Of the current generation of Indian artists, the Raqs Media Collective from New Delhi (Jeebesh Bagchi
, 1965; Monica Narula
, 1969; Shuddhabrata Sengupta
, 1968) are amongst the best known and most widely exposed in the west—and certainly the most media conscious. Having started as documentary filmmakers, over the past twenty years they have evolved a sophisticated—and sometimes performative—practice that combines film, media, audio, and text, which draw upon philosophy and political theory, in installations of an unresolved poetics. As the artists say of their upcoming exhibition, “Raqs Media Collective delights in transposing the plenitude of the incalculable onto the fabric of the ordinary. By counting to infinity, sensing animation in stillness and speaking in the language of silence, Raqs will breathe numbers, figures, proverbs and stories into the galleries of the Art Gallery of York University.”
In this exhibition of new work the artists start with traces that are minimal but that contain great amplitude within them: such as the palm print of Raj Konai—the ancestral trace (from 1859) of the entire history of forensic identification—that hovers over the exhibition. Now animated, this image of a counting hand initiates a series of moves that the viewer her- or himself animates through the exhibition. At the same time, the viewer witnesses other evolutions in video projection where stillness itself slowly is animated.
The elements of the exhibition are in a surjective relationship to each other. “Surjection” is a mathematical concept devised by the Bourbaki Group, whereby the elements of one set are applied, transposed, or mapped onto those of another set.