Shuddhabrata Sengupta on Fri, 1 Aug 2008 23:24:24 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> 'The Rest of Now' at Manifesta 7

Dear All,

(Apologies for cross posting to readers at Nettime, Spectre,  
Fibreculture, Crumb, Kafila and the Sarai Reader List)

This is to share with you news of 'The Rest of Now' an exhibition  
curated by us, the Raqs Media Collective (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica  
Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta), at the ex-Alumix factory in  
Bolzano / Bozen, for the seventh edition of Manifesta: The European  
Biennale of Contemporary Art, which opened in the Trentino-South  
Tyrol region of Italy on the 19th of July. The exhibition will stay  
open till the 2nd of November, 2008.

Manifesta is an itinerant biennial that changes location every two  
years. The  artistic strategies of Manifesta 7 take the landscape,  
history, industrial heritage and socio-cultural environment of the  
Trentino-South Tyrol region as their points of departure. The five  
different venues: - the fortress in Fortezza / Franzensfeste, the  
Manifattura Tabacchi in Rovereto; the Ex-Peterlini  factory and the  
railway station in Rovereto, the Ex-Alumix factory in Bolzano / Bozen  
and the former Central Post Office in Trento - will all be open to  
the public for the first time in their new incarnations as spaces for  
the exhibition of contemporary art.

The artistic content of each Manifesta is conceived and developed by  
a new team of international curators. This edition of Manifesta is  
curated by Adam Budak (Graz / Krakow), Anselm Franke (Berlin /  
Antwerp) / Hila Peleg (Berlin / Tel Aviv) and Raqs Media Collective  
(New Delhi). Adam Budak curates an exhibition titled 'Principle:  
Hope' in Rovereto,  Anselm Franke & Hila Peleg curate an exhbition  
titled 'The Soul' in Trento and the Raqs Media Collective curate 'The  
Rest of Now' in Bolzano / Bozen. The three curatorial teams  
collaborate to curate 'Scenarios' at Fortezza / Franzensfeste.

The curators of Manifesta 7 have invited more than 180 participants  
from many different parts of the world, with a strong focus on  
today's diverse Europe, to present their work in Trentino-South  
Tyrol. The curators have invited the artists to respond to the key  
curatorial concepts of Manifesta 7, which are inspired by the  
region's intricate web of history, modernity and contemporaneity.

To find out more about Manifesta 7, see -

To find out more about the different exhibitions, locations and  
artists lists,  see -

To find out more about the curators, see - 

We enclose below, our curatorial essay for The Rest of Now. We look  
forward to responses, to the essay, and for those of you who have  
been, or are planning to travel to Manifesta 7, to the exhibition  
itself. This essay has been published in 'The Index' to Manifesta 7,  
by Silvana Editoriale, Milan, 2008


Shuddha, Monica and Jeebesh

(Raqs Media Collective)


The Rest of Now

Raqs Media Collective


A hundred years ago, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, artist, poet and high  
priest of a muscular industrial aesthetic, was seriously injured in  
an automobile accident on the outskirts of Milan.  During his  
convalescence, he wrote a passionate paean to speed, the very force  
that had so recently threatened his life. His words, clad in the  
brash cadence of the first Futurist Manifesto, ring out as a fanfare  
to the velocity of the twentieth century.

 "We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a  
new beauty: the beauty of speed... We are on the extreme promontory  
of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment  
when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and  
Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we  
have already created eternal, omnipresent speed..."
 A hundred years later, standing inside the disused Alumix factory  
in Bolzano/Bozen, which for five decades had been dedicated to the  
production of Marinetti's beloved aluminium, hindsight suggests that  
we consider a different rhythm. Not the speeding regularity of  
architettura razionale, but the soft, syncopation of desuetude.  Let  
us rest for now, between an odd and an even beat, and consider what  
remains from a century devoted to the breathless pursuit of  
tomorrow?s promised riches.
 An empty factory, which once produced aluminium ? the substance of  
bombs, aeroplanes and coffee percolators, the metal of speed, death  
and light ? is the stage and provocation for us to invoke that which  
is left behind when value is extracted from life, time and labour.   
Aluminium, which as tinfoil and scaffolding is used for the cladding  
of everything from sandwiches to building sites, is also what is  
thrown away the moment the sandwich is eaten and the building  
finished.  Mountains are flattened to mine bauxite, the main  
aluminium ore.  Mountains of aluminium waste may eventually take  
their place.  The Alumix factory, like its counterparts all over the  
world, is a monument to its own residue.
 Turbines, transformers, motors, smelters, furnaces, production  
targets and megawatts of electrical power have long since vacated  
this building.  Marinetti?s ?great agitation of work? has departed to  
other continents, making room for dust, fungi, and the anticipation  
of resurrection.  Manifesta 7 enters the building in this moment of  
pause, stealing in between the downtime of industrial abandonment in  
the core of Europe and the overture of global capital?s next move.
 The ?rest of now? is the residue that lies at the heart of  
contemporaneity. It is what persists from moments of transformation,  
and what falls through the cracks of time.  It is history?s obstinate  
remainder, haunting each addition and subtraction with arithmetic  
persistence, endlessly carrying over what cannot be accounted for.   
The rest of now is the excess, which pushes us towards respite,  
memory and slowing things down.
 Remembering what has departed, recognizing what is left behind and  
preparing for what is yet to arrive means making sense of the  
relationship between living and having lived.  It means reading the  
things that almost happened, or didn?t quite happen, or that were  
simply desired, against the grain of that which is occurring or has  
taken place.  Residue is a space of open, uncharted, alterity.  The  
residual and the imminent share a paradoxical working solidarity.
 In ?Lance,? a short story about time and space travel, Vladimir  
Nabokov wrote, ?the future is but the obsolete in reverse,?  
suggesting that even the impulse to hurtle into futurity is always,  
already, shadowed by its own imminent obsolescence.  The Alumix  
factory, like so much of the twentieth century?s heroic and tragic  
dalliance with the future is now a repository of the residual.  What  
better place can there be for the rest of now?

 An exhibition is a design in space.  ?The Rest of Now? is also a  
figure in time.  In Bolzano/Bozen, the ex-Alumix factory sits nestled  
between the elevations of the Dolomite mountains, whose every fold is  
a reminder of the fact that industrial time is only a faint ripple on  
the surface of geological time.
To draw a figure in time is to inscribe a mark on a difficult and  
slippery surface.  As time passes, the reasons to remember grow  
stronger, but the ability to recall is weakened.  Memory straddles  
this paradox.  We could say that the ethics of memory have something  
to do with the urgent negotiation between having to remember (which  
sometimes includes the obligation to mourn), and the requirement to  
move on (which sometimes includes the necessity to forget).  Both are  
necessary, and each is notionally contingent on the abdication of the  
other, but life is not led to the easy rhythm of regularly  
alternating episodes of memory and forgetting that cancel each other  
out in a neat equation that resolves to zero.

Residue is the fulcrum on which the delicate negotiation between  
memory and forgetting is undertaken, because it is the unresolved,  
lingering aftertaste of an event that triggers the task of retrieving  
and dealing with  the difficult of its recollection.  The question of  
what is to be done with residue ? should it be burned, buried,  
frozen, embalmed, mourned, celebrated, commemorated, carried over,  
forgotten or remembered ? haunts us all the time.  It haunts us in  
our personal lives as much as it haunts the larger histories we  
participate in and draw from.  To draw a figure in time is  
necessarily to encounter and reflect on the difficulty of the  
residual.  There are no easy answers to the questions posed by residue.

Images are not always the most reliable allies against forgetfulness;  
words play tricks with memory. Oblivion is easily accomplished,  
especially with the aid of what is usually called restoration, which  
makes it possible to ignore or cosmetically invert the action of time  
on a physical surface.  Monuments, contrary to the stated intentions  
of their construction, abet forgetfulness.  Sometimes the work of art  
can be a matter of ensuring that the time it takes to think and  
recall difficult questions be given its due; that instead of  
purchasing the processed and instant sense of time mined from a  
monument we explore the option of accessing the potential of even a  
modest memento to destabilize the certitude of the present.

 How can images and objects be brought together in a manner that  
helps etch a lingering doubt onto the heart of amnesia?  How can  
concepts and experiences that sustain an attitude of vigilance  
against the impulse of erasure be expressed as tools to think and  
feel with, to work with in the present? How can we remember and  
reconsider the world without getting lost in reverie? How can a  
meditation on history avoid the stupor of nostalgia? What work must  
memory be put to, in order to ensure that we erect, not memorials  
that close the roads to further inquiry, but signposts that ask for  
more journeys to be undertaken?
 ?The Rest of Now? is an occasion for the asking of these  
questions.  It offers both the building blocks of an argument and a  
disposition to be alert to the material, cognitive and emotional  
consequences of temporal processes.  Underlying the argument and the  
disposition is a hunch that the after-image of residue may be a  
critique and an antidote to the narrative conceit of progress.  We  
can move on only if we understand that the debts we owe to the past  
are a long way from being settled, and that we are required to carry  
them with us into the future.  We can move on only if we understand  
that the future is constituted by the debts we incur in the present.  
Residue is an unlikely, but effective, engine.
The artists we have invited to ?The Rest of Now? have responded in a  
variety of ways to our proposition.  Coded within their responses are  
entire archives of forgotten, retrieved and imagined worlds,  
exemplars of practices of persistence and refusal, instances of play,  
investigation, questioning and speculation.  Looking out with them,  
out of the factory, towards the mountains, this exhibition layers,  
leaches, and addles time.  It arrests and thickens time, sows time?s  
seeds in a garden, bores time?s holes in masonry, scrapes time?s dust  
off a wall, build?s time?s bridge to nowhere, measures time in terms  
of detritus, tells stories about the stubborn persistence of things,  
people and ways of life that refuse to admit that either their time  
is over or that it hasn't yet come.  This exhibition takes time, and  
lays it across a long table, makes it climb a high tower, skip a  
heartbeat in a tap dance, rise like mist and fall like sunlight, run  
like an engine and dance like a worker, sleep like a hill and wake  
like a factory, shine, escape and elude capture like the enigmatic  
memory of a dead grandmother.


[The extraction of value from any material, place, thing or person,  
involves a process of refinement. During this process, the object in  
question will undergo a change in state, separating into at least two  
substances: an extract and a residue. With respect to residue: it may  
be said it is that which never finds its way into the manifest  
narrative of how something (an object, a person, a state, or a state  
of being) is produced, or comes into existence. It is the  
accumulation of all that is left behind, when value is  
extracted...There are no histories of residue, no atlases of  
abandonment, no memoirs of what a person was but could not be.]

																												 ?With Respect to Residue,? Raqs Media  Collective, 2005

 When faced with any apparently ?abandoned? situation, it quickly  
becomes clear that a lot remains.  Even the walls of a shut-down  
factory teem with life forms, only some of which are visible to the  
eye.  To recognize this is to encounter the fecundity of residue.
 In 1855, the English botanist Richard Deacon published a botanical  
study of the ruins of the Flavian amphitheatre in Rome, ?The Flora of  
the Colosseum.?  His meticulous and monumental account catalogues the  
420 species of vegetation growing in the six acres of the ruined  
edifice.  These included several species so rare in Europe at that  
time that Deacon speculated that they must have been transported as  
seeds in the guts of the animals and slaves imported into Rome from  
Africa and Asia for the staging of gladiatorial spectacles.  Deacon  
speaks of these rare plants with affection and awe, saying that they  
?form a link in the memory, and teach us hopeful and soothing  
lessons, amid the sadness of bygone ages: and cold indeed must be the  
heart that does not respond to their silent appeal; for though  
without speech, they tell us of the regenerating power which animates  
the dust of mouldering greatness.?  By 1870, the Colosseum in Rome  
had experienced the first of several modern attempts at  
?restoration,? and the ancient cosmopolitan exuberance of vegetation  
that had been the botanist?s consolation had begun to give way to  
naked stone.
The vocabulary of contests and gladiatorials has not changed much in  
the last two millennia.  Speed and prowess matter as much as they did  
when prisoners, slaves and beasts fought it out in the Colosseum?s  
arena.  If anything, the Olympic virtues, ?citius, altius,  
fortius? (faster, higher, stronger) have become the governing maxims  
of the contemporary world ? the pace of life and labour gets faster,  
profits and prices rise higher and armies get stronger.  Our  
societies are Colosseums reborn.  We are spectators, gladiators and  
 The late Alexander Langer, autonomist activist, thinker, maverick  
European Green politician, and native of South Tyrol, with his  
interest in the residual and his ecological emphasis on slowness,  
provides us with an interesting late twentieth century counterpoint  
to Marinetti?s cult of speed and the gladiatorial imperative. He  
proposed a challenge to the ?citius, altius, fortius? maxim with a  
call to consider an alternative trinity of virtues ? ?lentius,  
suavius, profundius? (slower, softer, deeper).
For quite some time now, the Olympic virtues have been defended with  
armed police pickets all over the world. It becomes necessary, at  
times like this to consider a few good reasons and methods to slow  
things down, to reclaim the stone with wild seeds.


Shuddhabrata Sengupta
The Sarai Programme at CSDS
Raqs Media Collective

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