Space

Radical World-building – Virtual Residency by Sahej Rahal

The virtual residency by the Indian visual artist and Human-Machine-fellow Sahej Rahal will unfold as a series of episodic vignettes. Each episode acts as a fragment of a digital mythology, that weaves together, folklore, speculative texts, found documents, video footage, drawings, computer generated animations and 3D scanned sculptures. This virtual collage will act as a precursor to his residency project in Berlin where this myth-world will begin taking shape in the real world. – The Human-Machine-fellowships are a joint program by the YOUNG ACADEMY and the VISIT artist residency by the E.ON foundation.

Interview

The City of Begumpura

Die komplexen Beziehungen zwischen Mensch und Maschine sind seit Beginn des Industriezeitalters Gegenstand von Kunst und künstlerischer Praxis. Und gerade heute, angesichts der Digitalisierung, hat das Thema an Brisanz gewonnen, insbesondere im Bereich der künstlichen Intelligenz – mit ihren Chancen, aber auch dunklen Seiten. Die Künste können hier ein spezifisch ästhetisches Wissen erzeugen, verfügen sie doch über die Fähigkeit, Konzepte zur Diskussion zu stellen, Szenarien durchzuspielen und Spekulationen über die Zukunft anzustoßen. Ein Gespräch mit dem indischen Künstler Sahej Rahal, dem ersten Stipendiaten des „Mensch-Maschine“-Stipendiums, das von der JUNGEN AKADEMIE in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Artist in Residence Programm VISIT ins Leben gerufen wurde.

Interview von Clara Herrmann

Clara Herrmann: Als erster Stipendiat des Programms „Mensch-Maschine“ stellen Sie ein bemerkenswert vielschichtiges Projekt mit dem Titel „Citizen Strange“ vor, das KI-Programme, nationale Mythen oder Mechanismen der Mythenbildung und politische Themen kombiniert. Können Sie den Kontext von Mythen und Mythologie in Ihrer Arbeit erläutern und beschreiben, wie Sie Ihr künstlerisches Konzept ästhetisch umsetzen?

Sahej Rahal: Der kontinuierliche Aufstieg von rechtem Nationalismus in Indien fällt mit der Rückkehr der mythologischen Vergangenheit in die Gegenwart zusammen. So wird ein Zustand erreicht, in dem die Zeit gewissermaßen in sich zusammenbricht. Jedes Anzeichen von Demokratie und den dazugehörigen Institutionen wurde praktisch ausgelöscht. Wir marschieren blindlings in ein mehrheitliches „Hindu Rashtra“: eine hinduistische Nation, die auf einer halbherzigen Vorstellung von indo-arischer zivilisatorischer Reinheit basiert.

Der Staat orchestriert diesen Prozess, indem er den Mythos selbst manipuliert und gefälschte archäologische Propaganda verbreitet; archäologische Objekte, die zeitlich sogar vor der Abfassung der Veden liegen, werden in das hinduistische Pantheon verlegt. Wie zum Beispiel die Umbenennung der bronzenen „Tänzerin von Mohenjo-Daro“ zur Göttin Parvati oder das Versprechen, ehemalige hinduistische Tempel anstelle von Moscheen zu neuem Leben zu erwecken. Selbst jetzt, da das Coronavirus das Land verwüstet, führt unser Premierminister persönlich riesige Prozessionen an, bei denen aus Silber gefertigte Backsteine in das umstrittene Ayodhya gebracht werden, um den Grundstein für einen Ram-Tempel zu legen, der am Ort der zerstörten Babri-Moschee errichtet werden soll.

Der Staat propagiert diese mythischen Erzählungen, die seinen Autoritarismus bestätigen, und beschwört eine mythologische Vergangenheit als historische Wahrheit, die seinen gegenwärtigen Handeln den Anschein von Wahrhaftigkeit verleihen soll. Mein Ziel ist, dieses mythologische Narrativ mit Hilfe von Szenarien zu hinterfragen, die komplexe, parallel existierende und widersprüchliche Fiktionen in sich bergen. Diese Szenarien gestalten sich als absurde Rituale des world-building, die gemeinsam von Geistwesen, schamanischen Kreaturen und quasi-empfindungsfähigen KI-Programmen ausgeführt werden.

Das zentrale Ziel dieser Rituale ist es, sich mögliche Welten vorzustellen, in denen menschliche und nichtmenschliche Systeme über die Grenzen des Realen, Imaginären, Physischen und Virtuellen hinweg kommunizieren. Dieses Gespräch wird mithilfe von Musikinstrumenten begonnen, die ich aus gefundenen Objekten der echten Welt anfertige und mit Hilfe der Videospiel-Design-Software Unity aus interaktiven KI-Programmen erstelle. Die Programme fungieren als „lebende Musikinstrumente“, die auf externes Audio-Feedback reagieren und prozedural erzeugte Klanglandschaften erzeugen können.

Antraal, AI simulation, 2019, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal
Antraal, AI simulation, 2019, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal

CH: Wie erforschen, verstehen und artikulieren Sie die Mensch-Maschine-Beziehung in diesem Zusammenhang? Gibt es bestimmte theoretische oder philosophische Ideen, die Sie inspiriert haben?

SR: Mir geht es darum, die Verstrickung der Mensch-Maschine-Intelligenz durch die Linse des Nicht-Menschlichen zu untersuchen. Das Nicht-Menschliche kann als ein Körper mutierender Prozesse verstanden werden, die uns über menschliche Grenzen aufklären, sie erweitern und auflösen, um seltsame Morphologien auf bakterieller, technologischer und planetarischer Ebene zu erzeugen. In meinem Projekt „Citizen Strange“ wird das Nicht-Menschlich im Prozess des world-building und der Mythenbildung zum konspirativen Gefährten.

CH: Sie beziehen sich auf die Idee der „Staatsbürgerschaft“, die – in ihrer Definition als Recht auf Rechte wie Gleichheit, Redefreiheit, Stimmrechte und Nichtdiskriminierung – derzeit in Indien bedroht ist. Wie sehen die rechtlichen und politischen Entwicklungen aus und welche Auswirkungen haben sie auf das Leben der Menschen?

SR: Die Staatsbürgerschaft in Indien wird durch den Widerruf der Grundrechte von Minderheiten kodifiziert und strukturiert: Die Bürger*innen werden so zu Geistern, die in diesem Reich der kollabierten Zeit umherirren. Vielsagende Beispiele hierfür sind die Änderungen der Staatsbürgerschaftsgesetze durch den Citizenship Amendment Act und das National Register of Citizens. Beide haben geholfen, den bürokratischen Staatsapparat gegen Muslime aufzurüsten.

Dieses gewaltsame Othering hat seine Wurzeln in einer alten Form der Segregation, die im Herzen der indischen Gesellschaft verankert ist: der historischen Gewalt des Kastensystems. Dessen Besonderheit besteht darin, dass es im Gegensatz zu anderen Formen der Bigotterie und Unterdrückung auf einem rein metaphysischen Glaubenssystem beruht. Eine ausgefeilte Mythologie, in der der Leichnam des kosmischen Patriarchen im Zentrum des Universums liegt: der universelle Übervater, der entweder Manu, Brahma, Vishnu oder Vishwa Purusha heißt, je nachdem, welche vedischen Shastras oder WhatsApp-Weiterleitungen man wiedergekäut, um seine zombifizierten Überreste zu beschwören. Diese himmlische Leiche bildet die Grundlage der Kastenhierarchie in der indischen Gesellschaft. Sein Kopf bringt die Brahmanen der hohen Kaste zur Welt; seine Schultern verwandeln sich in die Kriegerkaste Kshatriyas; seine Schenkel werden die Vaishyas, die Handelskaste; und aus seinen Füßen bilden sich die niedrigen Kasten. Die Höchsten werden in einer kosmischen Trennung zwischen Geist und Gliedmaßen von den Niedrigsten getrennt.

Diese Aufteilung schafft ein mythologisches System, das diejenigen unterdrückt, die sich am Ende der metaphysischen Hierarchie befinden.

CH: Hat sich die Situation mit COVID-19 verschlechtert, so wie es in vielen rechtsextremen Ländern der Fall ist?

SR: COVID-19 hat die Situation in der Tat verschlimmert. Einerseits erleben wir die Rückkehr der Naturgeschichte. Die Biologie steht wieder im Mittelpunkt. Taifune und Hurrikane werden so alltäglich wie der nachmittägliche Regen, während wir uns bemühen, unser Leben im Schatten dieser globalen Pandemie wieder auf die Reihe zu bekommen. In den urbanen Ballungsgebieten, schon zuvor ein unsicheres Terrain, ist die Infrastruktur vollständig zusammengebrochen; die Wanderarbeiter müssen zu Fuß in ihre Heimatstaaten zurückkehren.

Während die Coronavirus-Fallzahlen im ganzen Land konstant gestiegen sind, verharrt der Staat weiterhin in seinem Dementi und bekämpft lieber regierungskritische Stimmen. Abweichende Meinungen werden durch den Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act zum Schweigen gebracht. Intellektuelle, Akademiker*innen, Journalist*innen, Progressive und Studierende, die den Staat brüskieren, werden systematisch aufgespürt und mit stiller Zustimmung des Obersten Gerichtshofs verhaftet.

Contingent Farewell, Performance, 2016, photography: Christie Yuri Noh, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal
Contingent Farewell, Performance, 2016, photography: Christie Yuri Noh, courtesy: The Artist and Chatterjee & Lal

CH: Können Sie ein Beispiel für den Einfluss von KI-Programmen auf die Unterdrückung der Meinungsvielfallt und die Verfestigung der Klassen-, Kasten- und heteronormativen Strukturen geben, auf denen dieses nationalistische System basiert?

SR: Ein eindrückliches Beispiel, wie hierarchische Systeme durch künstliche Intelligenz verschärft werden, zeigt die Dating-App betterhalf.ai, die einen Algorithmus verwendet, der zukünftige Paare anhand ihrer Lebensläufe zusammenbringt. Die Benutzer*innen werden eingeladen, sich mit „Fachleuten erstklassiger Unternehmen wie Google, Amazon, Adobe, Accenture usw. zu connecten und Anfragen basierend auf einer Kompatibilitätsbewertung zu verschicken/anzunehmen, um die anstrengende Suche nach einem Lebenspartner zu beenden.“ Dabei passt sich die Zukunftssicherung des Klassendenkens an das digitale Zeitalter an.

CH: In Ihren virtuellen Settings und den von Ihnen als Guerilla-Skulpturen betitelten Installationen setzen Sie künstliche Intelligenz spielerisch ein. Wann haben Sie als bildender Künstler angefangen, digitale Technologien in Ihrer Arbeit zu nutzen? Wie gestaltete sich Ihre Praxis zuvor und welche Möglichkeiten ergeben sich für Ihre künstlerische Praxis und deren Inhalte?

SR: Meine Praxis kann als wachsende mythologische Erzählung angesehen werden, in der jedes Werk als Teil eines ständig wachsenden Puzzles fungiert. Die konzeptuelle und physische Gestalt dieser Erzählung wird durch gefundene Objekte, eingebundene Geschichten, Science-Fiction, Folklore geformt – und durch die Betrachter*innen, die ihre eigenen subjektiven Erfahrungen in bruchstückhaften Akten des kollektiven world-building in die Arbeit einbringen. Mit diesen gefundenen Objekten erschaffe ich seltsam anmutende Artefakte, Totems und Musikinstrumente, die von merkwürdigen schamanischen Wesen in absurden rituellen Darbietungen als Requisiten verwendet werden. Ich mag Videospiele und KI-Programme, weil ich diese Technologien als spannende Möglichkeit begreife, nichtmenschliche Intelligenz in die Diskussionen zu kollektiver Sinnfindung einzubeziehen.

CH: Was mir bei Ihrer Herangehensweise besonders ins Auge sticht, ist die Fähigkeit, alternative Formen des Denkens und des world-building aufzuwerfen – in den Geschichten, die Sie erzählen, in den Modellversuchen, die sie bieten und sogar in der Kuriosität der nicht-menschlichen Objekte, die sich durch ihre Welten bewegen. Wenn ich mir erlauben darf, einen Hauch von Optimismus in Ihrer Arbeit zu lesen, würde ich gerne wissen, ob Sie glauben, Begumpura könnte zum Vorbild für eine zukünftige Welt werden?

SR: Das Gedicht „Begumpura“ von Ravidas ist ein Akt des radikalen world-building. Ravidas war ein Mystiker, Dichter und Philosoph des 15. Jahrhunderts, der daran arbeitete, soziale Hierarchien von Kaste und Geschlecht in Indien abzuschaffen. Begumpura bezeichnet in wörtlichen Übersetzung einen Ort ohne Trauer. Bei Ravidas ist es ein Ort, der frei von Gewalt, Folter und Schmerz ist – denn in Begumpura besitzt niemand Eigentum. Es ist eine Stadt der Freiheit, in der Menschen kommen und gehen, wie es ihnen gefällt, denn jeder und jede ist willkommen. Der radikalste Aspekt von Begumpura ist jedoch, dass Ravidas es nicht als fiktive Utopie im Reich der Fantasie entwirft, sondern in der Gegenwart. Er erklärt, dass er dorthin geht und diejenigen, die mit ihm gehen, seine Freunde sind. Angesichts des exklusiven Nationalismus, den der indische Staat propagiert, befindet sich die Stadt Begumpura heute zwischen den porösen Grenzen des Realen und des Imaginierten, einem ätherischen Ort des Widerstands, der für alle Möglichkeiten offen bleibt.

Episode I: Grimoire

Urban Legends, Mythological Narratives, Speculative Sci-fi

The Litigant God.

The year is 1949, we are two years into the greatest experiment in democracy the world has ever seen. The people of India find themselves in a nation divided the communal shibboleth of the Partition. Prime minister Nehru is grappling with the founding idealism upon which the nation itself had been imagined, while his second-in-command, the Sardar Vallabhai Patel struggles to hold its precarious contours. The India that was born, as Nehru declared “at the stroke of the midnight hour”, is now about to witness a collapse of myth, memory and history, spiralling into the abyss of fundamentalism at 3AM.

These events began much earlier in 1526 AD, when General Mir Baqi built the Babri Mosque in honour of Emperor Babur, the forerunner of the Mughal dynasty. A rumour began to grow that the Mosque was built upon the sacred birth ground of Ram, the seventh avatar of the Vishnu, and the protagonist of the Hindu epic Ramayana, which chronicles his vanquishing of the ten-headed demon king Ravana.

Four centuries later, Ram returns to Ayodhya. On 23rd December 1949, Hawaldar Abdul Barkat brought the issue on record by filing an FIR (first information report) stating that he saw a “flash of lightning” where immediately after, “a beautiful child” was seen locked inside the Babri Masjid. This alleged child soon vanished, leaving behind an idol of Ram in its place. This alleged apparition mobilised the Right-wing Hindutva movement to ‘reclaim’ the birthplace of Ram, and led to the violent demolition of the Babri Masjid by Hindutva forces in 1992.

The alleged child has come to be known as Ram Lalla Virajmaan – the Infant deity, and he is the chief litigant in the most divisive property dispute known to the Indian nation state.

In the FIR lodged on 23rd December 1949 however, there exists an explanation that is much more earthbound. The officer-in-charge of the Ayodhya Police Station, Pandit Ramdeo Dubey named three individuals – Abhiram Das, Ram Sakal Das and Sudarshan Das, charging them with sections under rioting, trespassing and defiling a place of worship.

The same charges are levelled in the FIR against another 50-60 unknown people who; “… entered the Babri Masjid by breaking open the locks of the compound and also by scaling the walls and staircases and placed an idol of Shri Bhagwan in it and scribbled sketches of Sita, Ramji etc. in saffron and yellow colours on the inner and outer walls of it” Further stating “Committers of crime have desecrated the mosque by trespassing through rioting.”

Hymns from the void

The Cosmographical song of creation, the Nasadiya Sukta (Rigveda 10.129) reminds us that the world was created ex nihilo.

 

Darkness was, at first lost in greater darkness.

Neither non-being nor being was then.

There was no air nor the sky above nor the space beyond.  

In what was it enveloped and where? In whose keeping?

What Churned in that unfathomable dark?

Neither death nor immortality was then

Nor any sign to divide night from day.

The One who breathed, did so without breath and windless.

There was that One then, and there was no other.

 All else was undifferentiated, In that cosmic black.

In that formless void he arose self-created, devoid of creative impulse.

Desire engulfed that one in the beginning, Desire the germ of that first mind.

Only the arcane wisdom of poets has known

What bonds hold non-being to being.

What was below the umbilical line stretched across, and what above?

Who really knows? who will here declare it?

whence it was born and whence came this creation?

For even the gods came later.

Perhaps it created itself, perhaps it did not. He who sees it

from the highest heaven only, he knows or perhaps he knows not.

 

The birth of the universe itself in the Nasadiya Sukta is a tentative one. It refrains in ascribing any intent to our cosmic beginnings. It even contemplates itself to be an error of celestial proportions, unguided by any intelligible hand Divine or otherwise.

The possibility of this error is superseded by another. At the Centre of the first darkness lies the cold body of the first man. He is born ‘Svayambhu’ – self-created.

The body of this celestial being arose from the eternal black of the first night that reigned before all mornings. And his corpse rots at the centre of the universe, exhaling a black miasma that festers into the present.

The cosmic anatomy of this being is the basis of the Indian Caste system. His head gives birth to the high caste Brahmins, his Arms become the Kshatriya Caste of Kings, Warriors second generation CEOs. His thighs become the Vaishya Caste of Merchants & trades workers, and finally his feet give birth to the low caste Shudra.

The highest are separated from the lowest in cosmic laceration of mind and limb. Consequentially creating a mythological system of oppression aimed towards those who find themselves at the bottom and outside this metaphysical hierarchy. Solely by virtue of birth the lower castes are deemed them less than human, and subjected to indescribable aggressions, all in the service of a fairy tale.

The dancing exorcists of Bombay Presidency

‘The unwilled is spirit-caused in the Presidency’, ominously declared Sir James Campbell, who was from November 1891, stationed in Bombay as collector of land revenue, customs, salt and opium.

During the Colonial Raj, diseases were said to be the work of trickster demons, malevolent ghosts and wrathful goddesses. These spectral forces were believed to arise from the same abyss of abjection that was forced upon those who found themselves at the bottom of the Caste hierarchy.

The persistence of this belief in the Bombay presidency during the onslaught of Cholera, small-pox and the Bubonic Plague, gave rise to own twisted inverse. One that threatened, however briefly, to upstage the violent metaphysic of Caste. It began with a rumour, a secret that spread as fast as the clutch of the Plague itself, that the lower castes could negotiate with the disease gods- coax them, charm them and drive them away from the bodies of man.

The ritual would begin with the burning of incense before the exorcist. Drums are beaten. Then the exorcist raises a burning wick in one hand, and a broom made of peacock feathers in the other, performing a vigorous dance to frighten the spirit possessing diseased person. He cries out loudly, drawing the evil spirit from the body of the patient and captures it in a bottle that is either carried out of the village and buried under an old tree or cast into the Arabian Sea.

In certain cases, the exorcists would call upon deities of disease, allowing themselves to be possessed through dance. The ritual for this possession begins with songs of summoning, that are performed with the slow but loud beating of a leather drum. The exorcist prepares their own body for possession by bathing and sitting on a small prayer carpet, with a bowl of rice on one side and a copper pot filled with water on the other. As the drum beats, they slowly begin throwing grains of rice into the pot, pronouncing the name of the spirit that has afflicted the patient with disease and their reasons for doings so. Next, they begin their dance, shaking as if in a fit, hurling abuses at the spirit and threatening it repeatedly, growing louder and vigorous till their words and movements become an illegible turbulence of noise and fury.

It was not uncommon to see the patients themselves partake in the chaos of the ritual, rising to dance or sing or cry inconsolably, some are seen to violently throw their fists to the air, attacking the invisible demons, while others are known to stand solemnly making long oratory speeches, locking their afflictions in debate.

Night of the stolen city

On August 15, 1947, as the sun was setting on the British Raj, came a directive that would irrevocably transform the subcontinent. Approximately 100million Muslims living across the nation were given scarce more that seventy days to remove themselves to the north-western and eastern frontiers, the modern-day nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The borders for these new nations were drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, an Englishman whose absolute ignorance of Indian culture and history, was seen by the colonial government, as an assurance of his impartiality.

The state of Punjab was split in half between India and Pakistan. The Latter would retain Punjab’s capital- Lahore. In the wake of this dissection, the Indian territory of Punjab would find a new capital: one which would not only house the of the state’s administration, but announce to the world, the coming of a modern, prosperous, and independent Nation had arrived.

This new capital city that would awaken to an Indian sun; was paradoxically called ‘the moonlit city’ – Chandigarh. To conjure this city of strange light, Prime Minister Nehru recruited the man who had dreamt up a masterplan to vandalise Paris with a business district that was made up of concrete citadels and massive cruciform skyscrapers.

Enter the high priest of modernism – Le Corbusier.

For Corbusier, Chandigarh would become the perfect coda to his legacy – the chance to create an entire city based on his austere approach to urban design, in a tyrannical vision, that sought to annihilate all that had stood before it. Entire villages were razed to the ground in service to this grand plan of high modernity, covering up entire histories in the grey amnesia of concrete.

Yet as is often the case, memory manages to slip through.

Nek Chand Saini was born in 1924, in Northern Punjab. He was a farmer’s son, and it was assumed he would grow up to work on his father’s land. Young Chand would spend his afternoons making little figurines from clay, adorning them with found baubles and trinkets.

Then one day, Independence came to India, and with it came the partition. Nek and his family fled as Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew a line across his home. And In 1951, Nek found himself under the rising shadow of Corbusier’s concrete utopia. Chandigarh was rising, and there was work to be done. Nek soon found employment as a road inspector, and became witness to see first-hand, Corbusier’s vision taking shape. 27 villages were turned to rubble, piles upon piles of shattered crockery, broken armchairs, tattered sarees, motorcycles mangled into clocks and plumbing. Bloated mounds of debris laced the horizon.

Nek was drawn to this rubble. It reminded him of his own past. The little village he grew up in, where he heard tales of gods and demons and where he would gather trinkets that the townsfolk would leave behind, to fashion upon his clay toys. It wasn’t long before he found himself gathering up the remains of Chandigarh’s past. These remnants became his toys, once again, and he began to steal them out of city at night, into a forest at the outskirts of Chandigarh, where he was certain no one would find him. He would return here at sun fall, to conjure another city-one at odds with the city that occupied his mornings. Every day as the clock struck 5, Chand would load up his bicycle with the treasures he had found, and haul them into the forest.

Here Chand would secretly sculpt into the night. He gave shape to entire bestiaries that included apes, tigers and gorgons. He conjured goddesses and demons and princesses that presided over vast armies, and sages that meditated in the quiet of the forest. All of them adorned in the worn pastels of kitchen tiles, flecked with the glint of broken bangles.

Chand worked on this secret utopia for almost two decades till he was discovered in 1975, when the city government sent a team to tear down the forest as well, to make way for more construction. When he was caught, Nek was arrested immediately, for violating his duty to the state. However, rumours of this forest city had spread across Chandigarh, and people began finding their way into Nek Chand’s secret cosmopolis.

Those who discovered Nek’s city began to protest-demanding for his release, and the preservation of the forest that housed his work. In 1976, the city of Chandigarh agreed to preserve Nek’s visions and gave him a staff and a salary to continue with his work.

In the forest outside Chandigarh, Nek Chand’s figures can be found even today, where they stand adorned in the rubble mosaic of lost histories.

The Gamblers of the Quantum World

The Nobel prize in physics in the year 2020 comes with a tacit acknowledgement, our universe is a collection of holes. Vast and ancient emptinesses, that could drown out the oceans, the skies, the entire nuclear arsenal of a million stillborn stars. These edges of the universe are eternal gateways to nights into which all suns shall eventually fall.

The Sufi theologian and astronomer Al-Ghazali once pronounced that each night Allah creates the universe afresh, for Allah is unconstrained by the burden of following cause with effect. Being the expert rhetorician that he was, Ghazali conjured his own opponent. A shadowboxer of the mind who might argue, ‘I do not know how to reach the Library of Babel, all I remember is I left my own book there. But if what you say is true Ghazali, perhaps that book has turned into a horse, defiling the library with its excrement.’

Al-Ghazali admits; Allah might ever so often recreate the same set of accidents, to create a sense of regularity and to keep people from complaining about the horses in their libraries too often. However, this apparent regularity does not necessarily imply causality. An effect may or may not follow the cause.

Every quantized instant of time presents Allah with an occasion to create a fresh set of accidents.

In Bombay, this state of affairs is explained with a time worn term- ‘Aiseich-hai’ (It is like this only). An idea that roughly compares to accidentalism; the doctrine that claims, any attempt at comprehending the universe devoid of chance, is an exercise doomed to fail, for the universe is incomplete without chaos.

This doctrine sets the table upon which, quantum physicists, theologians, philosophers and astronomers gamble for the true shape of the universe. However, Laplace’s all-knowing, all-seeing demon finds no seat at the table, and neither does a God that refuses to play dice.

On certain nights the chips belong to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, a secret rule that is equanimous in the shadow movements of both spy-craft and subatomic particles.

The more one knows of your position, the lesser is known of your movement, with the inverse also being true. The uncertainty principle is a game of bait and switch, played on the ethereal edge of reality.

On other nights, the celestial chaos of the universe, takes the shape of the Boltzmann Brain- A mind that imagines itself into existence, and by extension imagines the entire universe. It then imagines itself as an intelligent observer within this complex conjuration. Complete with a fictional back story rife with memories and desire. All precariously held together on mere chance.

Every once in a while, the winning hand is held in the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, proposed by Henry Everett II. Incidentally this interpretation of the universe, holds within itself, all the other hands that have both won and lost, simultaneously and in superimposed timelines. In the year 1957, Henry wagered that the ultimate shape of reality is one that seekers of ancient artefacts, lovers and revolutionaries have known all too well;

The universe is the shape of all possibilities, nothing is ever lost.

5 years from now

Dhoob begins growing slowly in the gutters, emerging from the cracks in the pavement caused by the flooding. Carpets of Arugu and Pemba engulf entire shopping malls, but they only exploit existing weaknesses. The Buddleia is far more aggressive. It penetrates through brick and mortar to find moisture. It grows fast and high, scaling government offices and investment firms, where its light seeds are easily dispersed by the wind, returning to its ancestral home in the Himalayas.

65 million years from now.

An asteroid 40 km in diameter, comes hurtling towards planet Earth. It strikes the planet just off the western coast of India, near the Bombay High, releasing thermal energy equal to the entire nuclear arsenal of the Earth.

“The Shiva crater is approximately 500 km in diameter, and we discovered it from geophysical evidence and drill core samples in the Bombay Offshore Basin on the western continental shelf of India,” Prof. Sankar Chatterjee, a Horn Professor of Paleontology and Curator at the Museum of Texas University, said in a statement. “I have been invited to participate in the Koyna Drilling Project to study the core samples that may unravel the genesis of the Shiva crater. Unlike typical known extraterrestrial impact structures, the Shiva crater is shaped like a teardrop. It is also unusually rectangular, measuring 600 km in length and 400 km wide.” Chatterjee argues that the low angle of an impact combined with boundary fault lines and unstable rock led to this unusual formation. The age of the structure is inferred from the Deccan Traps which overlie part of it.

6 years from now

On the 7th of July, 122 nations adopt the first international treaty banning nuclear weapons at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The initiative, led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and New Zealand, was approved by 122 votes, with only the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore abstaining. Nine countries recognized for possessing substantial nuclear weaponry—the U.S., Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel—were noticeably absent from the negotiations, as were most members of NATO. Friday’s ten-page treaty is extensive in its demands, prohibiting signatories from developing, testing, manufacturing, possessing, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. Nations are also prohibited from transferring nuclear weapons to one another. Having now been approved by the UN, the treaty will be open for signatures on September 20, at which point it will need to be ratified by 50 states before entering into international law. The major obstacle, of course, is that many prominent members of the international community—and their allies—remain vocally opposed.

65 million years from now

At the time of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction, India was located over the Réunion hotspot of the Indian Ocean. Hot material rising from the mantle flooded portions of India with a vast amount of lava, creating a plateau known as the Deccan Traps. It has been hypothesized that either the crater or the Deccan Traps associated with the area are the reason for the high level of oil and natural gas reserves in the region.

65 years from now

In his controversial treatise on fossil worship, the Iranian Archaeologist Hamid Parsani argues, that for primitive man, the world was made coherent by a theology of petroleum.

Prayers were thus offered to the geological movements and formations of oil, a subterranean daemon whose outer shell was the home of humankind. Parsani elaborates on this with a peculiar translation of votive hieroglyphs, – ‘Burrowing sounds are heard from within. Once they have nested within the solid globe, the larvae cut breathing holes and press their headless tails against the surface for air.’

5 years from now

The international community of earth sciences, remains unconvinced that the „Shiva Crater“ is indeed an impact crater. Currently, the 500 km wide crater remains unlisted in the Earth Impact Database of the Planetary and Space Science Centre at the University of New Brunswick, Canada. Christian Koeberl, professor of impact research and planetary geology at the University of Vienna, Austria, regards the Shiva Crater as, „a figment of imagination.“

Ministry of Information & Broadcasting

Clarification Regarding Deletion of Anti-National Literature Materials Present in Document Marked for Censorship (Pending Review).

 

7th November 2020, 11:30 am.

It has come to the notice of the I&B Ministry that a deliberate, sinister, motivated campaign has been launched by rogue elements that have infiltrated our esteemed institution, to clandestinely tarnish the image of the Ministry of I&B.

We are greatly aggrieved that this heinous attack has come from within the newly established Censorship Certification Department, which was long been the sixth pillar of protection against the spread of anti-nationalist materials. It is our misfortune that the CCD has unfortunately fallen prey to the very snake whose venom it seeks to exhume from the body of our Great Nation.

This misinformation is based on ill-will and incorrect appreciation and is tantamount to causing loss of reputation of the Government in public eyes. It is patently defamatory in nature. Hence, it is important to bring the following facts to light:

– The Manifesto Review Subcommittee had convened from 3rd November 2019 to 7th January 2020 to deliberate on the matters of the certifying usage of certain anti-national words in the document.

– On 13 February 2020, the Subcommittee came to the conclusion that all words used in the Dalit Panthers Manifesto of 1973 are reprehensible in nature.

– On 15th April 2020 the document was duly submitted by the Committee to the desk of the Censorship Certification Department, marking the document to be deemed classified, and to be entirely censored (pending review).

– On 6th November 2020, the partially declassified sections of the censored document (pending review) were egregiously made available to the public in its contemptuous form to the public in a detestable attempt of slandering the good reputation of the Ministry of I&B and by extension the Government.

– The I&B Ministry has come to the conclusion that this detestable act could be committed by anti-national elements that have infiltrated the Censorship Certification apartment, and are well versed in the intricacies of the Indian bureaucratic process.

 

The I&B ministry hereby declares; the partially declassified Dalit Panthers Manifesto of 1973 (attached above) is an act of literary terrorism.

All copies of the document must be duly erased, deleted and/or destroyed with immediate effect in the interest of safeguarding the integrity of the Nation. Individuals failing to comply will be met with the strictest action.

The previous Keeper writes:

28 degrees 40 minutes and 35 seconds North, by 77 degrees 12 minutes and 47seconds east

At the foot of the Aravalis lies the hunting lodge of the Emperor, where his men set down their game, and settled back with their small poisons.

The Emperor’s men were known to be great admirers of logic and even of symmetry. So it can seem inconsistent, at first, to learn that they seemed to consider finding luck in their game to be the true mark of a man.

Certain moralists have argued that the game in its entirety was fraught, estranging, schismatic;

they saw this notion of the “mark of a man” as nothing more than a mere fable concocted by those who found themselves favored by luck.

Nevertheless, the keeper observes,

their game represents an interpolation of chance into the order of the universe, and that to accept its errors is to strengthen chance, not contravene it.

And there was great game to be found here – birds especially, huge birds, with feathers, he reports, that would „shine like the sun.“

The Keeper makes note of an incident that occurred towards the middle days of the structure.

A man, vanished one night, near a cenotaph in the apartment room on the first floor.

The structure was subsequently named after him, or rather, after the name given to him for his peculiar exit from the empire.

The keeper reports the accomplishments of the Emperor’s cartographers. He speaks of the purity of their relation to scale, and of their refusal to rest content until they had achieved perfection, and of how these traits combined lead them to devise a most singular map – one co-extant with the Empire itself, and coinciding with it point for point.

Successive generations caring less and less for this curious demonstration of cartographical veracity, saw the map fall into disrepair, and, before long, only tattered fragments remained.

the stargazers of the Empire would walk among these walls.

With eyes veiled from the glare of the day, and tempered under the soft glaze of moonlight, they met here to chart worlds that lay beyond their own.

The Keeper describes eighteen years of waiting for the precise instant when the moon would briefly stand still directly overhead so they may stare at through their zenith tube, and correct the clocks of the empire.

For what Emperor would pay his men, however adept, solely to stare?

Yet stare they did.

On some nights, spying upon heavenly clusters, they saw among them the image of a great bird floating beyond the clouds, with wings spanning eons.

On other nights they fashioned the stars into the likeness and form of their vanishing brother.

And In time, mastering a vision of his exit, they took flight.

That they have retreated is clear, but no signs indicate that they have departed definitively.

Nevertheless, in order to return, they will have to overcome:

 

the floods

earthquakes

torrential rains

storm and thunder

tornadoes

volcanoes

epidemics

chemical warfare

yellow fever

psychological war

the cold war

the simulacra tactic

black magic

the inquisition

the sepoy mutiny

the second war

the synthetic image

the mines of earth and sea

the biological blockade

Absolute silence

the organic Eucharist

the electric chair

the gallows

the guillotine

the gas chamber

stoning

the pulling of nails

the repulsion of everything

disembowelment

massive mutilation

genocide

syphilis

shipwreck

euthanasia

Crucifixion

the atomic bomb

the hydrogen bomb

the hundred sons of Gandhari

Drones

Molotovs

The Death Star

the bubonic plague

the Trojan horse

Ulysses and Penelope

Ghibreel’s fall

the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse

Goya’s head

Saleem’s nose

The left foot of Krishna

the mummified corpse of Mao

the love of Marx

Lolita

A thousand and one nights

birdsong

the tongue of the fish and the toads

the theory of the holy trinity

the theory of progress and its antithesis

poetry

hate and love

resurrection

the temptation of the saints

the virgin’s pain

Descartes’ doubt

Nietzsche’s madness

Ivan’s paranoia

Gandhi’s spindle

the Tao

The milky way

Dürer’s rhinoceros

the whistles and atmospheric pulsations that, at this time await with gathering force.

They shall have to face, what the fire of these years has not been able to burn, but has instead made stronger.

 

*1988

Sahej Rahals Installationen, Filme, Performances und Videospiele sind Teil einer konstruierten Mythologie, die er selbst erschafft und dabei auf Quellen zurückgreift, die von lokalen Legenden bis hin zu Science-Fiction reichen. Indem er einen Dialog zwischen diesen Quellen anstößt, erzeugt Rahal Szenarien, in denen unbestimmte Wesen aus den Rissen unserer Zivilisation auftauchen. Rahal wirkte bereits an verschiedenen institutionellen, Einzel- und Gruppenausstellungen mit, darunter ACCA Melbourne 2019; Vancouver Biennale 2019; Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai, 2018; Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham, Großbritannien, 2018; Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, 2017; PRIMARY Nottingham, Großbritannien, 2017; die Liverpool Biennale, 2016; Setouchi Triennale, 2016; Jewish Museum, New York, 2015; Kochi Muziris Biennale, 2014; MACRO Museum, Rom, 2014. Seine Arbeiten wurden in der Galleria Continua, Les Moulins, Frankreich, 2014 und auf der Art Stage Singapore 2014 ausgestellt. Seine jüngste Einzelausstellung fand 2019 bei Chatterjee & Lal in Mumbai statt. Er ist Preisträger des INLAKS Emerging Artist Award 2012, des IFA Critical Arts Practice Stipendiums 2014, des Forbes India Art Award 2014 für das beste Debüt im Rahmen seiner Einzelausstellung Forerunner bei Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai, des Cove Park/Henry Moore Fellowship 2017, des Akademie Schloss Solitude Stipendiums 2018 und zuletzt des Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation Installation Art Grant 2019.

Mensch-Maschine-Stipendium

Mehr über Sahej Rahal

Clara Herrmann

*1982 in Böblingen, lebt in Berlin

Kulturmanagerin, Kuratorin, Redakteurin

Leitung JUNGE AKADEMIE