Collective cool

A look at the art scene's leading collectives - continued

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Raqs Media Collective

artist collectives - Raqs Media Collective, installation

Founded in 1992 after its three members graduated from Communications studies at Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia university, Raqs has started to make a big impression on the international art scene.

The collective's practice is largely installation and film based, often displaying ambivalence towards modernity and its organising principles, both with regard to change in India itself and on a global basis.

Raq's work is frequently guaged to defy straightfoward interpretation, offering instead a poetic quality and multiplicity of meaning.

The installation A Dying Man Sings of That Which Felled Him is inspired by a "story from the Bhishma Canto of the Mahabharata ... configured to form a meditation on contemporary capitalism".

Iron rods embedded in concrete in the shape of a man recall both the buillding and destruction of cities, as well as Bhishma's death-bed of arrows. A chair invites visitors to reflect on the scene and view their own recorded image in the plasma screen.

Raqs Media Collective
images © Raqs Media Collective

Escapement (2009), features walls of clocks displaying time in London, Paris, New York and so on. In place of numbers, however, adjectives are displayed: in Sydney it's a quarter past ecstasy, while Beijing has just struck panic. Extreme emotions, rather than hours, describe the globalised world we live in.


Dear Raindrop

artist collectives - Dearraindrop

Founded in 2001 in Virginia, USA, the exuberantly colourful aesthetic of this five-person collective shares many similarities with the better-known Paper Rad, although artworks tend towards a more polished, less DIY feel.

Working in a wide range of media from animation, painting, drawing, collage, fabric and sculpture, the collective has exhibited extensively both in the States and abroad.


Etoy Corporation

contemporary art collectives - Etoy shares certificate
image © Etoy Corporation

A mission on the part of Etoy's founders "to take the resources, tools and legal framework of our time to create a corporate sculpture" led, in 1994, to the establishment of an unusual type of collective: a registered company with "no other purpose than cultural value".

Now owned by hundreds of shareholders including collectors and collaborators, Etoy's defining moment arose through an entirely unforeseen confrontation with a very different kind of corporation.

In 2000, the US e-commercial company eToys Inc made attempts to buy the rights to the Etoy domain name. When turned down, EToys launched a vicious lawsuit, citing "unfair competition, trademark delusion, security fraud, illegal stock market operation, pornographic content, offensive behaviour and terrorist activity" as grounds for terminating the collective's online activity.

Despite the fact that Etoy's domain name had been registered several years before the toy company's own, its site was temporarily suspended. In response, a call for support led to the so-called Toywar, a high profile media battle in which defenders (jncluding ČTMark, another collective well known for expertly staged online actions) launched numerous protest sites and blanketed the web with protest emails.

The conflict cost eToys dearly: it lost $4.5 billion dollars in market capitalization and backed down several weeks later, allowing the etoy website to return to usual operations.

Etoy's most recent project, Mission Eternity, bills itself as a "digital cult of the dead". Its aim is to create complex digital 'portraits' of selected 'Mission Eternity Pilots', "charismatic pioneers of the information age" whose data will be stored in Arcanum capsules and disseminated eternally through a peer-to peer system linking hundreds of networked computers and mobile devices.

The first of the project's 'test pilots' was Timothy Leary; microfilm pioneer Sepp Keiser and even Michael Jackson have been mooted as further contenders.


The Bruce High Quality Foundation

artist collectives - The Bruce High Quality Foundation
images © BHQF

A New York collective enjoying growing recognition, The Bruce High Quality Foundation combines prankster-like practice with serious political stance, often through the ironic appropriation of existing cultural icons.

Their mission statement sets the tenor for their art:

"we aspire to invest the experience of public space with wonder, to resurrect art history from the bowels of despair, and to impregnate the institutions of art with the joy of man's desiring."

Recent projects include Beyond Pastoral, a scale model of a BP gas station powered by electricity generated using hundreds of lemons and limes. Laid out to represent the BP logo, they were left to rot on the gallery floor as they fed electrolytes to the miniature gas station lights.

Cats on Bowery, a display of performance, ephemera and mockumentary footage addressed (somehow) the gentrification of the Bowery through a cheeky appropriation of Cats: The Musical.


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