Raqs Media Collective: 1980 in Parallax

The Cosmic House

19 April22 December 2023

The term parallax describes an optical phenomenon, the effect by which the position of an object seems to change when it is observed from different angles; the experience of moving through a landscape in which the foreground changes dynamically in relation to a more static background. ‘1980 in Parallax’ unfolds around a new commission by Raqs Media Collective and takes this phenomenon as its starting point when describing perceptions of a particular moment in history while moving through time – past and present – interrogating varied geographies of perceived slippages between centre and periphery.

A moment with momentum, the year 1980 is both an end and a beginning. It marked the transition between key decades, bringing about momentous political and technological shifts of global significance, the reverberations of which we are still living through today. Another beginning and end – often described as ‘the beginning of the end’ – was signalled by the launch of the first ever Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980. Entitled ‘The Presence of the Past,’ it famously announced Post-Modernism as the new international paradigm of architecture and proposed a canon that was to be more polyphonic. The same ideas shaped the designs of Charles and Maggie Jencks’ family home, also known as The Cosmic House, which was being detailed during this very period.

The new commission The Bicyclist Who Fell into a Time Cone oscillates between fact and fiction while describing 1980 as a transient moment that nevertheless left a significant mark on our collective imaginaries: ‘There’s a 1980 hidden in every year.’ The tectonic of the work alludes to Post-Modern methods with pendulating views between vast eternal landscapes and historical footage that the narrator and cyclist traverse. Sharing an affinity with The Cosmic House, a complex diagram of time itself, the work invites us to think about temporality and offers a method of ‘kinetic contemplation’ to destabilise mainstream narratives and what is taken for granted. Complemented by Betaal Tareef: In Praise of Off-time (and its Entities), a configuration of five graphic ‘imprints’ and three augmented-reality ‘interferences’ spread across various levels of The Cosmic House, Raqs Media Collective’s work extends the physical architecture of the house and its potential interpretations.

The exhibition launches the Jencks Foundation’s first research theme, ‘isms and ‘wasms: 1980 in Parallaxan exercise in remapping the year 1980, looking back – once again – in order to look forward and reconsider the Post-Modern canon from the critical distance of 43 years and from parallax views. This theme will be developed over the year through seminars, commissions and salons, more details of which will be published on our website throughout the year.

Download Raqs Media Collective booklet The Bicyclist Who Fell into a Time Cone here.