Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Stuart Hall Library Reading Group discussion post 8 December 2011

Thanks to everyone who attended this month's reading group. A recording of the discussion will soon be available via the library website. You can also listen to recordings of our previous reading group sessions.

We discussed Raqs Media Collective's ‘X notes on practice: stubborn structures and insistent seepage in a networked world’, from Seepage (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010) pp.101-116.

‘The Raqs Media Collective was founded in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. Raqs Media Collective make contemporary art, have made films, curated exhibitions, edited books, staged events, collaborated with architects, computer programmers, writers and theatre directors. The Collective are based in Delhi, New India. Raqs remains closely involved with the Sarai program at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, an initiative they co-founded in 2000’.

This text was chosen not because it presents new or original ideas, but because it offers a reminder to be aware of our own work and practices, of the ‘connectedness’ of the worlds we inhabit. It also favours agency and action – the current occupy movement is a good example of what the Collective are discussing.

In the text, the The Collective identifies and describes ‘five marginal figures’ to inform and inspire their practice:
‘The Alien navigates a boat at sea’
‘The squatter builds a tarpaulin shelter’
‘The electronic pirate burns a CD’
‘The Hacker network liberates software’
‘Workers protect machines in an occupied factory’

They summise, p.109 ‘She [the cultural worker] would need to take a lesson in breaking borders…from the migrant, in standing her ground and staying located from the squatter, in placing herself as a link in an agile network of production…from the pirate, in sharing knowledge and enlarging a commons of ideas from the hacker, and in continuing to be autonomously productive from the workers occupying the factory’.

It could be argued that this is a ‘manifesto of idealism’, full of possibilities, and its positivity is inspiring. However, in what ways can these acts translate into everyday actions by the artist or cultural worker operating within an institution/organisation? How feasible is it to expect or gain autonomy in such an environment?

Do the figures provide an alternative way of thinking about globalisation, as the Collective suggest?

The group was unanimous in its enjoyment of the text. The concepts articulated were open enough to be applied not just to artists. Its imaginative yet clear prose style was appreciated. The discussion turned quite quickly to everyday experience of 'connectedness' and the way in which it effects/affects our lives.

The whole text of Seepage is available online at:

This will be our last meeting until the Spring/Summer. During the break we welcome feedback about the group. Please contact us at

Happy holidays!

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