The work produced during my MFA moved between a variety of mediums, each responding to, and always failing, to understand the adhesive power of the mystical over the Malay woman. Already a faught, deeply controlled conception throughout her brief history, how did black magic free her as it destroyed her? As a child raised in a household obsesed with black magic, how do I responsibly read the influence black magic had in the every day, in archive, in personal doubt and mental health, in epigenetic trauma? Must the artist, as a contemporary postcolonial subject, agree with the cold, though empowering calculation of anthropologists who read mysticism as protest? What of the daily suspensions and dualities of belief and non-belief, existing side-by-side? What of the anti-Cartesian worlds that accomodate many voices in one mind, that is at once ghostly and bodily, sexual and religious? 

Overseeing these questions is a dark cloud - the impossibility of representation without summation. Believers of the supernatural are ashamed and secretive of their practices. It does not contest modernity like other traditions, it adapts and persists as if on a second plain - its spectacle is internal. It is too complicated to simplify, the language must be illicted through a game of presences and absences, in the corners of micro-history and biographies. It suffers too, for being unfashionably historical and uncontemporaenous. Unlike other debates that reveal itself in tensions with modernity, black magic persists like a low-grade fever, deeply historical, polite and unchallenging, erasing and redrawing the female. 



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In foreign hands

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Guests attend a darkened room, barefoot. There is only the smell of burnt jasmine and the suggestion of a half-figure, crossing her legs. In the hollow of her batik sarong there is a jar of water. The repetitive sound of scratching, that of sharp surfaces on etching planes, whisper from within the sarong, between the absent legs of a relaxed woman. Participants circle the sculpture until the sound pauses to a stop. Light appears, the assembly of objects complete their performance.







Performing Sculpture and Genealogy

Borrowed from old archive images of childbirth performed on the floor, the suggested figure of a woman preparing for birth is made from chicken wire, plastic and glue. To complete her hollowed form, she must 'give birth' to another sculpture between the cavity of her 'legs'. The sculptures testify to a performance with no other witnesses. Her completion thus completes a second sculpture, that of her frame, dubbed 'A self-portrait'. 
Both sculptures, therefore, are both progeny and mother, creatures of one another, yet to carry on different lineages. The hollowed, batik form is Untitled and laid to rest on a large mirror. The other, titled 'Self-Portrait', undergoes a photo series in sparse spaces; a modern, yet incomplete and unrealised abberation. 
All batik elements are later soaked in hot water to be reused again in further sculptures. All batiks must be bodily and carry lineage. More information regarding this process is in the Digital Portfolio video below.



A large selection of works in digital image and sculpture eventually comprise into a light, sound and sculpture installation in a sparse room. Visitors are invited to explore small, distant details under a timed flickering lightbulb. The sound of the electric current also flows through the room as attendants are forced to seek small, disparate details. The sculpture and mirror centers the room and is the first object on sight. 



Further information on process

The Ruskin School of Art requires that each MFA student prepares  a digital portfolio that tracks the progress of their inquiries and practice throughout the year. I prepared a video that details the trajectory of my year.


©2020 by Kat Rahmat

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