Who am I?

Artist statement

I doodle, I dance, I collect straight sticks, I measure my brainwaves, I explore ‘free time’, I grow slime moulds and sculpt bioplastics: my art practice is a metaphysical goo seeping out somehow and shaping itself across my works. This is what happens…

Often, something as simple as observing the rhythm of another’s hands, in work or in conversation, feels like a glimpse of the miraculous appearing in between what I recognise in the gesture, and what I can’t fathom from such sensual animation. I love the temporal shift that accompanies this moment of intimate attention. This uncanny instant reveals that beyond what is visible, exists a dimension that although inaccessible to observation, is flooding the manifest ‘physical-materialist’ world all the time. This nonhuman dimension is also in my body – I am immersed in it and inhabited by it. The feeling that ‘my body is not really my body’ drives a radical curiosity about matter. It’s in, and through matter, and my body’s relationship to it, that time becomes sensate, as metamorphosis, the weathering and the change within materials. Across my varied research approaches and media, the methods of my art practice are all ways of ‘making time’. This is the ontological task of the expanded studio.

‘Who am I?’ is a question I’ve borrowed from the Hindu mystic, Sri Ramana Maharshi. He also said that “the only freedom you have is whether or not to identify yourself with the body.” To answer this question in my artist’s statement, you might expect me to say something about my identity, my origins, my allegiances: I would first say that I’m ‘an entity of complex origins’ and if you want the long story, that takes time to tell, perhaps we’d need to meet and get to know each other. The short version is that I’m nondual.

Because of the complexity of my background, naming myself is hard. I take a marginal position: I listen for the minor scale, the semi-tones — nonduality is to look for the edges of things, because here you find porosity. I naturally linger at the edge, and here I imagine a ‘space of the nameless’ where a more-than-just-human liveness is seeping into the world. Namelessness in the sense I intend it is an ethics towards that which cannot speak and falls outside of human concepts. In my experience ‘home’ is not a concept – national, cultural, subcultural — it can only come from a disposition to immersion in radical materiality. And this entails a spiritual disposition, which for me is invested in the Eastern traditions of philosophy-by-practice — through contemplation, meditation and movement — which are my valued inheritance. Having lived on many continents, it’s especially my experience of African and Asian animism, in Zimbabwe and Japan, respectively, that convinced me that there is an expanded field of agency on earth: my work proposes ways of listening to it with a sensuous attention.

I often juxtapose organic, ephemeral materials alongside readymade aesthetics, characters and forms from consumer culture. I want to warp a particular logic of affect and desire — the neuro-economic tempo of ‘expectation of gratification’. By composing rhythmic fields in my works, through the interplay of different materials, I look for the languid ontology of the unpredictable: a tempo of attunement to ecologies beyond human cognition and knowledge.

People interacting with my works often remark that they experience a glitch, a sort of visceral wobbling at the level of gut-feeling and intuition. I actively pursue this creepy vibration, both in making and presenting my work, because from this altered state comes ‘the (re)turn to the miraculous’.

© Dominique Savitri 2020

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