El Aleph

2009



Aleph is the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. The glottal stop which is Alpha, A, the inherent vowel in all consonants in Indic scripts. The Aleph is the numeral “1”: the scratch, the stroke, the simplest line that generated significance.

Borges imagined an unimaginable point in space, “El Aleph” – Infinity. A point which revealed everything all at once – everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously. But here we have a problem. What would a viewer actually “see” through such a point. In order to understand a script one must first learn it. That which is significant, is that which is decipherable. Viewers who encounter such a point in space would perhaps find themselves looking at a multiplicity of things and an infinity of noise.

In “El Aleph” Sreshta Premnath attempts to pose this very paradox. Indexical shadows of hairs are projected onto a wall, cycling continuously like an indecipherable script. Are these an alphabet of some kind (a means of signification) or are these just hairs stuck in a projector, impeding our view?

A hair-like delineation (not dissimilar in affect from the Tamil script) occupies a curved chalkboard painted on the wall. Does this correspond to a particular shadow being projected or is this an arbitrary form? Perhaps it is simply a formal study a la Robert Mangold. Perhaps this chalk drawing instigates the viewer to read significance into the projected hairs.

Language as utterance; language as trace; the trace of a body.

A silk-screened grid of math problems are presented to us, which, on closer inspection are all incorrect. There seems to be no logical connection between the problems and their answers. Can a math problem that is wrong, that does not signify “correctly,” still be called a math problem? Or are these just garbled numbers arranged in a grid?

A mirror, turned away from the viewer leans against the wall. Is it still a mirror if we cannot see a reflection in it?

A fabricated newspaper is folded over the top of the mirror. On one side of the paper we see an image of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay standing side by side. Two men who scaled the highest peak to survey the expanse of the world for a moment. To plant a flag and then return.

On the other side of the paper, behind the mirror we find the same image inverted – Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. A script is always directional, it is hierarchical, one thing follows another and asserts its importance accordingly. Language is generated by difference, and the two photographs can never be equal.