In his essay "It Is in the Brewing Luminous", John Akomfrah talks of the ‘within’ as a space of multiple, re-occuring occupations of a 'moment'. How do we return, via a new route, to a discussion on our relationship to the language of our practice, and “its beyond”(1). Darkness has been a 'within'; perhaps the most dominant as both something that torments but mostly rewards. I have accessed darkness through routes that span multiple collapses of time, space and being.
These routes are not necessarily easy to articulate, especially when one thinks of personal narratives. The kind of story-telling that makes most people uncomfortable, while just as easily, communicates something of an understanding that’s hard to pinpoint. Isn’t that the beauty of our urge to create a vocabulary of a feminist, other-wise-worldly, decolonizing?
So let me occupy these many moments in a darkness that is mine, and is 'beyond' if you will allow me.
A legend in my hometown speaks of a shape shifting creature – from man to animal – used as a ‘curse’ by one farmer upon another who dares to encroach on his land. The curse manifests in the dark hours right after dusk. The town is warned, that if one was to find themselves walking alone along the fields, seeing a man walking towards them from the opposite direction, to pay attention to his pace. If it quickens, you have seconds to take cover before he transforms into a wild bull and charges into you, piercing your gut with its sharp horns.
Within this story, and these knowledges of the 'otherwise', a practice can essentially navigate the underbelly of a darkness our practice manifests within (the art world in my case), as another kind of 'instituting'. I speak of frameworks not so much in terms of existing vocabularies, be it the glitch, the subversion of many institutional critiques, but rather as something emerging out of a complete collapse in our understanding of time, space, language and our multiple efforts in 'articulating'.
What this story tells us is that if a language for it exists, at all, it is told as a grandmother’s bedtime story or a reading of your horoscope by an astrologer. But perhaps one can re-narrate those stories as a way to enter the expanse of ones present and its relationship within multiple collapses and existences and forms.
This act of re-narrating gives us a sense of the incomprehensibility of what it means to be in the present. A present in which we are constantly confronting and shaping what is loosely called 'political positioning', or 'political stance' within ever changing subject-hoods. This allows a certain form of opacity that doesn't allow for easy co-options.
The most recent route I’ve taken within darkness is exploring the time when I lived as a man: the darkest manifestation of evil, abusing those who were already marginalized and oppressed according to one astrologer, whose reading was based on the time and date of birth, and the positioning of Jupiter, Rahu and Ketu on August 24th 1981 at 8:50 pm. I am now here as a cultural practitioner, as a woman, who instinctively understands this ‘evil’ and attracts such men towards herself, only to seek redemption through creating and mobilizing the ‘cure’ and the ‘taking care of’ the ‘other’.
I’m now re-born as what is best described as an archetype of the ‘warrior witch’, fighting, what my astrologer says is, a war against the most evil of evil in the underbelly of all forms of darkness. Using care and militant strategies as feminist practice, creating spaces in places, via a form that grounds me on this planet for now.
Through forces and time in all their non-linearity and multiplicities of gender constructs, making a re-living of moments as Akomfrah describes, an incomprehensible existence in the many routes within, and through the Now.
"Inside the Event" appeared in print issue 6, "Art of Darkness".
1. "It is in the brewing luminous", John Akomfrah, "A series of utterly improbable, yet extraordinary renditions", Arthur Jafa, Serpentine Gallery,