Dear Jabir @ The Guild, Mumbai

October 1st – October 24th, 2009

The Guild Art Gallery
02/32, Kamal Mansion, 2nd floor
Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba
400 005 Mumbai
India

Curated by: Gitanjali Dang

Sheba Chhachhi
Sreshta Rit Premnath
Vishal K Dar
Simit Raveshia
Justin Ponmany
Vivek Vilasini

Language has been written about and how. But the inexhaustible data that has emerged has demonstrated with devastating ease that we really don’t know nothing for sure. That said. Neither does this bit of knowledge dissuade us from probing this ginormous philosophical phantom nor does it prevent us from plotting out a few language games *appreciative nods for ol’ Wittgenstein* of our own.

Without discombobulating the proceedings any more, we present Dear Jābir.

Dear Jābir is an open letter to Jābir Ibn Hayyān, an eight century Persian polymath. Jābir’s many fortes included alchemy, chemistry, astronomy, philosophy etc, etc. But because of the dense and highly technical jargon Jābir frequently unleashed, the majority of his elaborate corpus was incomprehensible to the everyperson. [At this point, we’d like to take a deep breath and follow it up with a self-deprecating sidelong glance at the rarely pellucid discourse that surrounds art.] But let us segue out of these parentheses, urgently.

Put on rewind mode, the term gibberish would take us to its many possible etymologies. But the one that interests us most can be backtracked all the way to our dearest Jābir.

With this show one intends to explore the relentless mutations language undergoes. The nature of these varies vastly, from whimsy through design. For this project, the participant artists have worked with invented words/ gibberish. Alternatively, the artists have also subsumed extant words whose meanings they have willfully rejigged. Following this, they have shaped works, which respond to these peculiar linguistic creations.

Right then, as a viewer you must wonder as to why we indulge in this fairly de rigeur game of constructed language, which incidentally has conlang as its revealing aka. Without a moment’s hesitation let us pass the buck onto JRR Tolkien.

Although Tolkien himself has created a litany of languages and half-languages – including Sindarin and Quenya, the tongues of the elves in The Lord of the Rings – in 1955, the author proposed that the compound word ‘cellar door’ is one of the most euphonic in the English language. Since this declaration, the word has become a cultural catchphrase in circles that study the as yet unfounded possibilities of phonaesthetics.

Truth be told, at its commencement, this project was a love letter of sorts to Tolkien. But then early bird Loris GrÈaud came along, and cellar door was taken by its tail.

So if you can’t beat them, you beat them.

The words proposed by the artists can’t wait to oust cellar door. Will Tolkien’s half-whimsical claim find its match?