Tabula Rasa

The multimedia installation, in the frame of the art project Echoes of the Void by Maria Rebecca Ballestra, presents the connection between the mystic experience in the Rub’ al Khali Desert in UAE and technology reflecting on alternative definitions of identity.

Installation: The installation Tabula Rasa consists in three video screenings, two Plexiglas boxes and a star, adopted by the artist with the name Tabula Rasa, which is represented by an astronomical certificate. The first video shows the night sky from Earth’s position; the second shows from a satellite position the footage of a big city by night and in the third video the spoken word poet Farrah Chamma[i] recites her poem Tabula Rasa. On the two Plexiglas boxes, which contain desert sand and are installed on a wall, are written the words TIME (on the left box) and SPACE (on the right box); between the boxes is positioned astronomical coordinates and the naming certificate of the star Tabula Rasa, which the artist Maria Rebecca Ballestra “adopted”.

The image of a tabula rasa – a rewritable wax slate, of which content could be erased and was used by the Romans for notes – settled as sediment in western culture illustrating a practical or psychological condition; as for example in the German language the state of ending a situation and start from scratch. In philosophy the Tabula Rasa represent the first condition of human being: a blank slate on which society, education, the environment writes on and shapes personality and awareness. The image of erasing and rewriting is a current situation through history across all realms of human life. Constant change and progress cause a complete erasure of given Weltanschauung or habitudes; our fixed stars of orientations are disappearing while new are ascending on the horizon: in western culture we shifted from the Ptolemaic to the heliocentric model; monarchies with a Divine Mandate yielded to democracies; the Terra Incognita is recognizable in the Global Village. We wander trough the sand of history like in a big hourglass where time and space are like sand: a loose substance of changing forms; by wandering we forget to ask, what will come next, as we are seeking our fixed orientation’s point without recognizing it as constant change.

The participation in continuous transition is the experience of the Rub’ al Khali Desert, the Empty Quarter, which invites to meditate. Here, moreover, we encounter the changes in form of practical issues, which mirror a global situation, emphasized in the installation Tabula Rasa: Once it was the starry night sky above the nomads traveled, guided by the lights of the fixed stars; a night sky illuminated and directing a path to cosmic imaginary of limitless connection with everything. The sand desert and the starry sky evoked these mystic experiences of being oneself a tabula rasa; its recall we find in the installation in form of the sand filled Plexiglas boxes – Time and Space, and the star named by Maria Rebecca Ballestra Tabula Rasa. The experience of reversed and changed orientation is prosaic; now as the cities in the deserts are huge and using electricity, the night sky is polluted with artificial lights. The night sky is reversed as the ground is illuminated by electric light and monitored by satellites as new fixed stars. This is how we are traveling today. We don’t look up to the sky, but down on Earth through our satellite, finding illumination on the former dark Earth as we can watch in the installation’s screening of the satellite footage of a big city and the screening of the night stars on the other screen. The vision, our orientation is reversed. We erased the experience of our physical and psychological orientation and rewrote it. Thanks to the imaginary we have the power to gain awareness and trespass the limits. The question, if we have lost knowledge, experience and identity, remains and we can meditate about: Can we really loose knowledge and consciousness? Or are these just put in the shadow of a momentarily brighter light and will show up in a different form in our lives? Maybe in those moments, when we are about to erase our wax slate in preparation to rewrite it.

Everything written is still in the slate’s wax as sediment of all those experiences and identities. The matrix of our souls remains the self and everything comes from it and everything returns to it. And in the mean time we are traveling in-between the signs and pages, giving us different names, rules and forms. So we listen to the young poet Farrah Chammar who recites us on the third screen her poem Table Rase:


Table Rase

Prenez tout ce que je sais

Prenez tout ce que je sais et jetez-le dans le Nil

Comme la mère de Moïse a fait
Ne me demandez pas d’où je viens

Ni où je suis née

Ne cherchez pas à savoir qu’est-ce qui est écrit sur mes papiers
Je (ne) suis personne, un nomade, une âme perdue, un simple esprit nomadisé
Je suis la langue, sans mètre, sans rime
Je suis l’arabe, le persan, le latin, le germanique

Je suis la langue non-maîtrisée

لا وطن لي على الأرض
أجد الوطن في السماء
غيمة، حرة، عذراء
تمتد كالبحر على أرجاء
الأزرق اللانهائي

Je suis la neige, le désert

Je suis la terre, l’univers

Je suis le calme des océans, des mers
Je suis les mots qui se suivent dans un vers

أنا Darwiche, I am Poe, je suis Baudelaire

لا أفقه كلام المنابر
لا أفقه القواعد و الأوامر
لست دستورا و لست حمامة السلام
أنا ابراهيم يحطم جهل الأصنام
.أنا كوكب دري يوقد من حبر الأقلام

(from Farah Chamma’s facebook-site @farahchammaofficial )

Table Rase

Take everything I know,

Take everything I know and through it in the Nile

Like the mother of Moses did

Don’t ask me where I’m from or where I was born

Don’t ask for what’s written on my papers

I am no one

A nomad, a lost souls, a simple nomadic spirit

I am a language without meter, without rhyme

I am Arabic, Persian, Latin, German

I am language, unconstrained

There is no homeland for me on ground

I find it in the sky

A free cloud pure

There is no homeland for me on ground

I find it in the sky

a fleecy cloud, pure,

stretching like the sea, on hold

the infinite blue

I am snow and desert

I am earth and universe

I am the calm of the oceans, of the seas

I am the words that follow each other in a verse

I am Darwish, I am Poe, I am Baudelaire

I do not hear tribunal words

I do not hear rules and orders

I am neither the Constitution, nor am I the peaceful dove

I am Abraham who shatters ignorant idols

I am a planet who flows from the ink of pens.

[i] Farah Chamma is a Palestinian poet, studying law and political science at the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. She began writing poetry at the age of 14 at around the same time she began exploring her personal relationship with her faith. Farah writes poetry in English, Arabic, and French using a variety of lyrical and linguistic styles. Her work can mainly be described as introspective. She is one of the youngest members of Poeticians, a group of poets and writers from the Middle East. She has been engaged in performance poetry and spoken word since 2008 and has participated in many events and competitions including the SIKKA Art Fair and the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature. In 2012, she organized and hosted “Sip of Poetry” in Abu Dhabi, a poetry evening featuring various poets from the region. She is currently working on launching a student-led poetry group with the help of award-winning poet and hip-hop artist, Paul D, aiming to encourage spoken word performances in colleges and universities. Source: Hass Dennaoui in arab news
Tabula Rasa installation

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