Raqs Media Collective at the Gardner Museum, Boston
During their 2010 residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Raqs Media Collective experienced a private flashlight tour of the Museum galleries at night. This unique perspective inspired the artists and helped to inform some of their new work titled The Great Bare Mat & Constellation, on view through January 7, 2013 at the Gardner Museum.
The New Delhi artist trio, the Raqs Media Collective, (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta), created two distinct installations in the special exhibition galleries. The “Great Bare Mat & Constellation” refers to a carpet, a surface for the staging of conversations, displayed at the foot of The Vinegar Tasters, a two-part 17th century Japanese screen from the Museum’s Collection. The carpet’s repeated motif, woven by a group of expert Bulgarian weavers, indexes the constellation of the Ursa Major (The Great Bear) against a background drawing, that traces the exchanges between the three personal computers of the Raqs Media Collective and the world during one hour’s time. Raqs members view time as a measure of change and are interested in thinking about how our sense of time as human beings has accelerated, fragmented, and intensified in this century. The intense criss-crossing patterns of the carpet demonstrate the intricacy, complexity, and global quality of contemporary communication set against the ancient and leisurely nightly pass time of star gazing.
Pieranna Cavalchini, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Gardner Museum, said she views Raqs as responding to the collection as if they were mending the torn fabric of time. “In Art as in science today knowledge, and research are inseparable from ethics and ontology. The particular and the universal are in constant communication,” Cavalchini said. “ The work of the Raqs Media Collective is rooted in this way of looking at and being in the world. They pay attention to every passing second as if it were an infinity, and the heightened attention they bring to bear on what the collection contains invites us to reconsider how we look at art itself. It is wonderful as a curator to be able to bring this thinking and sensibility to the museum’s collection and to our audiences.”The second installation in the Special Exhibition Gallery is a silent, looped-digital projection that animates—through a series of subtle alterations—the many photographs and film stills the artists recorded while in residence at the Museum in 2010. The images of the projected video reflect onto an adjacent gallery wall, where a luminous array of shiny metal surfaces mirroring distinct narratives, create a conversation between images in the mind of the viewer similar to what can happen while walking through the galleries of the Museum at night. During their flashlight tour in 2010, the Raqs Media Collective were struck by how faces, bodies, mythical beasts, birds, and monsters seemed to float and hover in the twilight of the dark museum. The objects that appeared anchored to provenance and meaning by day came alive during in darkness recombining themselves in all sorts of unusual ways.
Through their experience as Artists-in-Residence, the members of the Raqs Media Collective explore the way in which the Gardner Museum treats time, accumulates images in the mind of the viewer, curates a special experience of intelligence, and creates encounters between art and music. The exhibition extends into a set of four ‘exchanges’ in Calderwood Hall each involving four speakers, with Raqs members as moderators. Each exchange reflects on a theme which the Raqs Media Collective has chosen as a response to their time spent within the Gardner Museum. The themes refer to a specific attribute or quality that the Raqs Media Collective found in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and are meant to be interpreted freely by the speakers.
at the Gardner Museum, Boston
until January 7, 2013
Top view – Equinox, 2012; Archetypes and Other Permissive Forms, 2012.
Bottom view – The Great Bare Mat, 2012; The Vinegar Tasters, Japan, Kano School, 17th Century, Collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Archetypes and Other Permissive Forms, 2012
Wool carpet, detail, 2012
Above – Video Stills, Raqs Media Collective, 2012