Currently on view at West Bund Dome, West Bund Art Fair, Shanghai, China

Supported by Capsule Shanghai


Logic of the Ether

2021

wood, artist printed textiles, video, and audio

two parts, 300 × 300 × 300 cm each



Logic of the Ether is a multimedia installation consisting of two wooden structures — one reminiscent of traditional Chinese timber structure and the other a reinterpretation of the Dunhuang Buddhist Mogao caves. During her field trip to Jaipur India in 2020, artist Han Mengyun collected wooden blocks used by local craftsmen, with which she used to handprint textiles hung in this work. Accompanied is video documentations of kites flying in the sky prior to the kite festival in India against an audio backdrop of the chanting of the Nāsadīya Sūkta, the Hymn of Creation in Rigveda, the most ancient Indian sacred text, in its original Sanskrit language, followed by the reading of its English and Chinese translations.


Both religious and secular experiences led Han to ponder upon the origin of the universe. The geometric structure of the coffer ceiling in Buddhist caves and Indian temples is to Han the visual configuration of the natural order of the world. The floral motifs do not serve the mere purpose of decoration, but they represent the elemental component that thrives within the cosmic structure. This installation aims at capturing Han Mengyun’s fascination with ancient religious spaces that reveal how the world was once fathomed and recreated by human hands and our imagination, how the ether still remains highly mysterious as it harbors poetry and evokes questions of both the known and the unknown.

Logic of the Ether (detail), textile printed by the artist using woodblocks collected in Jaipur India.

Logic of the Ether: Creation Hymn (clip), 2021, 3-channel video installation, sound, 07:51 minutes 

Logic of the Ether: Jaipur Kites (clip), 2021, 3-channel video installation, sound, 07:51 minutes 


Narration by Alan Cunningham

Text: Hymn of Creation (Rigveda 10.129, Nāsadīya Sūkta, translation by Stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton


Rigveda


X.129


Creation 


1. The nonexistent did not exist, nor did the existent exist at that time. There existed neither the airy space nor heaven beyond.

What moved back and forth? From where and in whose protection? Did water exist, a deep depth?


2. Death did not exist nor deathlessness then. There existed no sign of night nor of day.

That One breathed without wind by its independent will. There existed nothing else beyond that.


3. Darkness existed, hidden by darkness, in the beginning. All this was a signless ocean.

What existed as a thing coming into being, concealed by emptiness—that One was born by the power of heat.


4. Then, in the beginning, from thought there evolved desire, which existed as the primal semen.

Searching in their hearts through inspired thought, poets found the connection of the existent in the nonexistent.


5. Their cord was stretched across: Did something exist below it? Did something exist above?

There existed placers of semen and there existed greatnesses. There was independent will below, offering above.


6. Who really knows? Who shall here proclaim it?—from where was it born, from where this creation?

The gods are on this side of the creation of this (world). So then who does know from where it came to be?


7. This creation—from where it came to be, if it was produced or if not— he who is the overseer of this (world) in the furthest heaven, he surely

knows. Or if he does not know...?