractious landscape. The surveying department in unhinged from empire and annexed to the commonwealth of dreams.

Forthcoming Titles

Books, Jacket Cover Designs, Book Shelf with Sliding Glass Cover, 2012

Three unwritten books, each marking a whimsical relationship to specific influential texts (by Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Illyich Lenin and Antonia Gramsci) in the canon of Marxism, find their place amongst a set of echoing titles in a carefully laid out miniature library. Their authors have uncannily resonant names. This could be the beginning of an unreading list or a clearing in a small thicket of anagrams.