At Laumeier, New Delhi trio makes artistic statement inside and out

Raqs Media Collective

By Sarah Weinman

Considering all of the chaos in our world, this is an important time for Laumeier Sculpture Park to hold the exhibitions Art in the Age of Collective Intelligence and If the World is a Fair Place Then… by the Raqs Media Collective. Based in New Delhi, the Collective is made up of three artists, Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, who explore the concepts of fairness and unfairness through an indoor and outdoor exhibition. 

The indoor show, Art in the Age of Collective Intelligence, comprises rows of plain wooden tables which display books whose pages are featured in large-scale photographs on the wall. The artists selected the books and invite visitors to pick up and read them at their leisure. With regard to the photographs, the first in the series presents the statement “If the world is a fair place” placed on a page from a book titled Chinese Proverbs. The book is opened to a page with the saying “Pride goes before a fall.” Here, the concept of fairness seems to be juxtaposed with the reminder to remain humble. 

The rest of the photographs in the series include a “then” statement (an answer to the “If” statement) set on a page of a book in the exhibition. One example is the statement “then blue skies, turbulent seas, forgiven debts” overlaid on an upside-down page that says “The Coming Insurrection.”

Another example is “then everyone will have a chance to try everything” overlaid on a page showing a fantasy city floating among clouds and supported by huge balloons. The artists may imply that if imagination reigns, we can do anything we want, no matter how impossible it might seem.

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Lauren Kistner, Marketing and Communications Manager at Laumeier, explains,“While the Collective’s [placement] choices are all intentional, visitors can certainly draw their own conclusions about the relationships / juxtapositions among the [stainless steel bands around trees], images and books.”

Mirrors placed at various heights in the room are intended as “moments of quiet encounters…which give viewers a more truthful picture of how things are.”

The outdoor component, titled If the World is a Fair Place Then… features 40 stainless steel bands with cut-out “Then” statements that encircle tree trunks. This exhibit runs along Laumeier’s Art Hike Trail, just down the steps from the lower rear parking lot. 

These statements are found in Art in the Age of Collective Intelligence as well. They come from crowdsourced responses to “If the world is a fair place then…” which Laumeier publicized last year through a news release and a postcard mailing. The artists selected 40 responses to use in their shows. Kistner says, “The responses chosen reflect the diversity of the submissions—some are snarky or angry, while others are poignant. There are 40 outdoor tree bands, 40 indoor images and books—all of which relate back to each other.”

Art in the Age of Collective Intelligence and If the World is a Fair Place Then… are on view at Laumeier Sculpture Park through Feb. 14.  The gallery is located at 12580 Rott Rd., near Watson and I-44. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. until 30 minutes past sunset. For more information, call 314-615-5278 or visit laumeiersculpturepark.org.

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