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Essence Existence

Canvases: Acrylic and Letraset on canvas. Explanations: inkjet printouts on paper. 2004

Essence existence is an installation I made for the project Direct/Indirect in the kasbah in Chauen, Morocco. It is formed of two canvases, two explanations on paper written in HTML and several collaborations with the public visiting the festival. Essence existence is about cultural exchange. The title is a reference to Aristotle’s theories, pillars of Western thought, whose work wouldn’t be known in the West if they hadn’t been translated into Arabic and come back to Europe via al-Andalus.

Essence contains some theories of great importance for the cultural, scientific and religious development of Europe which were translated by the Arabs or which were developed in al-Andalus. For example, the work of Aristotle himself, the work of Averroes (Ibn-Rushd), born in Cordoba and known as the founder of secular thought in Western Europe, Ibn-Arabi, philosopher and musician born in Murcia, Ibn al-Baitar, botanist and oncologist born in Malaga, creator of a scientific method of pharmacological classification that he used in his influential encyclopedia. Disciplines and concepts such as algebra, arithmetic, logarithms, and algorithms (al-Jwarizmi), decimal numbering and the zero, all reached Europe from the Arab world via al-Andalus.

Existence shows physical things that arrived through al-Andalus such as the astrolabe, paper, cotton, soap, citrics, asparragus, roses, and jasmin.

The language of Essence existence is HTML, a code used to visually render internet pages. I have used it as a symbol because it represents a technology of Western origin which wouldn’t have existed without the Arabic cultural legacy. Computer binary language wouldn’t exist without the zero, nor would database management be possible without al-Jwarizmi’s algorythms.

Essence existence collaborations and picture of the installation in the kasbah in Chauen
From left to right: collaboration with Ahmed Ben Abdellah, Zineb Makdad and Miranda Sharp. Acrylic, charcoal, blue Chauen pigment on cardboard, A0 approx. Image of the installation.

The second part of Essence existence was done on-site, in collaboration with the public of the festival.

The nonsense of a cultural clash

Ocre, blue, red and yellow pigments in Chaouen.
Chaouen pigments

When I was invited to participate in the Chauen festival and present a piece that reflected the relationship of the artist with the place, the media was full of anti-Arab propaganda. Being Andalusian and knowing the relevance for Europe of the Arab culture (and vice versa) it annoyed me that the media was trying to polarise public opinion in such a coarse way. When I started working with the people in Chauen, one of the first questions I was asked was: do you really see us as your media portrays us?

Cultural clashes don’t benefit anyone. Well, perhaps arms manufactures and people who profit from pain and ignorance, but it doesn’t benefit humanity. Cultures depend on exchange to develop and flourish. With such an amount of nonsense about the Arabs in the media it seemed ironic, and relevant, that one of the pillars of European thought, Aristotle, wouldn’t have been known in Europe if the Arabs hadn’t translated his work. I also thought the relationship between essence and existence was relevant. What is potentially and what ends up materialising.

 

My interest in propaganda started with Consumerism as a diversion from politics. A text on how Bernays, Freud’s nephew, invented marketing as a reaction to fascism.

More artwork exploring the subject of propaganda:

 

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