London's Cosmic House has always been a captivating space for artistic exploration. Since April this year, it has played host to the riveting exhibition 1980 in Parallax by the New Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective, commissioned by the Jencks Foundation. With a multidisciplinary approach that merges contemporary art, historical inquiry, and philosophical speculation, Raqs Media Collective delves into the intricacies of time, memory, and perception. At the epicenter of this exhibition lies the experimental short film The Bicyclist Who Fell into a Time Cone (2023), which serves as a visual and conceptual anchor, inviting viewers on a profound cinematic journey, oscillating between fact and fiction.
The concept of parallax, denoting the changing perception of objects based on the viewer's movement and position, sets the stage for this artistic exploration. The Bicyclist Who Fell into a Time Cone unravels the essence of 1980 — a crepuscular period marked by thresholds and transience. Within this enigmatic time frame, a vivid memory emerges — a bicyclist seated, gripping the handlebars, witnessing an airplane spiralling down from the Delhi sky, a symbolic moment that encapsulates a shift in time, a spiral movement, and a significant pause amidst the chaos and upheaval of the era.
Shot in the hinterland of New Delhi, Raqs Media Collective captures the wild and transitional spaces situated between and at the edges of other locations. By nesting, embedding, and juxtaposing contemporary footage with found archival images, including those sourced from renowned American architect and cultural theorist, Charles Jencks' travels in 1980s India, the collective achieves a mesmerizing fusion of visual textures. It taps into the cultural fabric of the nation offering an intriguing dialogue between the present and the past. This interplay between personal and collective memory invites viewers to reflect upon the socio-political landscape of 1980, a year that left an indelible mark on the Indian consciousness. Temporal and geographical zooms, shifts, and overlays propel viewers into an explorative and meditative realm, inviting them to witness the cyclic journey of the film's bicyclist protagonist.
Raqs Media Collective, comprising Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, epitomizes the notion of 'kinetic contemplation'—an energetic engagement with the world and time. Their artistic prowess extends beyond the boundaries of traditional mediums, encompassing installation, sculpture, video, performance, text, lexica, and curation. With an impressive international presence, the collective has exhibited at renowned events including Documenta, the Venice Biennale, and the Shanghai Biennale. Their distinct style resonates deeply with Indian audiences, weaving together art, philosophy, and historical inquiry.
The exhibition serves as a catalyst for a broader research theme initiated by the Jencks Foundation. it involves remapping the year 1980, looking back, once again, in order to look forward and reexamine the Post-Modern canon from the critical distance of 43 years and from parallax views. This exhibition is an embodiment of the foundation's intellectual project, presenting a historical archive within a modern-day institution. Through seminars, commissions, and salons, the foundation aims to foster dialogue and critical examination of the complex interplay between past and present, challenging conventional narratives and encouraging fresh perspectives. The exhibition is on view till December 29, 2023, and if you’re in the city of London, be sure to visit.
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Watch the trailer of The Bicyclist Who Fell into a Time Cone below:
Follow Raqs Media Collective here.