Of Hybridity and Holarchy in Gods and Beasts : Disjunctures and Continuities in the Mythos of Ronni
Resisting what appears at first to be a momentous digression from past trans/fixations, a certain nostalgia for the mnemonically memorable absurdist waiting for his millennial Godot, Ronni Ahmmed, may well have stirred a few souls at the newest incarnation traversing as well as displacing established Mythos and Logos in his ultimate hope for the numinous. Though theistic in his conjugation of the worlds and words, the ruptures open out to all othered forms of supernatural creed. As the phantasmagoric yarn-spinner, raconteur- extraordinaire, in whom inimitable mirth, science fiction fantasy and damningly poetic irony combined over the last ten years or so, in the extreme sport of comic strip epics and iconographies dispersed across sacral geographies – civilizations marked by their holy men (prophets and saints) and bestiaries (demons and fallen angels) – suddenly pushes himself beyond even paranormal lucidity, the Godot of Gods and Beasts appears sonorously expansive, supramundane. It is as if the 'opener of ways,' lupine war-guide Wepwahet, carrying the embalmed heart of an immortal, was overtaken by the jackal Anubis, gatekeeper with scales, having discovered from the underwater phosphorescence of his past, a feast of diaphanous, if grafted, souls.
Ronni, completely shifted in a floorless elevator shaft, from one parallax to another, from social allegory to the fathomless spatiality of the beyond. Or so it seems.
The passage to the spirit, with the body intact, is at once a transgressive and an integral act – the heart weighed and found light as a feather, the parallel universe now intersecting to reveal a paradoxically finite and infinite world, as in Buddhist spatiality where space is envisioned populated by innumerable universes containing gods, men and damned souls. Gods and Beasts, supposedly initiates sensory/extrasensory intimation of this 'elsewhere' in terms of abstract allegory. The temptation, though, to see the absence of the 'this-wordly/concrete' in this apparent 'transcendent' realm is insubstantial.
The revelatory mode is extrasensory, yes; but immanence pervades, as does pantheism, even as Ronni creates his own Pantheon, the technologies employed conduce to both the 'elevated' and the 'low' (kitsch) forms of expression. Skirting round the 'talamana' even when the goddess Kali, or Saraswati is invoked, Ronni's gods/goddeses/demons and beasts are made to wear masks which are at once pop-like and esoteric. Immanence, in opposition to the separation and longing in 'this world' aims for a transcendence that is of 'a totally other order.' Theosophy over theism, and carried a degree further. Presence suffuses each piece, not the mystic longing in the Sufi tradition of Rumi for Shams, the 'keening cry' of the reed torn from its source. Rather, a certain power pervades as immanence. If the social can be transplanted by the spiritual in the intellectual's snakes and ladders, this can be framed in the Foucauldian sense of positive (counterhegemonic) power, where power is diffuse and embodied, and only itself when enacted. A 'positive' panopticon! The encounter of One Eye with the one eye – as in the piece entitled 'I see you.' Here, embodied power (individuation, differentiation of consciousness) is not antithetical to unitive consciousness.
The 'totally other order' is conceivable in the (meta)languages of what the artist calls the seven seas; there is no agony of speechlessness, there is the bliss of encounter. The Encounter of Two Green Souls summons a vortex, as in the green vortex entitled: Vortex of a Green Ball Covered in Planetary Dust. In the Resurrection, one is witness to the entwined fear and nearness of the eye that is eye to eye (one to one), that which one may experience through 'fear and trembling', in the presence of one's own rebirth and the nearness to God.
The apocalyptic collides with the deified, climaxing into a theatre of the 'invisible made visible' to quote Peter Brook. Ronni's inverse cross and Jesus (bearing the ice-flame torch of resurrection) is a case in point. The image performs deinstrumentalization of the sacred, as is demonstrated in all such invocation of the divine in this exhibition, lending mystic charm to the defamiliarized image of the prophet. In spirit, the work resembles Coleman Bark's illustrated depiction of Rumi's 'crucible' of the Kaaba, which reads: 'Only this ancient love, circling the holy black stone of nothing.' Resurrection is an inversal of crucifixion, just as the lover becomes the beloved and everything around it in the inversal of the white shroud of light and the black stone: concealment and revelation (light). And the frozen heights thereof, a world unimaginably unearthly.
In Adam and Eve, an intimate intactness manipulates metonymy, even as it manifests Arthur Koestler's notion of holons (that which is simultaneously both whole and part).
Holarchy is the evolutionary/biological concept where all beings are seen as composed of as whole/parts or holons, a formative concept in Ken Wilber's Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Many of the apparently grafted kitsch pieces – whole/parts – recall Buddhist mandalas and Hindu Deities placed in their respective perches, where entire worlds can be formed from the 'brow' of a goddess.
The fruit-like composition of an amorphous, yet familiar shape recall the yoni or similar fissures in male genitalia.
The heart-shaped whole is at once the head of the most tired temptress of all time, Satan as the serpent. This amorphous body of two inside each other in Adam and Eve plays the same chord as the apexal goddess composed of a china figurine atop a giant white glass ball, an 'egg' composite of found pieces, including sensuous mussels in the sculpture, Birth of Venus.
Hybridity, the grafting of various mediums as well as religious myths and extrascriptural tales, may seem like a kitsch remnant contiguous with a rather 'this-worldly' obsession with the 'dismal coincidence' (a la Ronni of old) of being mortal – only here the coincidence is fated, destined, a part of a whole. But this non-aesthetic is itself signature Ronni. The question, rather, is whether these 'tricks' still constitute hallucination, magic. Or if this is the point of no return.
Then again, any absence in Gods and Beasts, is not acute; a walk through the chambers of this new light field, with the same light-source, ineluctably remembers the other Ronni, the continuities (soon discovered) and disjunctures (radical, but somehow inevitable, inexorable, like the destiny of the molecule that spins in the same spot, invoking a greater diva) with his past oeuvre pose no shuddering intellectual shroud over the bliss or the bestiary. Expanses where celestial omniscience becomes the sea's all seeing-eye (I see you) is itself Buddha's all-seeing eye remembering (Lord Narisimha killing) Ashura and Hell both; Medusa's stoning and stoned – if one may defer to rape as a synonym – eyes and the inter-mediality of her pop-art-nose somehow emanates the same alchemical power of transformation as Kali's devouring skulls and snakes. The ice-cold resurrections and the temperate balance of forces, the nirvana pervading the rooms with its one sound generative of sound-space-time, the Kali dancing to the death of time that constitutes its parts, transcends perhaps even his own past.
The God of Ronni's earlier oeuvres were co-conspirators in our collective social hallucination allegorized in his own mythical underworld – they were a Godot/the 'awaited one'. Here the 'one' is that (hybrid, myth-reverberating) Godhead, both particle and wave (universe and the Divas whose words create that universe), who suffuses the 'one', where the many (forms) refuse mere plenitude for the monologue with Oneself. The incantatory poem that opens the exhibition embraces this. Deviating from representations of the void, this world of gods, lesser beasts and nirvana seems like a customized re-imagined spatiality, where liberation is not so much abstract or empty as full, brimming with 'transcendent' themes in an immanent frame. In Meditation before the Next Incarnation and God of Invisibility we are in the no-space visited by the Tathagatha, for which there is no consensual definition, but an idea that is abstract and tangible.
Ronni's language of the 'incommunicable', the unintelligible intelligence, the logic of non-sense gives way to utter openness. Descending into the substratum of Ronni's world(s) is somewhat similar to journeying closer to the quantum vacuum, an experience that could be likened to the Buddhist idea of 'impermanent identity.' In one interpretation of the layers of 'souls' in Buddhism, laughter is conceived as the seventh layer…seven seas, seven heavens, seven veils in the dance of the veils…the kitsch merger of parts somehow countering the absurd topography of hell from the blazing brain, the unreal distortion of the perfected senses that is seen as 'reality,' this is Ronni's realm of laughter: Blake's marriage of Heaven and Hell where 'opposition is true friendship.'
‘Gods and Beasts’ was presented at Bengal Art Lounge, from September 12 to October 17, 2015.
Image courtesy: Bengal Art Lounge