icon-youtube icon-flickr icon-vimeo icon-twitter icon-facebook icon-instagram

Reading and discussion event

Tue 24 October 2017

Barricadia “emerges, fragmented across borders and histories. It is a temporal, autonomous, organic place, it is built and undone each day and each night it is rebuilt upon the masonry of hope held steadfast across lands, across ages against the dire winds of hate. Those who have sought resistance, know well its shapes and forms yet none have seen the bounds of Barricadia."

Join us for a two-hour reading and discussion event connecting to themes of Sahej Rahal's current exhibition Barricadia. The reading group focuses on a short speculative text by Sofia Samatar called 'A Brief History of Non-Duality Studies'. Chosen by Rahal as an important genre and concept influencing his work, we will read the text together and discuss the various references, histories and methodologies created by Samatar's text.

Weaving fact and fiction with narrativised events and expanded spiritual histories, Samatar's text explores the concept of non-dualism - a spiritual and philosophical construct relating to consciousness of the self. Meaning "not two", non-dualism often refers to an acquired state of consciousness, where awareness of the self and the world is understood as being part of one whole singularised perspective. It states that there is no separate self, that we are all one together.

Samatar's text speculates how a non-dual history might be created or understood through narrative, poetry and contemporary references. According to Rahal he “was drawn to the text and wanted to share it because it's so thick with embedded meanings, it's a mythological tale that's been put together atop other mythologies and fictions, not just from Africa but from Hindu mythology, the Quran, and even Shakespeare. In its metaphysical scope, it deals with ideas of time in a Borgesian fashion, and the narrative itself is like a time-travelling journal that's moving through different eras and locations.”

The text is simultaneously a story and a history outlining various attempts to reach the so-called non-dual state of consciousness. Excerpt:

"Nonduality Studies, it must be admitted, is largely a hidden field, a discipline discredited and in mourning, practiced in graveyards, airports, alleys smelling of “ethnic” foods, video arcades. For a moment, I thought this was going to change.

Then you stood before me, gasping, blood streaming from the cut on your head.

“Did you feel it?”

“Yes,” I sobbed.

“You’re lying.”

You raised the iron again.

“Stop! Stop! I feel it!”

Rahal's exhibition centres upon a grimoire book, produced by the artist. A speculative fiction of its own, Rahal's text is a disordered timeline including references to historical poetry, film-making and cultural figures. The grimoire as a genre is known as a book of spells, which describes real and imagined events from across different times and spaces, made popular by HP Lovecraft as a text which includes ‘fictional’ and ‘real’ events - stories which merge the real and the imaginary. The grimoire is also known as a textbook of magic spells, with an ability to bring things into the physical world, such as amulets and talismans – objects with protective and magical properties. The bible is often referred to as a grimoire – a spiritual book of recollections, with a corporeal life outside of its pages.

We will discuss the narrative devices of Samatar and the grimoire together, exploring the speculative genre, and exploring the various devices used by the writers to describe and evoke the unsayable. Samatar's text may seem quite challenging, but no prior knowledge of 'non-duality' is required. We will read and unpick the text together slowly as a group, aiming to understand together the constructs and ideas proposed by the writer and Sahej's show.

Sofia Samatar's text can be found here. Participants should read the text before the session in order to contribute to the discussion. Discussion will be led by CCA Curator Ainslie Roddick. Sahej Rahal's grimoire is additional, but not required, reading - copies can be found in the exhibition during opening hours.