Here are a series of objects in balance that I call single points of contact. A triangle, inside which, the tip of a pendulum swings, seemingly unstable but never to the point of collapse. Are these constructed and engineered instruments of precision or another of my folly objects? It is a mobile that seeks to undervalue everything that is not abstruse. It is a point that marks the place and time and coordinates of where the world can stand still for a second of a minute of a degree. By both confronting and accepting gravitational forces all objects can find their perfect equilibrium, poise and meaning.
A triangle truly embodies contradiction. If you experience shape, you can feel clearly an inside space and an outside one. Its intrinsic to how we understand the world, specifically the space we occupy as body. Circles make us feel enclosed and safe inside, squares are rudimentary and give structure to the abyss, cylinders suggest a connection from top to bottom, a linear journey. Triangles however have no inside or outside, they are the awkward contradiction like a sum that has no parts; a third arm or a 6th sense. Imperceptible and imperfect in a most succinct way, it joins as all shapes do, yet leaves everything out. As it stretches over the world you know, it never finds perfectly measured closure. Its frame and form stretches, pregnant, to expel another which in turn balloons to seek, then obscure another. Push and pull, plot, mask and then mark time.
I revisited the visual language and shapes of mathematical formulae and logic. I didn’t understand the theoretical. Amongst a deluge of references, there were some I found magic in: The impossibility of the Penrose triangle as a visually fulfilled object and yet one that never resolves itself. Strange and beautiful shamanistic drawings and codes that concealed alchemical formulae of possible and powerful elixirs; a 973CE astronomical chart of the lunar eclipse by the 17 year old medieval Islamic scholar al-Biruni; geodesy and a 1400-year quest to determine whether the world was a prolate or an oblate spheroid and all the assertions for who knew what first; and last but least magical, the history of cartography, that marked borders and seas in order to primarily share knowledge but distorted very quickly into images that were marked by terror, conquest and exploitation.
Geodesy returned to India with the seemingly impossible 19th century triangulation project of the meridian arc that ran from southern India to Nepal, and East to the Western Ghats. A door opened into a narrative of imagination, folly and colonization. Triangulation amongst many other achievements finally gave accurate calculations of the Himalayan ranges as the highest in the world. These parallel projects across the world became mathematical, scientific and creative zeniths for how planet earth was proved. What it also did specifically in India, was to create a cartography of political upheaval, as slowly and methodically all things and places became named then marked precisely. Where oral traditions called to the mountains by invoking their mythical incarnations, rivers and forests were now plotted and recorded, their yields and geographical advantages etched into paper and into the history of British imperialism.Here in Kochi, the mortar of a 60 ft high brick survey tower lies broken and from it has grown a Banyan tree. The tree is old and tall so probably 120 years or older at my guess. A large 500 kg theodolite would have been hauled by ropes or hand-crane to the top of the tower and held very still on a clear-sky day to plot a point far in the horizon marked by a man or a flag. Precision instruments were crafted, modified and shipped by sea, backwards and forwards over the 50-year project.
Brass calibrated measuring rods (made to compensate for temperature differences), sextants, barometers, calculating machines for predicting tides and sea levels and folding chains. Hundreds of men died, scores of elephants would move a mountain and then raze tree cover in a matter of weeks. Tea was served at 4. All perfectly mad. The survey maps are beautiful.
A triangle would mean the calculation was complete.
I have an object pushed to examine its own limitations, like a sum or a number. Perhaps these limitations could be seen more like parts of a shifting flux of truths that disrupt knowledge and then leave spaces to offer new formulae to construct and layer our pasts? A strategy for an age seized by political unease and historical anxiety would be to create spaces to breath. We remain atavistic despite our futurist ideologies and the same questions repeat on loop. Who are we and what are we doing here; why do we repeat the same mistakes over and over again?
The work is not seeking to stake its claim for truth or knowledge. There is no reflective equilibrium in play. Maybe put everything on pause for a bit. Stand very still and listen.
Bharti Kher 2014