[-empyre-] Poison-in/Poison-out : quote from Kristen Alvanson

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Tue Dec 9 05:05:20 EST 2008


"The history of middle-eastern talismans depicts a range of  
essentially ambiguous religio-political and cultural dynamics in the  
Middle East. These socio-political ambiguities are mostly influenced  
by the symbiosis between nomadic culture and the State, between  
polytheistic beliefs and the dominant monotheism on the one hand and  
monotheism and heretical beliefs on the other. Such ambiguities or  
ambivalent inclinations always manifest in the spells’ final shapes.  
The spells are simultaneously haunted by harmful and therapeutic  
effects, demonic and benevolent features. In middle-eastern spells,  
the pharmakonic or the profound ambivalence in intention and  
structure, form and content are not repressed but brought into the  
foreground so as to create a complex chemistry of ideas. The alchemy  
of middle-eastern spells involves the synthesis of ideas and  
intentions in the form of twists, inconclusive destinies, incurable  
maladies and unestablished cures. Middle-eastern spells are mostly  
created in the form of diagrammatic bodies formed by abstract  
components: numbers depict body parts, letter curvatures represent  
fiendish fauna, geometric elements form skeletal frames for the spells  
and miniature ciphers become contagious particles which conduct the  
effects of the spells toward targets. Moreover, middle-eastern spells  
require a chemical reaction in order to be effectuated. Such chemical  
reactions include burning or introducing the actual spell drawn on  
paper, fabric or metal to certain chemical components such as acid,  
mercury, sulfur, gold or silver. Therefore, the spells bridge actual  
chemistry with the abstract alchemy of their syncretic ideas in order  
to unleash their occult ambiguities. For this reason, middle-eastern  
spells contain textual or diagrammatic instructions of chemical  
initiations embedded within the spell.

Poison-in/Poison-out are Poison/Cure spells which push the idea of  
ambivalent middle-eastern spells further as the artist uses western  
and middle-eastern, personal and social, inventive artistic elements  
and vaguely familiar components in her spells. Like all adventurous  
alchemists who are preoccupied with inconclusive and indefinite  
chemical reactions and elements, Alvanson takes up the calligraphic  
pen without any compunction with regard to ‘authenticity’. Since  
middle-eastern spells are already syncretic, mongrelized entities, she  
allows herself a free hand in their contemporary re-creation by mixing  
Farsi, Arabic, English and other symbols to ‘see what happens’.

The Farsi word for poison (zahr ) has been incorporated throughout the  
spells; the second letter in the word (from right to left) is the  
letter Ha2 which is a dominant letter in Arabic Qabalah known as  
ABJAD. The letter Ha always appears as a syncretic and twisted coil  
which suggests both Islamic and heretical connotations. In Poison-in/ 
Poison-out, the letter Ha has been repeated throughout as a catalyst  
for the effectuation of the spells and a conduit into which the poison  
is poured and from which the poison leaves the spells – channels  
called ‘Poison-in’ and ‘Poison-out’. Alvanson also uses  
alchemical activation and de-activation commands such as ‘Bury it’  
and ‘Burn it’ mixed with elemental combinations and codes to build  
the spells. Some of the components include: Fire, Wind, Water (sea),  
Earth, Miasma, Gas, Μέταλλο including: 16/S (Sulfur)  80/Hg  
(Mercury) 21/Sc (Scandium) 29/Cu (Copper) 32/Ge (Germanium) 107/Bh  
(Bohrium) 72/Hf (Hafnium) 20/Ca (Calcium) 114/Uup (Ununquadium) 69/Tm  
(Thulium) 71/Tu (Lutetium) 19/K (Potassium), Heat Capacity (Cv,m J mol 
−1 K−1) including: Helium 12.4717 Nitrogen 20.8 Neon 12.4717 Water  
74.53 Air 20.7643 Argon 12.4717 CO2 28.46, and Allotropes of Brimstone  
(Cyclo-S8 and S7,cyclo-heptasulfur). As syncretic congeries of  
elements and alchemical commands, Poison-in/Poison-out exemplifies  
spells which refuse to generate conclusive or definite effects.  "

-- from an artists statement by Kristen Alvanson, 2008   http://www.kristenalvanson.com/ 
    Middle East based artist Kristen Alvanson’s Poison-in/Poison-out  
is a series of four ink drawings on paper using Persian ink (made out  
of gum Arabic, soot, alum, tannic acid and water) and Persian  
calligraphic pen. The works have been created as a part of artist  
Christina McPhee’s Pharmakon project. 

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