Finding Icarus (For Tyeb Mehta)

 

Icarus finds his wings again,

The falling, now paused, becomes flying again;

Beyond midnight, as the night turns to day,

Peace, finally settles on his brow again.

 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,

The new day dawns again;

As the rain washes the tears and the world,

Mars red, burnt umber and parchment white fill the canvas again.

2009

On Superheroes and Science fiction

You know, I’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating.

Take one of my favorite superheroes, Superman. Not a great comic book. Not particularly well-drawn. But the mythology… The mythology is not only great, it’s unique.

Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone.

Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S” – that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us.

Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… He’s unsure of himself… He’s a coward.

Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.

Superheroes have not only the ability, but also a great tendency, or propensity to do that, as does, I believe, a lot of great literature, science fiction being my particular favourite. I find the idea very exciting that stories and narrative are unfolding in time ranging from alternate past and parallel present to uncertain futures; that seemingly unreal technology is commonplace. But more importantly it’s the excitement of possibilities, of complex hypothetical worlds full of possibilities. But at the same time, what remains consistent is the human condition. The genre of science fiction allows for generating a kind of distance in time and space to allow us room for examining our Human Condition, a kind of a wide angle lens to examine our own anxieties and exhilarations, our own at-once epic and intimate predicaments. Shakespeare did something quite similar…

If our culture sometimes seems to lack a sense of the numinous or spiritual it’s only in the same way a fish lacks a sense of the ocean. Because the numinous is everywhere, we need to be reminded of it. We live among wonders. Superhuman cyborgs, we plug into cell phones connecting us to one another and to a constantly updated planetary database, an exo-memory that allows us to fit our complete cultural archive into a jacket pocket. We have camera eyes that speed up, slow down, and even reverse the flow of time, allowing us to see what no one prior to the twentieth century had ever seen — the thermodynamic miracle of broken shards and a puddle gathering themselves up from the floor to assemble a half-full wineglass. We are the hands and eyes and ears, the sensitive probing feelers through which the emergent, intelligent universe comes to know its own form and purpose. We bring the thunderbolt of meaning and significance to unconscious matter, blank paper, the night sky. We are already divine magicians, already supergods. Why shouldn’t we use all our brilliance to leap in as many single bounds as it takes to a world beyond ours, threatened by overpopulation, mass species extinction, environmental degradation, hunger, and exploitation? Superman and his pals would figure a way out of any stupid cul-de-sac we could find ourselves in — and we made Superman, after all. All it takes is that one magic word.”

In the world of the superheroes, everything had value, potential, mystery. Any person, thing, or object could be drafted into service in the struggle against darkness and evil. We love our superheroes because they refuse to give up on us. We can analyze them out of existence, kill them, ban them, mock them, and still they return, patiently reminding us of who we are and what we wish we could be.”

“The interior of our skulls contains a portal to infinity.”

Superhero science has taught me this: Entire universes fit comfortably inside our skulls. Not just one or two but endless universes can be packed into that dark, wet, and bony hollow without breaking it open from the inside. The space in our heads will stretch to accommodate them all. The real doorway to the fifth dimension was always right here. Inside. That infinite interior space contains all the divine, the alien, and the unworldly we’ll ever need.

 

– Ali Akbar Mehta

Mumbai

September 2013

Godrej Legacy Park: Trinity

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An exhibition is always an act of placing artworks and understanding the

importance of engaging with a site and, at the same time producing a polylogue

with other spaces. A place is no fixed thing – it has an episodic history and takes

its particular aspect through an intense immersion.

 

We recognize the Godrej Complex as a space devoted to natural and technical

sciences, and have treated its representation as a live entity, rather than a

museum of dead objects – creating contexts that represent different physical,

psychological, historical, cultural realms and realities.

 

Within the three silo(s) are spaces that embody the conditions in which histories,

stories, objects and memories find their voices and interlink to present

themselves as part of microcosmic memory theatres – unfreezing the

associations typically made with the Godrej Complex and stressing its continual

transformational evolution.

 

As artists, a significant part of our own practice has been one of enquiry,

research and presentations of artifacts, experiences as well as parallel personal

and public histories. We are striving towards legibility, a vocabulary of analog

experiences in a digital world – distilled through complex processes – to present

a sense of the History, Achievements and Future of Godrej as a corporation, entity

and cultural icon.

 

– Ali Akbar Mehta & Vidha Saumya

Mumbai, 2015

Maurice

I am not learned, I am not ignorant.

I have wandered

Is my life better than other people’s lives?

I have loved people,

Shortly afterward,

As reason returned to me,

I saw that even on the worst days,

Men went to escape from death, strange beings that they are.

Yet I have met people who have never said to life, “Quiet!”

Can I

Am I

I came

I am not

I lived

I must

I was

Outdoors, I had

This brief scene excited me to the point of delirium

I went to the house but did not enter

All that was real; take note.

I had no enemies.

Once the glass had been removed,

I was asleep!

Even after I recovered,

They gave me a modest position in the institution

Even though my sight had hardly weakened,

Yet something in me quickly stopped wanting.

They said to me

I liked

Behind their backs I saw

I knew

She would

She was

I had

The law

She got

This was one of her games.

Who threw glass in your face?

I had

I had

I had

A story? No. No stories, never again.

 

To Begin…

We filed slowly, languidly into the hall

The auditorium was vast and silent

As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued:

 

 

A Garden of Leaflessness, who says its isn’t beautiful?

A picket fence in my own home and the house of my people

Mute spectators in the cosmic coliseum, we witness:

 

 

A Kafkan wilderness – Cold metal Grey and dry dust

Rain-washed black tar, speckled with charcoal grey

Grey rats grey birds grey dogs and other grey bipeds

No red – only something soft that may pass for mud

A few tufts of hair and slivers of chewed out bleached bones

 

 

Damp, dank and dark are the colors of this world

Lifeless and drab, there are greens and blues

Dreamless machine lives and washed out hues

 

 

Overlooking civilization / Murakami upside down…

Super-non-Flat / where we are

Prisoners of own worlds isolated manifest before your eyes,

In parallel world Timespace Continuum wormhole Black hole reality

As breaths compress / stars die / Atlas, turns the axis

Atrophy to nerve ending capacity – no time. No time

I’ll be there when you’re gone.

 

 

Narcotic anarchic / Supernova Fantastic / stretching like elastic

Surrounding us engulfing us choking us drowning us

Womb of pain /Anti Mother / the Phantom Zone

Vast oceans of sand and watery deserts / barren and unforgiving

Thunderous, deafening, tumultuous / Brownian motion funeral march

Movement / no movement – pregnant stasis

 

 

Will we be destroyed by our very own silences?

The inherent soliloquies of a six billion planktonian people

Can we know ourselves if we don’t know where we are?

 

 

Glass palaces can exist

If only in my mind

In worlds of daydreams and sleepless nights

In spells, prayers and enchantments

In quantum theory and microphysics

Mythology and science fiction

These worlds shift, ripple and shimmer

Drip, meander and distort

Flow along from dream to dream,

And I move on.

2015