Raqs Media Collective

(Monica Narula & Jeebesh Bagchi)

The Unwritten Library

Site-Specific Installation, 2014

Khalidi Library

How can one lay a claim on the future in those parts of the world where the past and the present can sometimes feel like a labyrinth, a prison and a battlefield? What would one have to learn and unlearn in order to make the future work in the face of an intransigent history? Raqs has always been interested in the way new ideas appear in fractious and difficult times. Sometimes this requires entirely new ways of thinking, along with an unlearning of the dead habits of the past.

 

The Unwritten Library is a work that speaks to bibliophilia, daydreams and intellectual debt. The treasures it invokes are always waiting to be read. What would be the principle behind a library of the unwritten word?

 

All it would admit to would be that while every book demands another, not all of them get written. 

 

The proposal

 

We have worked over the years on the idea of books that are simultaneously unwritten even as they are erasures of books already written.

 

Every book demands another, but not all of them get written. Every debt demands to be paid, but not all are redeemed. Then there are the debts that we owe to all that we read, which we can never really repay. In that sense we are all 'Namak-Harams', defaulters to the debt of purloined knowledge. Someday, a Hamlet will issue a stern reprimand, saying, 'There are more things on heaven and earth, Namak-Haram, than are dreamt of in your philosophy'. He will be reminding us of the things we owe, with interest.

 

Somewhere, there might exist a library dedicated to the philosophy of the Namak-Haram, stacked high with books filled with the unwritten word. What titles would one browse if one came across its stacks, folded into the course of a tiring day like a mirage in a desert? Can books be desired into existence by reciting the spells that are waiting to be read off the surfaces of their wished-for spines? The absent titles on the spines accumulate to form a backbone for thoughts that need articulation. This could be knowledge that still lies in waiting, or a store house of untried ideas. Before a thought finds the vehicle of words, it has to find its fuel in silence. No transports of knowledge are possible without stepping into the unknown. Which idea takes flight, which question arrives, or departs is what makes the waiting worth its while.

 

We want to expand this library of unwritten books to fill the Khalidi library.

Raqs Media Collective

 

Raqs Media Collective was founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta in New Delhi.

 

Raqs Media Collective enjoys playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as curators, sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs. They make contemporary art, have made films, curated exhibitions, edited books, staged events, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors and have founded processes that have left deep impacts on contemporary culture in India. Raqs (pron.rux) follows its self-declared imperative of 'kinetic contemplation' to produce a trajectory that is restless in terms of the forms and methods that it deploys even as it achieves a consistency of speculative procedures.

 

Raqs remains closely involved with the Sarai program at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (www.sarai.net), an initiative they co-founded in 2000.

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