Raqs Media Collective

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The Frith Street Gallery in London is currently showing the Raqs Media Collective exhibition, Escapement. The word ‘escapement’ refers to the mechanism of a clock that controls the counting of time. This appropriately titled new multimedia installation, like other work by the prolific Raqs Media Collective, engages with issues of globalization. As new technologies bring us closer together than ever before, circumventing the once isolating condition of geography, how do humans understand their place in the world? While Escapement does not fully answer such a broad and difficult question, it brings possibilities into the gallery space.

Escapement features twenty-seven, LED-lit clocks hung on the gallery walls with accompanying looped video and sound. The clocks, labelled from cities around the world, illustrate the immensity of the world’s latitudes and longitudes. Mimicking the effects of globalization, these geographies, as represented by the clocks, are condensed into the gallery setting. As Monica Narula, a member of the Raq Media Collective, notes, walking through the installation is like traveling the breadth of our globe. Each of the clocks feature emotions or states of being in lieu of numbers. Such descriptives as ‘duty’, ‘anxiety’, ‘ecstasy’ or ‘remorse’ are experiences common to the condition of mankind no matter the geographic location.

The clocks surround four centrally located flat screen monitors, which are placed around a column. The screens feature an expressionless, androgynous face that glides across the screen — in and out of the picture plane. Any of the range of emotions featured on the wall’s clocks or from one’s own experiences could be projected onto the neutral face. The accompanying sound features a heart beat, which Monica Narula notes in an interview with Frith Street Gallery, is one of the most fundamental ways of measuring time and existence. This heart beat is layered with artificial sounds of everyday life, including doorbells and printers. The common thread of these technologically produced sounds is that they serve to connect people.

The placement of the human image at the center of the room points to the reality that we may be the center of our own universe, but we are also just one in a world of billions. Escapement seems to suggest that our humanity transcends the technologies of globalization and that we can find peace with the world’s many changes through our commonalities and increasing interconnectedness.

The Raqs Media Collective was founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. They are based in New Delhi and are also members of the Sarai Reader series collective. The Raq Media Collective’s artwork and curating projects are shown internationally. They were recently featured in the group exhibitions Indian Highway at the Serpentine Gallery in London (2008) and A Question of Evidence at Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna (2008/2009). Their solo exhibition Lightbox will open at Tate Britain this September.

Escapement will be on view at the Frith Street Gallery through 30 September 2009.

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