Some of my earliest memories have been of thresholds, doorways and windows. It took me many years to recognize this curious fascination, even though I had been unconsciously incorporating them all along in my artwork. There was just something about the narrow area where two different spaces met that intrigued me. The SciArt Bridge Residency has been one such threshold as it has introduced me to Leilhae and opened a whole new world of possibilities.
Over the last few months, I have thoroughly enjoyed my meetings with Leilhae, bombarding her with questions. Her patient responses have given me a better understanding of the workings of the cosmos. Every time I would share my crazy thoughts with her and ask very basic questions, she would always remind me that no question was less important, and that it provided a new viewpoint.
Leilhae has written about the chaos in her life currently in terms of carton boxes and commitments, and my world has been pretty similar too. These past few weeks, I tried to work on my blog posts and failed miserably. Apart from the pandemic and all the unrest going on in the world, I have been totally consumed by the 2021 Kolam project, which has gotten way beyond my expectations in terms of time, effort and outreach. Now more than 1,800 cardboard tiles are stacked around in my house, waiting to be rearranged and ready for installation. When these tiles are assembled together like quilt patches, a large kolam pattern will emerge from the parts. One of my partners from the 2021Kolam team, Roopal Shah, had shared a poem by Jon Maidan titled We are Weavers that spoke to me at many levels as it beautifully described my chaotic thoughts in words.
2021 Kolam, Paper, Paint, Pens, Colored Pencils, Board, Clasps and Board, 12”x12” each/ 50’x50’ installation
Kolams are drawn at the threshold of space and time, as Tamil women in India perform this daily ritual on the floor just in front of their houses at sunrise and sunset. They draw a grid of dots and then weave meandering lines around the dots, following certain rules and also allowing for creativity at the same time. Kolams are ephemeral as these aesthetically beautiful patterns last only for a short time before they are walked upon and erased, to make way for another new kolam. This alternating cycle of order and chaos seems to extend across scales in the universe.
The red dots on the doorway of my grandparents’ house had made me happy as a young child and had become my symbol for new possibilities. The threshold between the rooms was a gateway to explorations. Now as an adult, I still am an explorer of ideas and my curiosity to understand the universe we live in has only gotten stronger and the SciArt residency has helped push it further.
Leilhae and I have conversations that tend to switch back and forth between cutting edge science and traditional art forms, enabling us to create a new visual vocabulary. We try to interpret the abstract concepts with simple tangible materials. We hope to continue this collaboration as fellow explorers and come up with projects that will address the thresholds of science and art, traditions and modernity, and chaos and order.
Everything around is chaos. My new flat is filled with carton boxes. My work to do list has too many entries that I fail to rank. Any attempt to planify anything is strangely halted or postponed due to unexpected events. In the cyclone, there is an eye where life seems more quiet: my conversions with Shanthi concerning our project. We still regularly meet to discuss spacetime, black holes, gravitational radiation, and how it inspires our project. Once again it is her who highlights the evidence to me: physicists are actually driven by chaos, we neglect the orders that we are aware of to dive into disorder. While all we dream of is structure, we actually chose to go where it lacks in the hope to link the phenomena between them into logical processes. I often wonder if this hope is vain, if knowledge is but order, is understanding is but logic, if the system has a ground or at least a self-consistency for all that we require it to be. Nothing is less certain, and this is why Shanthi's work is so important, because if we do not fulfill this unmentionable quest for comprehension at least we would have generated some beauty on the way. Shanthi shows me the beautiful embroidery that she has created, trying to integrate in a finite surface the tridimensional complexity of the gravitational waves traveling through the Universe. That she manages to put so much in such a little circle reminds me about fractals, those mathematical constructions defined by an infinite perimeter enclosing a closed surface. Geometry has been giving us hints towards the mathematical oddness that Nature can display, and our project is a lot about taking this abstract concept and making it familiar and tangible again. With the handmade paper that Shanti embroiders, with the fabric that I have stored to dye first hand when I moved into my flat, we are giving to the impalpable presence of spacetime an embodiment with the common material that lives around us. It is like if we were turning our back to constantly growing superclusters, near-vacuum ultra-precise instruments, and consortium of busy minds to address to each of us and say: you too can experience spacetime, you too can feel those waves, with what is around you, inside your cupboard, at the end of your fingertips. This arte povera of us is nothing more than a scream to make the Universe become universal again, and not the toy of dedicated scientists only. We have trained to be on the forefront of chaos only to return the structure we have seen to all of us. And this is why I know that as soon as the tumult appeases, I know that I will return to my fabric, finally dye them and experiment with them, so I can send some material to Shanthi so we can continue this beautiful project of us until we have something more than words to offer to you.