Staff picks
Raqs Media Collective, The Blood of Stars
Wednesday, January 6—Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Raqs Media Collective, The Blood of Stars (still), 2017.

Join us on e-flux Video & Film for a screening of Raqs Media Collective's The Blood of Stars (2017), on view from Wednesday, January 6 through Tuesday, February 2, 2021. The film is presented together with Raqs Media Collective's Strikes at Time (2011) as part of the monthly series Staff picks.

The Blood of Stars invites us to think about the relation between the presence of iron—a fugitive from the stars, sleeping deep inside the earth—and the veins of warm-blooded mammals. Meanwhile, it reads meteorites for clues about the stains at the edge of every sharp blade that cuts into flesh, and registers resonances that ricochet between mining, militarism, and the mutations that mark a remote landscape.

Voices, of a woman and a child, converse and detail the presence of iron in the blood, the rusting of life and metals, and the sharp edge of a question. The cave folds in on itself in the footage, airplanes fallen from the sky rust, reindeer run, and a snowman waits for aliens. A poet states facts, in Hindi: “All the iron theirs to mine, the razor’s edge alone is mine.”

While thinking about and making The Blood of Stars, we were interested in how a substance like iron, which is in our blood, under the ground, and is ejected from the debris of dying stars becomes a marker of time, as in the “Iron Age,” and a key substance in the formation of implements for everything from agriculture to war. 

Our research took us to a working iron mine which produces some of the purest iron ore in the world, deep inside the arctic circle, in Northern Sweden. We learnt about how energy for the mine leads to a damming of rivers, creating obstructions in the path of nomadic reindeer herds. The reindeers on the earth, like the reindeer in the sky, lose their way. 

During the making of this work, first exhibited as an immersive installation inside an abandoned military base in a cave system inside a mountain, we were able to  obtain footage of a year’s worth of the sky with the northern lights over Sweden from an astronomical observatory and also handle and situate a fragment of an iron laden meteorite that is actually half a billion years older than the earth itself. 

A curiosity about space, or about the deep oceans, or the interior of the earth, expands our ways of thinking. It wrests it free from narrow, sectarian and nationalist boxes, and provide a more capacious frame within which to think questions that have deep political and ethical implications.

Raqs Media Collective was formed in 1992 by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. The word “raqs” in several languages denotes an intensification of awareness and presence attained by whirling, turning, being in a state of revolution. Raqs Media Collective take this sense to mean “kinetic contemplation” and a restless and energetic entanglement with the world, and with time. Raqs Media Collective practices across several forms and media; it makes art, produces performances, writes, curates exhibitions, and occupies a unique position at the intersection of contemporary art, philosophical speculation, and historical enquiry. The members of of Raqs Media Collective live and work in Delhi, India.

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