a network of books 05.04.2006, 10:28 AM
posted by ben vershbow
Connections is the outcome of a reflection which began in the early Nineties, at the time of the war in the Gulf.... At that time, the operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, preceding the last operation which could be named "Desert, full stop", established the era of a media oriented war, therefore a war of image, on the very spot of the Revelation, that of the three sacred books, a historic place dedicated to communication. They clearly showed the lack of means of communication and even the lack of communication power of the Arab countries as well as the resurgent fear of technology.
In our calendar, that of Hegira, we are today in 1420, eternally nomads. Our roots are clearly set in the future, as the Arab poet Adonis wrote it. For me, it is an attempt to enter this desert, this collective memory, to remove sand from objects which may lose their identity through the changing of material but will still keep their memory.
A recent comment from Adam Greenfield, author of the just-published "Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing," seems apropos:
I've become all but unable to think of the objects around me except in terms of Actor-Network theory, as sort of depositions or instantiations of a great deal of matter, energy and information moving through the world. And of course, a book is nothing but a snapshot in that regard; you have to do a lot of extra work if you want to prise out and examine the flows it is a part of, or even those it has set up.
sol gaitan on May 4, 2006 5:16 PM:
People inhabit a networked world without necessarily been aware of it. The separation between the material and the conceptual is academic. Existence is a whole, notwithstanding how incoherent it may be. We exist in a complex network evidenced by the Internet. Myriad relations have exploded there. Those parts of the world that have arrived to the Information Era truly inhabit a World Wide Web. Dak'Art 2006 (7th Biennial of African Contemporary Art in Dakar) is in itself an interesting example of how connections work: "Afrique: entendus, sous-entendus et malentendus," (Africa: Understood, Implied and Misunderstood.) How Africa is affected by geopolitics, how it is connected and disconnected, how, like many other places of the so-called Third World, it dances between disparate worlds.
Perhaps this words of Leopold Senghor, Senegal's first president, sum it up:
I wear European clothing and the Americans dance to jazz, which derives from our African rhythms -- civilization in the 20th century is universal. No people can get along without others.
Mounir Fatmi's "The Connections" mixes "the three sacred books" as a paradigm of a region "dedicated to communication" where networks have not been successfully negotiated. Meanwhile, the mere covers of the books he chooses to "connect," evoke a great deal of information (the missionary's multi-language New Testament with its echoes of colonization; Bernini's St. Teresa, the epitome of erotism; Bataille; Le Langage des Oiseaux, the language of birds, a divine language, which in my case brings to mind another mystic, St. Francis of Assisi, and Liszt's gorgeous piano piece "St. Francis of Assisi Preaching to the Birds," and so on.) And this is only a fragment.
Fatmi's appropriation with the purpose of showing the constant flux of collective memory, which he identifies with a desert, reveals the complexities of communication in a world where the book is sacred but the connections don't seem to be happening.