Shubigi Rao
The Pelagic Tracts
Single channel film, digital HD, colour, sound, 24:39 mins
dimensions variable

Commissioned for the 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, and supported by National Arts Council Singapore.

Shot and edited on site in Kochi, India, The Pelagic Tracts is both historical fiction and a searingly, critically-poetic work. The film immerses viewers in the texts, images, and verbal accounts of a world where books are the most valuable commodity. It begins with a book discovered by a colonial officer, S. Raoul that maps the trade route of book smugglers. This semi-mythical world is constructed from existing letters and records from local libraries and archives devastated by unseasonal floods that year, as well as from interactions with local librarians, junkyard workers and paper pulpers. By creating this semi-fictional history of smuggled texts and ideas, the artist encourages a re-examination of how we discuss loss, the indecipherable, migrancy, displacement and cross-cultural experience — one that is as much about the movement of ideas and language as it is about the political and economic legacies of colonial and other power structures.