Raqs is a word in Persian, Arabic and Urdu for the hypnotic state that whirling dervishes enter when they whirl but it may also be read as an acronym for Rarely Asked Questions.
Founded in 1992 in Delhi by artists and independent media practitioners Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, the Raqs Media Collective addresses and challenges hardened constructs regarding temporality, collective intelligence and language through a practice of “kinetic contemplation” anchored on different modalities of thinking.
The collective’s output places them at the intersections of contemporary art, philosophical speculation and “concrete” research — and it often takes the form of exhibitions, installations, books, films, encounters, essays and online projects. There is neither a clear succession nor distinction between theory and practice or action and reflection in Raqs’ work process. As in much of their practice, categories collapse.
In 2000, Raqs co-founded Sarai, an inter-disciplinary space at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, with other academics. A platform for research and discussion on urban space and contemporary realities, Sarai allowed the collective to set up media labs in different neighborhoods of the city and pursue hybrid contexts for creative work. Since its foundation, Sarai has supported independent fellowship programs, hosted conferences, workshops and performances and launched the Sarai Reader book series. It is still very much active today.
In this podcast Raqs Media Collective founder Monica Narula talks about raga, the technological body, public domain, the ineffability of time, the Mahabharata, politics of language, exhaustion, dilation and the legibility.
05:43 Explorations into time
13:53 Futurities and raga
17:01 A suicidal robot
21:48 The submarine horizon
26:36 Haunted by the future
30:11 The importance of dilation
37:22 Sarai: the ‘Cybermohalla’ project
45:07 Sarai reader series
48:24 Delhi and autodidacticism
51:43 Modalities of thinking
55:01 Working with language
56:36 Finding words for that which doesn’t exist
58:33 The play with punctuation
1:05:35 Mahabharata and the fluid contours of the everyday
1:16:12 Arguing for illegibility