The Photographers’ Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by New Delhi based Raqs Media Collective. The show will feature two distinct but related installation works: a video projection titled An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale (2011) and a sculptural piece entitled 36 Planes of Emotion (2011). With characteristically playful use of language and form, these contrasting works invite the viewer to explore themes concerned with the fluctuation of time, the transfer and transformation of ideas, and the relationships that exist between the said and the unsaid, the seen and the unseen.
An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale is a silent, looped video projection featuring a series of subtle alterations to an early 20th century photograph. The original archival image, held by the British Library, London, is titled Examining Room of the Duffing Section of the Photographic Department of the Survey of India. The photograph was taken in 1911 by the British photographer James Waterhouse and depicts the interior of a Surveyor’s office in Calcutta with workers earnestly absorbed in their tasks.
An Afternoon Unregistered on the Richter Scale refers to the traces of events that in their subtlety do not register. Raqs’ interventions within the photograph – a slight shift in colour, a gentle movement of hands, the slow spin of the fan – remain so delicate and elusive that they are almost unnoticeable. By manipulating the stillness of the image, Raqs set out to create a sense of uncertainty which ultimately defeats the accuracy of the original image and, by extension, the surveyor’s task of measuring and structuring.
36 Planes of Emotion features an ensemble of perspex shapes that mimic the size and weight of books, arranged on a desk and illuminated in the darkened gallery space with wall-mounted reading lights. The coloured shapes have titles etched into them, as if on the spines of a book, which describe emotional states as collective nouns verging on the ineffable. These include title such as: a clutch of uncertain embarrassments, a furtherance of future anticipations, a whisper of manic mirths and a fluster of surprised kisses. Both these works convey a similar sense of studious contemplation interrupted through subtle poetic intervention.
Raqs Media Collective said: Our thinking on things temporal occurs under the twin signs of interruption and potential. Interruptions interfere with the flow of how things are, potentials point to how they might yet be. Both these tendencies can be seen at work (and at play) in the works. An interruption un-freezes an archival photograph, and we extend states of potential through invented collective nouns. They name feelings we can only have when we consider a proliferation of ways of being. Either way, what gets triggered is an insurgency of latent possibilities too subtle to register on a Richter scale.