■ Continuum

Liat Grayver, Daniel Berio and Nora Al-Badri

silent green kulturquartier, transmediale berlin 2021-2022

Although the advanced mathematical knowledge and artisanal skills required to draw complex geometric patterns by hand are considered to be all but lost to history, we can still today witness captivating results of these traditions from Baghdad to Granada. Star-shaped patterns typical to Arabic artisanal practices are a unique fusion of mathematics, art and spirituality that exploit the derivative potential of symmetry in ingenious manners. Depending on the intent and nature of one’s gaze, some may simply see a flurry of lines and some will see æsthetic expression or “primitive” decoration, whereas others will perceive religious or spiritual

Liat Grayver and Nora Al-Badri have conceptualized Continuum to thematize and personally engage with the æsthetic(al) heritage of their own families’ origins in mid- to late-20th century Baghdad. Al-Badri’s digital conceptual art and Grayver’s robotic painting merge as a means for the artists to explore, reconnect with and reappropriate this heritage. The resulting composite artistic methodologies, processes and practices are enhanced through the collaboration of graffiti artist and computer scientist Daniel Berio, who specializes in the computational generation of calligraphic patterns and forms, and their reproduction using drawing machines and robots. meaning in the patterns.

The work is presented as a room installation consisting of a series of drawings made with the support of the e-David robotic painting lab at the University of Konstanz. Using software developed by Berio, a range of instances, each based on a mathematical model of Arabic patterns established by computer scientist Craig Kaplan, were derived using the system; a singular pattern was selected by the three artists as the source material to generate the entire body of drawings.

Continuing her exploration of collaborative human-machine creation, Grayver has fused traditional painting techniques and materials — handmade rice paper dyed manually with blue pigment — to create an organic surface upon which a series of white ink drawings are executed by a large plotter. The pattern is deconstructed and reconstructed through geometric “strands” that explore the structure as increasingly reductive variations of the source pattern, using fewer strokes in each instance. The pattern is also used as the basis for the transformation of computer-generated sequences of “asemic Kufic” writing. These are executed as calligraphic gestures that are traced on blank rice paper by the painting robot using blue ink and brushes. The traces incrementally increase in tension and density, as each drawing is an accumulative variation on the previous one. Drawing inspiration from the concept of mimetic geometries (Wendy Shaw), Continuum exploits algorithmic procedures in the production of geometrical forms and patterns, while merging deterministic operations with random and infinite concepts.

Continuum embodies a longing for a world that lies beneath the ruins of modern times — the almost ubiquitous detritus of colonialism, perpetual war and forced migration. The artists have created an æsthetic space in which to reflect upon their own personal yearning to experience realms of their ancestors that no longer exist — not just in a temporal and geographic sense, but also in terms of knowledge and accessibility, as so much of that material, sensual and philosophical world has (been) disappeared, notably in Iraq. Through this biographical dialogue, the work builds a new æsthetic language attributed to a state of spiritual exile — the longing for a home that one never had. This notion of spiritual displacement has impelled the artists to seek a new common (visual) language — a language that may well be un Étranger to the Western canon in which they were raised and educated. The longing becomes a mode of being that exists independent of the concept of a nation state, appealing rather for a cultural and spiritual homeland. The dance within this unique æsthetic and cultural space weaves it into a new yet exiled existence within contemporary media art.

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