An Aesthetic Interview with the Founders of Raqs Media Collective (RMC)

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Raqs Media Collective (RMC) was founded in 1992 by Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Monica Narula who are intense artists, curators, researchers, editors, media practitioners, and philosophical agent provocateurs. The multi-talented team of Raqs Media Collective create arts and films, curate exhibitions, and stage events, edit books, align with computer programmers, architects, theatre directors, and writers, and discover processes that have made deep impacts on contemporary Indian culture.

Raqs Media Collective (RMC) has been well recognized and appreciated for its distinctive work and creations nationally and internationally. Their exhibited work has gained admiration in Documenta 11 and the Biennales of Venice, Istanbul, Taipei, Liverpool, Sydney, and Sao Paulo. RMC is regarded as the most dynamic international contemporary art collective. It has been an ebullient moment to interview the virtuoso(s), the excerpts for which have been given below.

1) What motivates you of creating unique masterpieces? Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Our focus is on orienting ourselves to a varied sense of time. About how we experience duration, the past, the present, and the future. We are acutely sensitive to our surroundings, and receive all kinds of signals, which we process, modify and transmit. Our biggest artistic influence relates to everyday life. We have often considered the turbulence of the city, wherein challenges to sovereign power are nurtured on an almost daily basis.

For instance, our recent work, The Laughter of Tears reflected on how satire and humor confront authority, in a way that moved between past and present, and different histories, including natural histories.  

2) Which area of art are you interested in? Is there any other area you would like to discover?

The freedom that contemporary art proffers is quite expansive. It does not privilege any one medium or form. We create all types of work – be it moving images, text-image assemblages, sculptures, or digital objects. Recently, we have been thinking and doing research on Artificial Intelligence – and we are considering how that thinking might express itself in our artistic work.

3) What is the significance of creativity in your life?

Creativity is the engine of our art practice, and of any art practice. Collectively, all three of us actively communicate, understand each other perspectives and give due regard to our curiosities. Friendship, creativity, and curiosity are the bridges that connect us to each other and to our work.

Robot Dog Credits Umang Bhattacharyya
Robot Dog Credits Umang Bhattacharyya

4) How do you interpret the meaning of your artwork? Is it spontaneous or deeply dived?

We put a lot of energy while researching, so you can say that there is a lot of ‘deep diving’. For instance, for our film, Deep Breath, we actually shot underwater with deep sea divers in the Aegean Sea, but that decision arose from a lot of research that connected a submarine archaeological excavation with contemporary processes in Athens.

The decision to work with divers was more or less ’spontaneous’ but it emerged out of a long-duration engagement with the rhythm of different times.  So, yes, you can say that there is room for both spontaneity and depth in our work.

5) What techniques do you use? Is there any specific environment or material that is fundamental for your work?

We use everything from sound to architecture to software to video to textiles. We also use ideas, languages (whether said or unsaid), words, and the shape of alphabets. Our work is flexible. It adapts to different environments, contexts, and ambiances.

6) Do you think that creativity enhances one’s mentality and personality?

Of course, it does! Creativity is vital in our society and culture. It keeps alive the possibility of thinking ‘outside the box’, it renews the resources of our imagination, encourages self-expression, and stimulates novel ideas.

Pamphilos with Deep Breath Credits Georges Salameh
Pamphilos with Deep Breath Credits Georges Salameh

7) How can art be significant to society?

Art makes it possible for us to think about fundamental things in non-stereotypical ways. Like how we experience time, and what we do with time. It can make us question how and why we value things.  It can extend our horizons of time and space. Art enriches our experiences and can serve as an indispensable medium for communication.

8) Which personality trait do you have that has helped you in expressing yourself through your art?

The key personality trait of our collective is an igniting combination of uniqueness; passion for qualitative thinking; deep analytical, emotive, and observational skills; and willingness to reflect on time and evolution.

9) What’s the most essential advice you possess with regards to your creative techniques?

The wise advice that was bestowed to us was to work with the idea of imperfection.  No artwork is ever finished, by this, we imply that everyone opens avenues for further refurbishment, modulation, and redecoration. Henceforth, the work of making art is limitless.

10) What message do you have for the budding artists who are trying to express themselves through their artwork?

You must never lose hope and most importantly, be patient with yourself, and with this time. Please don’t get too obsessed with the commercial success. The time spent in anonymity is not invaluable. From our end, we are always encouraging young artists to create structures of solidarity and connect with each other, as this will channel their thinking into a unique and undiscovered spectrum.


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