Founded the same year as the Vera List Center for Art and Politics but halfway across the globe, the Raqs Media Collective has sustained a practice in media, contemporary art, and curation since 1992. In these three decades, time and a sense of endurance have been their constant companions and interlocutors. How does an art practice communicate with time, and to their time, while being situated in time, however changing and inconstant as it may be?In the past thirty years, we have witnessed the world of contemporary art achieve what Okwui Enwezor termed a “will to globality”—an aspiration quite distinct from “globalization”—transcending, momentarily, eurocentric and transatlantic narcissism to embrace contemporaneity from the Global South. How might this movement be sustained, in the face of what seems to be a tendency to retreat into a new insularity of localism, especially in the wake of the ongoing pandemic and concerns about climate change?
How do we make sure that our cultural and artistic practices don’t end up overcompensating for the challenges we face? How do we face the rising tide of twenty-first century authoritarianism and new anxieties propelled by right wing populism across the planet?
Raqs are sensitive to the way in which the constancy of practice requires its own acts of mending, of correction, of changing course. It is this sense of how contemporary art can respond to time, and to the vicissitudes of our time, now, in the world, that Sengupta speaks to, in this illustrated 30th Anniversary Keynote Lecture.
Raqs Media Collective was formed in 1992 by Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. The word “raqs” in several languages denotes an intensification of awareness and presence attained by whirling, turning, and being in a state of revolution. Raqs Media Collective takes this sense to mean “kinetic contemplation,” and a restless entanglement with the world, and with time.
Shuddhabrata Sengupta is an artist, writer, and curator with the Raqs Media Collective, based in New Delhi. Raqs has exhibited widely, including at documenta and the Venice, Istanbul, Taipei, Liverpool, Shanghai, Sydney and São Paulo Biennales. They have had solo shows in museums in Boston, Brussels, Madrid, Delhi, Shanghai, London, New York, Toronto, Düsseldorf, Manchester, Doha, and Buenos Aires, among others.
Raqs curated Afterglow, Yokohama Triennale 2020; Why Not Ask Again, Shanghai Biennale 2016; Rest of Now, Manifesta 7 (Bolzano, 2008); Sarai Reader 09 (Gurgaon, 2012–13); and INSERT2014 (Delhi, 2014). Most recently, Hungry for Time was presented at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Berlin in October 2021.
Sengupta was the recipient of the Keith Haring Fellowship at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, in 2015. Apart from his work with Raqs, he contributes political and social commentary frequently to a number of magazines and portals, both in India and elsewhere.
The Vera List Center Forum 2022 is presented as part of the Center’s 2022–2024 Focus Theme Correction*. It is curated by Carin Kuoni and Eriola Pira and convened with the support of Tabor Banquer, Re’al Christian, Camila Palomino, Adrienne Umeh, Paria Ahmadi, Ash Moniz, and Tania Aparicio Morales.Labor of Love: Vera List Center for Art and Politics at 30 is presented at The New School as part of the Vera List Center Forum 2022: Correction*. With original documents drawn from The New School’s archives, the exhibition also presents the complete The Speeches Series by Bouchra Khalili, courtesy the artist and Mor-Charpentier.
The Vera List Center Forum 2022 and free admission to all events are made possible by major support from Jane Lombard and the Kettering Fund, as well as The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Boris Lurie Art Foundation, Dayton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, Pryor Cashman LLP, The New School as well as members of the Vera List Center Board and other individuals.
The Vera List Center Forum 2022 will be livestreamed.