Aman Sandhu, NO MORE ARTISTS, 2019, digital collage print, wheat paste. Photograph by Matthew Arthur Williams.
Accept the wrinkles.
I received this sage advice from a friend, when I was struggling to achieve a seamless surface.
Lately, I’ve been really worried about burning sage indiscriminately. You should too. That’s my advice, coming from a long line of worriers.
I know those are different sages, but I often conflate to bridge, I’ve learned this coming from a community of reckless conflators,
My worry is that I’m not burning it right. In my attempt to clear, I might be inviting something else in. Maybe I shouldn’t be burning it at all, because it’s not mine to burn.
I’ve been in Canada for most of the pandemic. I haven’t spent a sustained amount of time here for nearly a decade. Most of that time away was in Glasgow and it’s in Glasgow where I learned something about the Canadian landscape. A landscape that I could never really see – see as in feel and see as in see. I had great access to it from the suburb I grew up in but whenever I tried to venture north my sight would become blurry. I ascribed this problem to the tired line, ‘this place is for white people, brown folks don’t camp.’ It’s an exhausting and boring joke, however this shit joke does two things. It gives white people the land and it gives brown folks a glaring pass.
I should be more technically specific. I didn’t realise my parents’ own role, as Punjabi immigrants in settler-colonialism, and in continuum, my own. I attributed this burden solely to white European people – the campers. So, I’m trying to look now, with humility and a soft step.
When we moved into that house, my parents arranged for an Akhand Path, a three-day continuous, complete reading of the Guru Granth Sahib. A makeshift gurdwara was set up in the living room with all the necessary objects required to support the reading, including housing granthis who read in shifts. I loved their transitions. As one granthi was wrapping up, another one would sit next to them and scan the page, locating where they had progressed and then begin reading, allowing for an uninterrupted oration. Inevitably there would be a few moments of a polyvocal reading.
The Akhand Path served many purposes – an opportunity for a community gathering, an invitation for bad housewarming gifts and a tool to clear a newly occupied space of
I often partake in what I call a poor man’s naval gazing, invigilating my own exhibitions. Even if I could afford to pay someone, I prefer paying friends and I would never ask a friend to sit idle counting heads. I love my few friends.
Therefore, I sit and sometimes slash I I I I
For this exhibition, NO MORE ARTISTS, my invigilation presence was supported by early morning shifts at a veg shop. I would work from 6am until noon and then run over to the gallery to open my show. I needed a signal change to go from ‘veg shop me’ to ‘gallery me’, so I would change into a nice button up shirt between spaces. My mum stressed the importance of dressing well. Like many things with my immigrant parents, impositions were never granted the time for reflection and articulation…things are what they is.
I know now, what she hasn’t said yet, that dressing well is a resistance against racist impositions. The idea of presenting as working class could put you in danger when you have more melanin in your skin.
NO MORE ARTISTS
Spin it. This lament and mantra is a container for my suspicion of this decolonial moment, an encircling field of protection. It functions as a refusal of the name that has been used to negate non-Western cultures as pre-modern and traditional. When will the brown birthday party end? I’m worried about these low hanging representation fruits upending the exits.
Fuck your reading lists.
Fuck your cushions.
I heard something startling the other day while listening to a recording of an artist talk by Imran Perretta for his solo exhibition, ‘the destructors’ at Chisenhale Gallery. Perretta begins the talk with a speech in which he ‘acknowledges’ the land that Chisenhale sits on – that British-Bangladeshis make up 60% of the demographic of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and are the fastest declining demographic, whilst white-Europeans are the fastest growing demographic. He also ‘acknowledges’ that he is the first British-Bangladeshi to have a solo exhibition at Chisenhale and that he is both a British-Bangladeshi and a Londoner, and though he has lived in London, he is not from London. Also ‘acknowledged’ is his potential complicity as a cultural worker in the increasing cost of housing in the borough. He repeats that he is the first British-Bangladeshi to have a solo exhibition within Chisenhale’s walls and hopes that he won’t be the last.
The form and cadence of Perretta’s speech is eerily like territory and land acknowledgements that occur at public gatherings in Canada. The purpose of these acknowledgements is to recognise the traditional First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit territories of the place where everyone is gathered and to acknowledge the continued presence of Indigenous peoples. Although these acknowledgements have been criticised as being gestural and performative, they are nonetheless a reminder of those who are the original and continued caretakers of the land.
Perretta goes on to reveal that he fashioned his speech from First Nations land acknowledgements after learning about them in the introduction to Amy Fung’s book, Before I was a Critic I was a Human Being. He also jokingly admits that he only read half of the intro.
We must be careful with what we use to punctuate our punctures.
Finish the book.
Punctures like this gets my trypophobia going…also, the hypochondria.
Projecting pustule abscesses, fear of cherry angiomas, assuredness of an intestinal or kidney failure, a habit of examining my urine, is it foamy or is it just bubbles? A rush of relief when the bubbles burst. During high tide hypochondria, I like to engineer some extra inertia by becoming very conscious of the workings of the universe, especially arming myself with possible endgame scenarios.
I have dived headfirst into the Higgs field, a field of energy that wraps around the universe and gives all matter weight. Our universe sits comfortably in this Higgs cradle but what was discovered a few years ago is that the Higgs field is in an unstable state. Just like an ice cube is unstable, and its stable state is a pool of water, the Higgs field has a preferred state that exists just on the other side of the universe. It would take an unlikely cataclysmic event to push our universe onto the other side, where it couldn’t be supported, and we would cease to exist. There is a possibility though, that through a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling, a pinhole sized bubble from the preferred Higgs state could burrow its way through the barrier that separates us and enter our universe. It would create a powerful vacuum – as it travelled through our universe everything in its path would be destroyed. This scenario isn’t likely to happen for another 10 to the 100 years (a 1 followed by 100 zeroes) but it might have already happened, and it just hasn’t reached us yet. Because the vacuum would travel at the speed of light, we wouldn’t see it coming, nor would we be conscious of the end. Everything would be gone, this and parallel universes.
While invigilating, I was approached by this Dutch man who wanted me to explain one of the works in the exhibition. He was asking about a set of three prints that were wheat pasted on a wall. The prints included an image of my face, buddha and the text: NO MORE ARTISTS.
I was feeling generous so I explained that I reject the name artist in this decolonial moment when bipoc artists are being invited into the institution where historically the western modernity project positioned the artist as genius and maker of pure objects this was done so that sources didn’t have to be acknowledged if something comes from nothing than it definitely didn’t come from Africa so now that our stories are wanted we have to reject the name that was used to push out our histories I’m critiquing the institution and figuring out ways to be in it and not in it like a parasite like a ghost
Bullshit, he said.
Picasso painted African masks.
You just want to blow this place up.