Raqs Media Collective’s “The Last International”

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart discusses Raqs Media Collective’s performance at Performa 13. 

"The Last International" By Raqs Media Collective http://www.artspace.com/magazine/news_events/week_in_pictures_11_22_13

“The Last International” By Raqs Media Collective
http://www.artspace.com/magazine/news_events/week_in_pictures_11_22_13

New York: During my intensive work on the performance art biennial Performa 13 one performance was often discussed with excitement and mystery. Raqs Media Collective’s contribution to the month-long biennial was heavily anticipated, because it was intended to involve film footage, music, spoken word, sculpture, history and a number of other major themes all in one piece. “The Last International” was described in the Peforma publications as “a celebratory performance that takes New York’s history as an international gathering place for people from all over the world as a starting point, and proposes a moment of coming together”. This description brings on so many different themes and approaches that I had no idea what to expect from the artist’s group credited as India’s artistic “think tank”.

"The Last International" by Raqs Media Collective http://13.performa-arts.org/event/raqs-media-collective

“The Last International” by Raqs Media Collective
http://13.performa-arts.org/event/raqs-media-collective

The Connelly Theater in the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan was the ideal venue for this performance, because it allowed Raqs Media Collective to immerse every inch of the multi-leveled space in their fantastical and literal imagery. Although it was quite conceptual from start to finish, the performance created such rich visuals for the audience. The jumping point for the performance was Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel’s aspirations to move the Council General of the First International Working Men’s Association to New York City. However, imagery of a rhinoceros, a wealth of film projection and endless use of language transported viewers completely from these historical roots. Just as the description of the performance implied, it was such a full sensory experience that I could barely decide where to look.

"The Last International" by Raqs Media Collective http://www.artspace.com/magazine/news_events/week_in_pictures_11_22_13

“The Last International” by Raqs Media Collective
http://www.artspace.com/magazine/news_events/week_in_pictures_11_22_13

Prior to the performance beginning viewers were invited to explore the space. This included areas that would normally be off limits to an audience such as behind the stage and in the wings where a traditional performer would prepare in secrecy. The space was filled with impressively sized potted citrus trees, which immediately transported the audience away from the urban New York City environment. A large mountain of plastic chairs was also piled in the center of the room looking equal parts chaotic and architectural. The audience was invited to completely explore this transformed space before sitting in the round to take in the performance. There was no traditional start of the performance, no dimming of the lights or a call for viewers to take their seats. The performance just began (a trend that would repeat itself in the finale of the performance). The piece began with performers stacking, crawling through and negotiating the space around and within this huge pile of chairs. From there each aspect of the performance was a striking visual narrative snowballing from one idea to another. Raqs utilized everything from spoken word to tape and chalk on the ground. Ideas and concepts were illustrated both literally and verbally. One of the most striking visuals was a large ladder allowing performers to move from the ground level to the upper balcony freely. In the same vain as letting the audience explore every inch of the space, this ladder broke the normal spatial rules of a theater. The area where performers present and the audience observes blurred together more and more throughout the performance.  This concept was even clearer when massive balloons were blown up and then released (one from the highest point of the ladder) to float through the audience. In “The Last International” Raqs Media Collective presented the most visually rich and conceptually intricate performances that I encountered during the entire biennial.

For more information on Performa 13 please visit their website. To read more about my experience working with Performa click here. 

Aesthetic Bind – Celebrating Fifty Years of Contemporary Art

Aaina Bhargava of Saffronart on Citizen – Artist 2013, the second exhibition in a series of five in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Chemould Prescott Gallery.

K. Madhusudhanan, History is a Silent Film, 2007, Sinle projection with sound, Variable dimension

K. Madhusudhanan, History is a Silent Film, 2007, Sinle projection with sound, Variable dimension. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/k_madhusudan_copy1.jpg

London: September 2013 – April 2014 has and will be an exciting time at Chemould Prescott Gallery, Mumbai. Curating five exhibitions during this time frame, Geeta Kapur depicts an extremely evolved contemporary Indian art scene with Citizen – Artist (Oct.14th – Nov. 15th 2013), mirroring the growth and expansion of Chemould Prescott as a gallery.  The first exhibition in the series, Subject of Death, was in remembrance of Bhuppen Kakkar, the groundbreaking painter supported by Chemould at the beginning of his career, with this particular exhibition opening on his 10th death anniversary, as well as an ode to the late Kekoo Gandhy, founder of Chemould Prescott in 1963.  The second – Citizen Artist deals with notions and definitions of citizenship, nations and borders, the exhibition features works by Inder Salim, K. Madhusudhanan, Tushar Joag, CAMP, Gigi Scaria, Ram Rahman, Shilpa Gupta, Rashid Rana, Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, Raqs Media Collective, Gauri Gill and Arunkumar HG.

Each work is deeply engaged with the implications of citizenship in a contemporary globalised world.  For instance, in Shilpa Gupta’s 1278 unmarked, 28 hours by foot via National Highway No1, East of the Line of Control 2013, she places a graveyard in the middle of the gallery, and creates an index of people who are considered martyrs by their families, but are buried namelessly, questioning the ethics (or lack thereof) of citizenship in Kashmir.

Shilpa Gupta 2013 1278 unmarked, 28 hours by foot via National Highway No1, East of the Line of Control

Shilpa Gupta 2013 1278 unmarked, 28 hours by foot via National Highway No1, East of the Line of Control. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/shilpa_gupta_5_copy3.jpg

Circadian Rhyme, 2 & 3 (2012-2013), by Jitish Kallat involves miniature crafted-figures staged in a line on a ledge, to depict scenes from everyday travels such as airport security checks, immigration queues etc.  In detail, one figure is performing a security ‘pat down’ on another, seemingly commenting on the increase in accessibility of global travel, but the costs and troubles of crossing borders that go with it.  The greater accessibility is increasing the crowds, risks, and precautionary measures.

 

Jitish Kallat Circadian Rhyme, 2 & 3, 2012-2013 24 figures  (resin, paint, aluminium and steel) 50 x 180 x 15 in.

Jitish Kallat Circadian Rhyme, 2 & 3, 2012-2013 24 figures
(resin, paint, aluminium and steel) 50 x 180 x 15 in. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/jitish_kallat_3_copy1.jpg

Rashid Rana’s Crowd is thematically similar, and is composed of three photo prints on wallpaper involving digitally spliced and manipulated images.  An intense reproduction a mixed population people is projected onto the wallpaper focusing on the loss of identity and individuality in very populous.

Installation of Rashid Rana's Crowd (2013) in Chemould Prescott Gallery, Offset print on wallpaper

Installation of Rashid Rana’s Crowd (2013) in Chemould Prescott Gallery, Offset print on wallpaper. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/exhibitions-works/citizen-artist-2013/rashid-rana-50-years-chemould.html

Raqs Media Collective’s animated video projection loop, The Untold Intimacy of Digits (UID) (2011), is an image of the handprint of a 19th century Bengali peasant, Raj Konai, which was taken by British colonial officials in 1858, and then sent to Britain.  Fingerprinting technologies were developed from experiments based on this image.  The Unique Identification Database (UID – same as the title) is a new project initiated by the Indian government in attempts to properly account for, and index its’ population.  This work poses an interesting juxtaposition of India’s colonial past and current day attempts to account for citizens.

Raqs Media Collective, UID Installation View

Raqs Media Collective, UID Installation View. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/raqs_1_copy1.jpg

 

Raqs Media Collective, The Untold Intimacy of Digits (UID). Projection, video loop (1”), 2011,

Raqs Media Collective, The Untold Intimacy of Digits (UID). Projection, video loop (1”), 2011. Image Credit: http://www.gallerychemould.com/uploads/exhibitions/raqs_2_copy1.jpg

These are a few amongst many other multi medium and media works that dwell on various aspects of citizenship and certainly don’t seem to be in an aesthetic bind.  The third and next installment in the Aesthetic Bind series to look out for is Phantomata (Nov. 29, 2013 – Jan 03, 2014) participating artists include: Tallur L N, Susanta Mandal Sonia Khurana, Nikhil Chopra, Tushar Joag, Pushpamala N, Baiju Parthan, and Pratul Dash.  For more information visit about the exhibitions visit Chemould Prescott Gallery website.

Frieze London 2013

Ambika Rajgopal of Saffronart looks at the 2013 edition of Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters.

London: With the onset of the British winter, as the trees of Regent’s Park shed their foliage to assume a structural minimalism, another edition of Frieze draws to a close. Running in its eleventh year, Frieze Art Fair is a conglomerate of art, artists, curators, galleries, collectors, dealers and critics who have a common affinity for art of the contemporary sort. Its younger sister fair, Frieze Masters, now in its second year is just as grand and deals with ancient to modern art.

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

Frieze Art Fair exterior, 2013. Image Credit: http://www.londonbb.com/frieze-art-fair-london/

I was fortunate enough to attend Frieze both in 2012 as well as in 2013 and the change within the two years was quite apparent. This year Frieze Art Fair condensed their number of exhibitors from 175 to 150, a move that reinforces Frieze’s emphasis on quality over quantity. Additionally the architectural design was also opened up to reveal a new entrance, floor, a revised gallery grid and a mezzanine café area, rather than the claustrophobic labyrinth of corridors from previous years.

This year the participation of South Asian galleries was lesser than last year, even though South Asian artists were well represented by international galleries. Project 88, the only Indian gallery to participate, has been at the helm of promoting cutting edge contemporary art in Bombay, India. This year Project 88 featured the works of Neha Choksi, Raqs Media Collective, Rohini Devasher, Sarnath Banerjee, Somnath Hore and The Otolith Group.

Choksi, now a regular name in the Frieze line up, concerns herself with the search for various forms of absences. She approaches and represents this absence by appealing to the presence of forms. In Houseplant and Sun Quotation, Choksi correlated the mechanized process of photography to the living process of the plant, both processes necessitated by the presence of light. She placed plants near paper that has been photo chemically treated with palladium salts, so as to expose the non-shadow part of the paper. The resultant effect was that the absence of the plant on the palladium paper was represented through a negative presence of the shadow form. The Burst series featured two ceramic sculptural forms or anti forms, if you will, that adopted absence and suspension in order to initiate her ideas of solitariness and expiry.

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

Forthcoming Titles, 2012, Raqs Media Collective. Image Credit: http://www.project88.in/individual-work.php?artfair=ARFR0020&workid=9

In Forthcoming Titles through referential comparison between influential authors in the canon of Marxism, Raqs Media Collective’s carefully displayed wall mounted library managed to resonate a faux seriousness only to be broken by the anagrammed names of the authors. Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist revolutionary and a figure who has actively influenced Raqs own collective consciousness, became Luxme Sorabgur.

Sarnath Banerjee’s new series of drawings was replete with the caricatural humour that Banerjee is synonymous with. He made light of contemporary Indian society through symbolic representations and diagrammatic visual depictions.

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Trotskyites Anonymous, 2013, Sarnath Banerjee. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5393/3942

Rohini Devasher’s paper work involved prints of satellite images of the Indian Astronomical Observatory and the surrounding landscape at Hanle, Ladakh, superimposed with drawings. Her project was an investigation of these mythic terrains where fiction blurs the boundaries of what is real and imagined. It was a process of converting the familiarity of geography into one of strange hybridization. The other artists on display at Project 88 were Somnath Hore and the Otolith Group with their newest video essay People to be Resembling.

Dubai based Grey Noise featured the works of Pakistani artist Mehreen Murtaza. Murtaza’s stylistic visual narrative consists of an amalgam of Sufi cultural imagery along with the futurism of science fiction. This odd juxtaposition enables science to question and reexamine religion, myth and superstition. While adopting the critical point of view of Western rationalism, Murtaza does not stray away from the Islamic historical heritage and thus her work operates in a realm where mystical ideas of spirituality synchronize with scientific theories.

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

Solstice, 2013, Mehreen Murtaza. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5498/3637

In Transmission From A Missing Satellite, Murtaza payed homage to Dr Abdus Salam, a Pakistani theoretical physicist, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Though Salam’s contribution to the field of science was remarkable, the memory of the man is tainted by prejudice due to his minority Ahmadi background. The work presented an assemblage of clues such as loose letters, telegrams and even a floating stone reminiscent of the Floating Stone of Jerusalem at the Dome of Rock. Through these artifacts Murtaza used artistic approaches to visualize the adventures in quantum immortality.

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

I was you, 2013, Aisha Khalid. Image Credit: http://friezelondon.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5424/4225

The other South Asian artists on display were Imran Qureshi and Aisha Khalid at the London based gallery Corvi Mora. Dayanita Singh also displayed her work at Frith Street Gallery. Singh also has a solo show Go Away Closer on display at the Haywards Gallery, Southbank Center till the 15th of December 2013.

In the other side of the park at Frieze Masters, the environment was quieter and less frenetic than it is in Frieze Art Fair. Whilst the older contemporary fair attracted a fair share of curious onlookers who come to marvel at the trends in contemporary art, Frieze Masters took on a more discerning vibe. The lighting was softer, public area was carpeted and the artworks were more traditional.

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Untitled (Landscape), 1965, F. N. Souza. Image Credit: http://grosvenorgallery.com/art-fairs/current-art-fairs/frieze-masters/

Grosvenor Gallery’s debut at the Frieze Masters featured a selection of Black on Black Paintings by Francis Newton Souza. This appearance at Frieze coincided with their current exhibition, F.N Souza: Black on Black Paintings on view till 28th October. The exhibition follow the legacy of Souza’s 1966 show Black Art and Other Paintings at Grosvenor Gallery where he presented a series of monochromatic works rendered in thick black impasto oil. Even though the inspiration for Souza’s stylistic turn toward such a dark somber palette is disputed, these works bear reflection to Souza’s state of mind in the 60s.

Difficult and demanding, Souza’s black series is not easy on the eye, but of course that was exactly Souza’s intention. As Toby Treves pointed out, Souza claimed that the visual intensity of his paintings was meant to be a jarring reminder about the visceral consciousness of life. In order for the work to reveal itself, a few moments are required in front of each work. The interplay between the light and the textured brushstrokes, caught by the eye only at a certain angle uncovers a world of forms, textures and worlds inside each canvas.

From the somber monochromes of Souza to the resplendent gleam of the Indian miniature works at Francesca Galloway, Frieze was a complete affair in itself. In conjunction with the fair itself, a host of galleries, museums and artistic institutions opened their doors to patrons by organizing lectures, panel discussions, performances and art projects.

A Scene in a Heaven, Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

A Scene in a Heaven,
Anonymous. Image Credit: http://friezemasters.com/exhibitors/exhibit/5608/4287

My favourite part of Frieze London was actually the Sculpture Park. While most of the public and media attention goes onto the two sister fairs, the Sculpture Park is often the portion of the fair, which has so much to offer. It also provides a nice escape to the bustling fanfare of the tented Frieze Art Fair.  Amidst the rolling greens of Regent’s park’s sculpture half of the fair was Amar Kanwar’s Listening Bench #4 (2013), a part of his The Sovereign Forest exhibition, currently on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The benches offered visitors a place of quietude and contemplation after the influx of so much sensory stimuli.

Raqs Media Collective debuts “Extra Time” in Shanghai

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a note about New Delhi’s Raqs Media Collective at The Chrouns Art Center. 

Extra Time by Raqs Media Collective

Extra Time by Raqs Media Collective

New York: The Chrouns Art Center in Shanghai will be featuring works by Raqs Media Collective for their inaugural show. “Extra Time” by the New Delhi based artist group will feature their wide ranges of medium and modes of expression. Raqs Media Collective often works in a variety of techniques including performance, large-scale installations, architecture, video and photo. “Extra Time” proves to be a hugely multimedia oriented body of work. They not only engage these different mediums but also transform them to create statements about time and trigger conversations as an audience.

Extra Time by Raqs Media Collective

Extra Time by Raqs Media Collective

In the work time is both the focal point of Raqs Media Collective’s piece and utilized as an active medium. By playing with duration, repetition, intervals and other aspects of time in their performances, the artists are engaging the audience in an active exploration of time. The artists examine how creative production is evolving in our current fast paced world and how time as an entity is changing for artists and audiences alike.

Extra Time by Raqs Media Collective

Extra Time by Raqs Media Collective

Most recently Raqs Media Collective has been in residency in Shanghai as well as engaged in collaboration with Westheavens, a cross-cultural  program between China and India. However, this will be their first solo exhibition. This in-depth and creative exploration of time is sure to be a success for Raqs Media Collective and the The Chrouns Art Center. “Extra Time” will be running August 23rd through November 17th.

To learn more about the Chrouns Art Center please click here.

To learn more about Westheavens in collaboration with Raqs Media Collective please click here. 

Symposium on dOCUMENTA (13), Sharjah and Kochi-Muziris Biennales at SAA-JNU

Manjari Sihare shares details of a symposium on dOCUMENTA (13) and the Sharjah and Kochi-Muziris Biennales hosted by the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU and the Goethe Institute, Delhi

New Delhi: The School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA), JNU, and the Goethe Institut are hosting a day-long symposium exploring key issues in international art exhibitions from the recent past on Friday, April, 19, 2013.

The symposium has been conceptualized by Geeta Kapur and focuses on dOCUMENTA (13) (June – September 2012).  Speakers are invited to address the curatorial concept of this edition. And to address, as well, a peculiar call on dOCUMENTA curators to offer, in the very form of the exhibition, a virtual world-view.

In the second part of the symposium, there will be a discussion on Biennales that are placed within more precarious circumstances. The risks and gains of working with a meager infrastructure, social taboos, uncharted aesthetics, will be brought forward. A substantial debate on the newest, most proximate Kochi-Muziris Biennale (December 2012 – March 2013) is expected. Participants will be invited to discuss, for instance, how this Biennale offered ‘site imaginaries’ in lieu of a predetermined concept; and an exhibitory poetics largely activated by participating artists. Also the role of the State (with reference to India) in supporting large-scale, audience-friendly and ground-breaking exhibition projects such as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale will be put up for scrutiny.

Friday, April 19 2013, 11.00 am – 5.30 pm
Auditorium, School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Session I (11 am to 1 pm)
Chair: Kavita Singh: Introduction and Sum-up

Vision Documenta
Referring to earlier editions, but focusing on dOCUMENTA (13) (June – September 2012), speakers are invited to address the curatorial concept of this edition; and to address, as well, a peculiar call on dOCUMENTA curators to offer, in the very form of the exhibition, a virtual world-view.

• Geeta Kapur: dOCUMENTA aesthetics in the 21st century
• Vidya Shivdas: Brief introduction to the dOCUMENTA project
• Panel: Jeebesh Bagchi, Sonia Khurana, Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Session II (1.45 pm to 3.15 pm)
Chair: Pooja Sood: Introduction and Sum-up

Ideological Readings: from Documenta to Sharjah
A reflection on Biennales placed within newer, more precarious circumstances; the risks and gains of working through untested locations, meager infrastructures, social taboos, uncharted aesthetics.

• Amar Kanwar
• CAMP
• Ravi Agarwal

Session III (3.30 pm to 5.30 pm)
Chair: Geeta Kapur

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012-2013
More than a ‘debate’ or even a measure of success and failure, understanding the conditions of production of the newest, most proximate Kochi-Muziris Biennale (December 2012 – March 2013) is important. Once staged, what are the meanings that accrue from the democratic mix of international and local viewers; with diverse spectatorship, is there a better case for state support of contemporary art? Can publics in relation to large-scale, ground-breaking projects (such as this), incite the art community into a discursive engagement with avantgarde art as a form of contextual combustion?

• Riyas Komu: ‘Against All Odds’; a presentation on the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (with visual documentation)
• Panel: Vivan Sundaram, Sheela Gowda, Subodh Gupta, Gayatri Sinha, Sheba Chhachhi
• Summing Up: Parul Dave Mukherji

For further details please contact: programm2@delhi.goethe.org

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