The Whitworth opens their main gallery up to RAQs Media Collective – self defined curators, editors and catalysts of cultural processes.
A new central exhibit to the New North and South — a programme of South Asian art across Manchester — has been revealed. Raqs Media Collective: Twilight Language is the latest unveiled response to be found in the Whitworth.
As part of the programmes incentive to bring artists from South Asia into the Northern cultural hubs of England, the Raqs Media Collective present their first major UK exhibition despite being largely recognised in South Asia – previously taking on the role of Chief Curators at the 11th Shanghai Biennale.
Fascinated with ‘plenitude’ ― the condition of being full or complete – and ‘temporality’ ― the state of existing within or having some relationship with time – the collective confront the ambiguity of identity and the increasing anxiety of our modern world.
One could easily be mistaken that a room full of sterile, man-made objects would only isolate you further, but there is something strangely comforting and human within the futuristic set up of Raqs. latest exhibition -perhaps rooted in the ability to understand the self through the contemporary mediums we have grown so used to using.
Upon entering the exhibition you leave the well-lit warmth of the Whitworth Hall and descend into the main exhibition space; whilst bypassing a sign stating ‘lost in the search of time’, you are literally plunged into ‘twilight’.
Lighting plays a big factor in the exhibition, allowing the main pieces such as the lighthouse semaphore, and various projections, to punctuate the space. The repetition of the searchlight every few moments allows one to disappear within the space of the room.
With a chance to speak to one of the collective — Jeebesh Bagchi — at the preview, he explained how the centrality of the lighthouse structure pulled all the rhythms of the gallery together – creating a cycle which unifies the disparate works. An emblem for an intervention in nature.
Accompanied by the high-pitched noises, created to mark the passage of time, the pace of the exhibition becomes very slow and meditative – almost like how it would feel if you were plunged to the bottom of the sea. You too disappear for a moment, in order to observe multiple manifestations and representations of the self.
Transcending social and geographical boundaries, Raqs’ series of clocks that arch across the walls of the main gallery mark the different time zones across the world. Yet there are instances, such as four o’clock merely being replaced with “anxiety”, that instead assert a common self-awareness of all our own shared insecurities – and thus serves to at once construct, and deconstruct our perception of time.
For me, the most genuinely human of the works remains When the Scales Fall from your Eyes (2009). This piece is constructed from a hollow, water-like glass torso, which is being weighed down by measuring scales and tags that are constructed as the head. Due to the fragility of the torso, the pure density of the head of this form becomes more apparent – perhaps placing emphasis on the density of thought, conscious, and the mind.
It is clear to see throughout the exhibition, a repeated separation of the head, mind, and thoughts from the body continued in pieces such as Divers at Work (2017), Homo Speculos (2017) and Hearing and Understanding (2005).
In collaboration with ‘custodians of Manchester’s histories’, Raqs Media Collective have succeeded in producing conceptual and contemporary works which are rooted in eras geology, biology and industry – proving ‘time’ to be a fluid and elusive matter.
Raqs Media Collective are exhibiting Twilight Language at the Whitworth from the 30th of September 2017 to the 25th of February 2018.