As part of the Keywords Investigations Course at Iniva in partnership with Tate Liverpool, I have been invited to write about the word I chose. Sublime was my keyword, its beautiful sound was the first thing that attracted me. It is a word with an ethereal existence, one that comes and goes in and out of vogue over the years as if it had the capacity to make its own decisions. It is a word impossible to define because it lives in a different dimension; an Olympus of words, a different league, an elite.
It is inaccessible and it happens to be there all the time when least expected. It is a state of mind we aspire to reach when we do not know where it is or how it is. However we arrive there; eventually.
Adrian Rifkin, the course leader, said that you know that you have had a sublime experience after you have been through it, not during. You only know it when it is too late: afterwards, after and not before. It is like water in that you enjoy its freshness, but only once it has been through your skin.
Will the new technologies facilitate the sublime? Or is a return to nature and simplicity the only way? It seems we are going through turbulent times and the sublime is rather unavailable until better times are back. Is there a need for specific conditions? Or is it just a state of mind and therefore unaffected by outside forces? These are questions that have been facing philosophers over centuries when they tried to make an attempt to describe something that can be considered as a personal and, sometimes, a rather private experience.
Whatever it means to you, I would invite you to find your way to be and to stay there: the sublime.
Curators Grant Watson and Gavin Delahunty introduce the Keywords exhibition which runs until 18 May at Rivington Place.
Keywords is presented in partnership with Tate Liverpool and the idea of the exhibition is to explore words through works of art focusing largely on the 1980s. The exhibition looks at some of the oppositional politics that emerged during that decade – politics of gender, of sexuality, of race – which at that time was a powerful motivating force for artists.
Two sessions already! My last conversation with Christian Nyampeta kept me wondering about how to ‘open up’ to the multiple hues of each and every word, even words used mundanely. I realise how there could be violence in language, the ‘violence’ that can be felt in certain words (to borrow from Pouka ‘black’ ‘white’ or absolutes like ‘no one’, ‘all of us’, ‘we’), which got me thinking that what if violence could be perceived (and taught to be perceived) at the point of words at individual level, how much physical violence could be avoided. Can peace then be hoped for, in how we use words? Adrian Rifkin introduced us to the dystopian novel/ film Fahrenheit 451 and the ideas around utopia and dystopia have been churning in me since then.
To choose one word as keyword was already quite challenging. The exploration of the word through the interaction of each and everyone is now a stimulating and almost frightening experience. I have chosen the keyword ‘Diaspora’ and in the two last sessions, I have traveled from Israel to Jamaica transiting through New Delhi, Berlin, New York and discovering the different aspects of London as experienced and negotiated by the others. What has started for me as a better way to understand the word, its depth and history, and better understanding myself and the why of my interest in this word, is now taking me places that I can’t yet imagine.
I have started the Keyword Investigations Workshop with certain ecological imageries of the word ‘diaspora’ as seeds dispersed across geographical landscapes. I am also exploring contemporary writings on diaspora and am inspired by Gilroy’s notion of purity, Eryksen’s study of nationhood, and Hutnyk’s narratives of hybridity and diaspora. I look forward to finding, creating and sharing visuals which could help me collate pictures with the text ‘Diaspora’.
Amidst my initial confusion with the choice of my keyword, I now find myself determined to explore it and with it, a self-exploration to figure out my attraction to the word.