The mystical title of the current exhibition at Grey Noise gallery, Ghosting of Beings and Worlds refers to a formula in the book Fragments of Existential Mathematics by Laurent Derobert. The French artist and researcher, who has a doctorate in economics, has developed the concept of ‘existential mathematics’, where he uses mathematical formulas to question our relationship with the world. Through algebraic equations with poetic names, Derobert attempts to capture unexplored territories of consciousness and human interactions, and crystallise what escapes us and vanishes by giving it a meditative density.
Similarly, the nine artists from around the world featured in this show have found their own formulas for grasping intangible feelings and ideas. Their artworks are abstract, minimalist and different from each other but they all subtly evoke a sense of being haunted by the apparitions of myriad emotions, memories and meanings.
Stephanie Saadé’s work, Logic Remains, is simply a pair of identical pieces of twisted cables mounted side by side on the wall. While she found one of these on the streets, the Lebanese artist bought an identical cable from a hardware store, carefully cutting and twisting it to match with the other piece, which bears the trace of the unknown worker who handled it. The work could be about trying to recreate something that has been lost; or connecting with an unknown, unnoticed member of society; or perhaps a search for a lost logic through choreographed movement.
Swiss artist Vittorio Santoro took a sentence he had read in a book or newspaper, and wrote it repeatedly in the same place on the same piece of paper for over a month until the words became blurred. That paper, titled Something Looking and Feeling Generic … is thus haunted by the trace of his unseen performance, the sense of time passing and memories of personal or political events that have repeatedly impacted his life.
Interior and exterior world
In another work, from his Good-bye Darkness series, a Venetian blind partly rests on a rectangular black steel base, with a bulb concealed inside. The base references Bruce Nouman’s iconic work, Concrete Tape Recorder Piece, featuring a recorded scream that remained unheard and locked inside the closed box. However, Santoro has made slits in the box to allow the light to stream out, and referenced our ability to control the blinds to convey the relationship between our interior and exterior world.
Mexican artist Rodrigo Hernandez has taken inspiration from surrealism, and Mayan and Aztec art to create an abstract ghostlike papier-maché, wood and metal lacquer piece titled, Finally Free, that recalls memories of a loved one, and tells stories about the past.
In his work Prosthetic Love, Sweden-based Lebanese artist Paul Hage Boutros has compiled all the SMSs exchanged between him and his Swedish girlfriend over five years into a book, placed on a desk in a corner of the gallery. The collection of blue and green blurbs represents an important phase in his life, embodying myriad emotions, and evoking memories of the personal, political, geographical and other elements that affected the relationship.
Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, the anonymous ‘ghost’ curator of the show, is displaying two works from his ongoing Night Cartography series. Here the artist uses a blanket for one night, and later burns the periphery of the large blanket, transforming it into a small, round shaped piece, to create a map of the night.
Suspended from the ceiling, the burnt pieces, imprinted with memories of the night, and forged with fire, speak about the power of both fire and dreams to transform and transcend things. Considering that the artist is from Lebanon, the works are haunted by the ghosts of destroyed dreams, and the burning desire for transformation.
The idea that things, people or countries may change, but continue to contain the memory of the past is also embodied in another work by Boutros, where he burnt an A4 size sheet of paper to ashes, transformed the ashes into pigments and smeared them on the wall as a hazy, amorphous, ghostly drawing.
Other works in the show include Autoportrait a l’atelier — a video by well-known French artist and pioneer of video art Ange Leccia, where the artist has filmed himself waiting in his studio for the apparition of an idea to appear; Tunisian Swiss artist Ismail Bahri’s hypnotic video, Denouement, which plays on the slow and ghostly apparition of a human figure, from a diaphanous smudge; and Lebanese artist Dala Nasser’s thought provoking installation featuring trauma blankets, marble dust and liquid latex. Visitors should also look out for and avoid stepping on Thin Ice — a work by Saadé, where she has embedded a real diamond earring in the floor of the gallery.
A vinyl sticker with a formula by Derobert, named Vitesse de Fantomisation (Speed of phantomisation) ties together all these diverse works that appear to be as abstract and cold as mathematical equations, but are infused with the presence of intangible notions, emotions, memories and ideas.
Ghosting of Beings and Worlds will run at Grey Noise gallery, Alserkal Avenue, until July 31.