Time regained, involuntary memory, heaven breaking ranks, gusts of memory, universal acceleration, calendar rebellion, half-full hour glasses.
I heard it often said, during the early lockdown phase of the pandemic in 2020, that time was snap-frozen at a standstill. 2020 and 2021 have been like years lost to time. Shops closed, streets emptied and life went indoors. To me, it felt less like time had stopped and more like the tenses had merged: past, present and future flattened. Domestic life took on the lax, untracked dimensions of a long haul flight or a clock-free casino. The calendar unfolded without structure or routine; the placelessness of digital time, in which we spend our social and work lives, unmoored us (can you ever remember time spent on the internet?). As we scroll, it feels as though we move out of time – not toward the future, but out of time altogether.
Breaks in revolutionary time burst forth, as the Black Lives Matter rebellion punctuated nightly newscasts, bringing to mind the great social movements of the 20th Century (could we ever reproduce them?).
I read constantly of prior pandemics and watch several films a day — I am there, and not there, in those preceding plagues and movie worlds. Under stay at home orders, we can only access friends and society through our screens; we are marooned in a world of strange images.
I am now also in a timeframe outside of the churn of the gig economy that dominated my life before Covid-19. Time didn’t stop in 2020, rather, the relentless churn of free-market time was revealed to me — it’s pointlessness, it’s treadmill nature, it’s daily repetitions. Time felt faster before the pandemic, but we were going nowhere.
Amid this sense of elasticity, rummage and folded-in Zoom time, I had no awareness that some days in 2020 were actually shorter than others — until one of the members of Raqs Media Collective told me. It makes sense, it feels right. Moments are passing quickly and ground is shifting in late stage capitalism. Earth is spinning on its axis more quickly than ever: the twenty-eight fastest days on record all occurred in 2020.
Here, Raqs Media Collective presents an essay film with animated and collaged elements that unravel at different time spans. The three members of Raqs Media Collective dived into the Kolb-Proust archive at the University of Champaign Urbana to write new words – of emergencies, thwarted frustrations and disorder – in Marcel Proust’s handwriting, seen through prismatic light.
Thanks for being here, week after week, to share in this year’s Prototype program.
About Raqs Media Collective
Based in Delhi, India, and founded in 1992, the collective comprises Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta.