New web work by Raqs Media Collective is a futuristic glossary.
Art Radar takes a look at the new online work by Raqs Media Collective. Entitled Passwords for Time Travel, it will be operating on the Remai Modern website until 31 July 2017.
Online works, made visible through institutional websites, are becoming increasingly the norm. The modes of online intervention vary widely in complexity – from the standard blog posts written by invited artists and curators for such institutions as L’internacionale or Jeu de Paume to more experimental works engaging more directly with the political and aesthetic problematics of the digital, such as Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Serpentine Gallery or Remai Modern’s web commissions programme. It is the latter of the institutions who has invited Raqs Media Collective, a new media arts platform founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, to make an online work.
Occupying Remai Modern’s website throughout the month of July 2017, the work is entitled Passwords for Time Travel and consists of a selection of text and image videos, each containing a term. The words all sound familiar yet have been modified to form nonsensical new terms – “Optimistery”, “Nostalgae”, Xeroxen”, “Zombiscuit”. One reads “Qualiatomic” as its definition scrolls up through the video:
the subtle level of distinction that makes it possible to discern an indivisible unit or atom of a feeling or quali – such that one gets a qualiatom of joy or misery […].
Behind the words, whose letters tumble down the screen to land in the centre of the video like rain falling, are various low resolution images of landscapes whose pixels often flicker in and out of focus: a seascape, a fenced off area, the stairwell of a glassy skyscraper, an orange and golden sunset on loop, a series of house numbers and street names culled from Google Maps. It is a beguiling work, whose proposal for a kind of dictionary of future meaning is convincing. Raqs Media Collective use the curious visual and textual combinations that are characteristic of their new media art practice. In Passwords for Time Travel they explore and map the tensions between linguistic innovation and established meaning, categorised knowledge and emergent learning, testing the water between past, present and future knowledge forms.
Passwords for Time Travel is a development of another Raqs Media Collective work, presented as part of their participation in an exhibition curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Asad Raza at the Villa Empain in Brussels until 27 August 2017. Entitled “Mondialité”, it is an exhibition that departs from the work of Martinican writer Edouard Glissant, particularly his work surrounding oral memory and opacity, which the curators read as “a call for a global dialogue that does not erase local cultures”.
For this exhibition Raqs Media Collective made the work Presentomorrow (2017), an installation that uses elements from the current web work for Remai Modern, but is also displayed with an installation of still images. Writing about the work on their website, the collective state:
In the grip of a presentomorrow feeling, when so much can be anticipated, and so little foreclosed, a new creole of possibilities finds its publicly abbreviated lexicon – an archipelago of words waiting to be said. A female feline chimera keeps watch and a pair of overground deep sea drivers stand-by. Islands assume islands.
Of their web intervention, curator and Executive Director of Remai Modern Gregory Burke, commented:
The members of Raqs Media Collective have an expansive practice, not only as artists but as thinkers, organizers, and curators—most recently of the 2016 Shanghai Biennial. What makes them so compelling is a sense of rapid, future-oriented ingenuity, which they have described as ‘kinetic contemplation.’ Their work has a palpable energy and curiosity around new forms and experiences, shaped by technology and globalization.
Director of Programs & Chief Curator, Sandra Guimarães, added:
The Raqs Media Collective project challenges visitors’ expectations through the invention of new words to describe very particular features of the life of our time. The ability to see beyond ourselves depends upon those incursions of the imagination that demand a leap into the unexpected.
Through its combination of materials – the pixelated landscapes, the curious words, the dictionary format – the work successfully brings together a sense of ritualistic recital with the categorising modes of encyclopedic knowledge, a tactic that seems designed to encourage and rehearse the imagining of alternative languages and, somewhere between the past and the futute, other modes of being.
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