Projects The Beginnings

Projects The Beginnings

The Beginnings is a culmination of two projects spanning more than two years work (2014-2016). The Prophet and John are the result of a collaboration with my friend John whom I met in September 2014. In the two years following our initial meet, I was greatly preoccupied by the challenges he faced. I was ready to do anything in order to support him during his difficult time. I felt restless and wondered ceaselessly what we could we be doing more. Each confronted by feelings of powerlessness, we felt the urge to work together. Our friendship transformed what were once initially independent projects into an indissociable entity.

The Prophet

This first project is born of our shared interest in Kahlil Gibran and his life story. With The Prophet, we sought most of all to echo the translation of language. To create a meeting of Orient and Occident, which is of direct reference to the author’s life and work[1]. The idea came that I should transcribe his book The Prophet in its entirety. I would rewrite, by hand, the original English version but also produce an Arab translation, displaying them side by side on the same sheet of paper. By including a translation of the work in the author’s native tongue, we sought to invite a return to the culture of Islam which lies at the heart of this book.

Learning to write in Arabic was an immense challenge. I had no experience with the language’s calligraphy, having to teach myself to write as if for the first time. I had to learn to control each movement of my hand in order to reconcile the beauty of the written word with the rules of an established, albeit unknown to me, form of communication. Such labour provided an escape from the feeling of being powerless by way of engaging physically with the work. Meanwhile on the opposite side of the world, John embarked upon an expedition along the Kokoda Trail and was engaged in a different kind of battle, while I desperately continued to transcribe. Just as the main character of the book must leave his village for a long voyage, John had embarked upon his own.

It took more than twelve months of work to createThe Prophet. In this project, the twenty-six faces of the rhombicuboctahedron[2] at the centre of the composition represent the twenty-six chapters of the book. Gibran was inspired by Sufism, which is defined as the inner mystical dimension of Islam. The word is derived from the Arabic “safa” or “safw” which translates roughly to “crystalline purity”. I therefore integrated this complex form, similar to that of a diamond, into the centre of the exhibit as an expression of the author’s inspirations.

John

John was elaborated in three stages: erasure, retranscription, and interment. The first element is a sheet of flax paper on which I wrote with graphite pencil and then erased, repeatedly, over the course of six months. This led to me wearing down each and every eraser I had, which I have kept preciously in my possession. These two acts were executed throughout John’s medical treatment[3]. The remains of my erasers will be displayed in a pile on the ground in the gallery space. They are a physical manifestation of the duration of John’s treatments and a testament to my work. Erasing, rubbing, striving to make disappear. I then made a large incision on the sheet of paper which was thereafter repaired by a technician specializing in art restoration. I did this to mark the important operation John underwent in February 2016. What John’s body was being put through, so would it be for the sheet of paper.

The second element of this project was to re-transcribe with ink pen a quantum physics conference John sent me upon returning from his expedition. The conference discusses the notion of consciousness as viewed and understood by the discipline of quantum physics[4], which strongly relates to Gibran’s book. It was obvious that it should be included, positioning John as an echo to The Prophet. The way which Gibran discusses “Life” in his work embraces the notion of fundamental consciousness as an intrinsic quality of all physical elements, just as scientist Chris Field elaborates during the conference.

The final piece of the exhibit is a message I wrote to John a few days after he passed away, which I covered with twenty-four layers of graphite. I also drew two figures above the message, a tetrahedron and an icosahedron[5], which allude back to the stage or erasure; recalling the heat generated by friction, as well as the beads of sweat which fell upon the paper by my efforts. After having covered over everything, I punctured several small holes in the blackened paper with a needle over the course of six months, yielding unsuspected radiance: to cover without ever more erasing, to accept the dark surface and to puncture it so that light may pass.

The Les Débuts / The Beginnings exhibit therefore revisits John and The Prophet, exploring the various undertakings that have taken place during my past three years with John.

[1] Born in Lebanon, Gibran’s most well-known work was written in English, although his first texts were written in Arabic. The Prophet, which took him ten years to write, is the second most read book in the world, surpassed only by the Bible. He immigrated to the United States at a very young age, later returning to Lebanon in order to study Arabic culture.

[2] Archimedean Solid

[3] During each of his treatments, I did blackened and erased three times as related to the three medications he was being treated with. It took over four hours to complete each time. John was 36 years old at the time, one year older than me. He had peritoneal cancer.

[4] The five Platonic solids represent the five natural elements: Earth, air, water, fire and the aether.

[5] What can physics tell us about consciousness, Chris Fields. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apds8KbtMr8

The remains

2015-2016 Graphite and erasers During the six months of the erasing exercice in the project John, I kept  all the menains of the erasers.

John

2015- … (in progress) Graphite on linen paper, erasers and transcription of a conference What can physics tell us about consciousness par

John (verso)

2015- … (in progress) Graphite on linen paper, erasers and transcription of a conference What can physics tell us about consciousness par

John (detail)

2015- … (in progress) Graphite on linen paper, erasers and transcription of a conference What can physics tell us about consciousness par

John

2015- … (in progress) Graphite on linen paper, erasers and transcription of a conference What can physics tell us about consciousness par

The Prophet (detail)

2014-2015 0.05 ink pen on paper and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (English and Arabic) (61.5cm x 47cm) The Prophet  is a transcription ofthe boo

The Prophet

2014-2015 0.05 ink pen on paper and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (English and Arabic) (61.5cm x 47cm) The Prophet  is a transcription ofthe boo