If You Could Only See The Effort I Make To Speak To You, 2023
6 sculptures; concrete, ceramic, pigment powders, steel, aluminum, brass.
12 x 8 x 96 inches, 12 x 10 x 96 inches, 12 x 9 x 96 inches, 12 x 9 x 48 inches, 12 x 10 x 36 inches, 6 x 6 x 16 inches.
This constructed experiential space embodies the process of a child's repetition and fragmentation in learning to speak. Through the creation of linguistic modular systems, I'm suggesting language, (historic)time, and culture not only travel in objects but at the same time/alongside (in) bodies in conscious and unconscious ways. This proposition complicates the notion of translation while also serving as a commentary on the art language within which my work seeks to exist.
The title of the work If You Could Only See The Effort I Make To Speak To You draws inspiration from Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s text Can The Subaltern Speak?, which discusses the pervasive colonialism of Western thinking, exporting ideas and images to "others" and imposing them upon their lives. The concept of illegibility presented in the work serves as narration on the limitations of being fully understood and represented in my entirety, including the historical depth of my identity. The ruins of language that I explore through my work are both tangible and abstract, expressed through concrete terms, metaphorically and materially, and elusive meanings.
The Arabic letters and phonemes used in the work are taken from the oldest Arabic manuscript in existence, Sanaa Palimpsest or DAM 01-27.1. This manuscript was discovered several decades ago at the Great Mosque of Sanaa, Yemen. To dive into this text, I translate it to a 3D environment, where the text becomes the architecture of this landscape; a game-like navigating experience brings me to the roots of the text. A reading experience that only deals with the accidental qualities of the text. An experience of living the text rather than reading it. A play-only relationship with the text.
The letter formations found in fragments of this manuscript, specifically in the underlying layer of the text of the palimpsest, serve as the building blocks for the space that I construct to reconnect with my earliest memories of learning to speak. These memories are captured on audio cassette tapes dating back to the early 1980s when I was learning to speak through the recitation of simple rhyming verses from the Quran. These tapes, long forgotten, were rediscovered three decades later and it partially inspired this project.