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|[D I S C U R S I V E  S P A C E S ]| Residency project 

[ Sahjan Kooner ] - May 2020 | '52° 35' 28.9320'' N, 2° 6' 38.6928'' W 30° 54' 3.4740'' N, 75° 51' 26.1972'' E'


| Research from our writer in residence |

'52° 35' 28.9320'' N, 2° 6' 38.6928'' W

30° 54' 3.4740'' N, 75° 51' 26.1972'' E'

Heterotopic becoming, in place, space, memory and mouth


These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

                   Shantih            shantih             shantih

-TS Eliot The Wasteland

All languages, names, nomenclatures, and securities of identity are rendered obsolete in the presence of the true, and therefore to us ineffable, ‘name of God’. So Jacques Derrida, in his 1986 essay Des Tours de Babel, introduces us to the problematization of language and identity as presented in the myth of the Tower of Babel. Humanity guarantees its titular place over the stratas of global society by our ability to communicate an image of ourselves through the languages we speak; both by rooting our ontology in our mastery of the speech act, as well as diminishing the borders and boundaries of the physical world by translation and translating our way to a [hoped for] global unity.


The Babel curse is always getting closer to being undone. Though we know, don’t we, that things get lost in translation. Sahjan Kooner crowns the Heterotopia [Discursive Spaces] programme with their, deeply immersive, residency piece titled as the longitudinal and latitudinal formula which features as the title of this essay.


Kooner invites us to enter a forensic reconstruction of oral histories which navigate the fluid space between memory, the familiar objects of domestic Indian life, and the unfamiliar futures which face those who become diasporic migrants to another country. In a profound departure from the well-worn narratives that academic discourse often reduces the stories of people of colour to; the installation piece captures the heart of the physical realities of architecture, the politics of place, familial warmth, and marginalised voices.


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The artist has created clay vessels which house tablets and mobile phones playing a selection of videos which document their mother meditatively reciting verse in Punjabi, a family gathering in India, two pairs of hands gently caressing each other as jewellery is passed from one to the other, and two further videos featuring music so ambient as to make the person experiencing the piece temporarily merge with the work.


Sandalwood incense wreathes its way around the gallery and reminds us of the power of our senses to evoke old, forgotten, far-off things, and asks us where ‘home’ is really located if the presence of home can occur in diverse and discursive spaces.


In an intimation of the ability of technology to resurrect that which has eroded and decayed over time [the reader will perhaps remember the 3-D printed reconstruction of the ‘Arch of Baal’ from the ruins left by Islamic State’s destruction of the wider temple in 2016]: Kooner has 3-D printed miniatures of architectural structures highly reminiscent of an Ozymandian kingdom. Through the window of one of these structures we again encounter the ‘mother-within’ kneading material and reciting an almost prayer-like text.


'52° 35' 28.9320'' N, 2° 6' 38.6928'' W

30° 54' 3.4740'' N, 75° 51' 26.1972'' E' is a unique conversation between the artist and their own journey on the road of self-becoming, reconciliations with their past, the equivocations of identity in the present, and transmissions of knowledge in the Indian diaspora.

|Writer in residence|  [Nathaniel Grant]  May 2020 |

| [ Discursive Spaces ] |

Sahjan Kooner | May 2020

| Bio |

Sahjan is an early career artist filmmaker who makes films and installations which explore memory, trauma and material violence in relationship to place. Their family are migrants to the UK from India and moved to England in the 1960’s, the conversations of loss and mourning form an integral part of my practice. They always think and operate within a questioning of the autobiographical/personal/political, seeking to understand how the matrixes of these shape everyday life.

Sahjan has been increasingly exploring ideas around intergenerational trauma in the Indian diaspora, and they are currently developing a film and installation for a solo and group presentation entitled ‘Yādadāśata’, which explores transmissions of knowledge in the Indian diaspora.

| Statement |

A series of floor based works which contain films developed over the course of the residency. The films are a culmination of an intensive research period which contained oral testimonies, forensic reconstructions of memories and physical/digital production. The filmic body of work explores how memories move across time and space and draws questions around prosthetic memory, architecture, politics of place, domestic life and marginalised voices.

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