*Spring is dangerous, like love. And love survives the lovers.*
Himali Singh Soin, together with curator Kostas Stasinopoulos, asked friends to share messages, traces and transmissions of love. Inspired by a letter that a nuclear-powered spy device —installed during the Cold War and as yet missing— addresses to the patron mountain of the Indian Himalayas, Nanda Devi, this valley of notes makes transcontinental, cosmic trajectories in search of love. What it finds: loss.
Part of static range, Himali Singh Soin’s project for Back to Earth.
static range is a mountain of voices: piled on top of each other, they are sometimes cacophonous, sometimes polyphonous.
static range starts with a letter from a spy device lodged in ice, addressed to the mountain herself. faced with the nuclear sublime, both beings form a relationship of kinship with one another, a toxic love. one grows into the other, the other becomes one and another.
from the letter grows an aural recording; from the aural recording, a soundscape crossing borders; the soundscape gives way to an animation of a stamp of the mountain exposed to radiation; the animation gives way to an archetypal image of a mountain; this gives way to an embroidery; the many layers of motifs in the embroidery gives way to multiple translations of the letter in different languages; the translations give way to the signals of long-time warning messages in a bio-remedic garden planted to absorb radiation; the garden gives way to long-distance healing via the multiple modalities and medialities of the mountain. like this, it breathes.
then, a glacier is obliterated. the image mutilated. a whole host of people on the other side devastated. still, at the end, instead of the disease metastasizing, it is the love that proliferates. and so on.
*Love is a supreme violence, hidden deep in the darkness of our atoms*
my atomic lightness balanced with your tectonic stability enables us to stay floating in space.
my shield has grown thorny with every fracture of my earth (heart). but I pray for my lover to turn these thorns into tools, threading them to use like needles, as our ancestors did, to weave a tapestry that blankets us in the soft, weighted groundedness of our own knowing. I wrap myself in this blanket, for it is only I who can thread this needle now.
-Ayesha Tan Jones
Aye mere Ishq-e-Majazi,
How are you? You had once said, ‘For me, speaking in English is like going for confession.’ I now know what you meant.
I did not know I knew Urdu till I got to Karachi. Here, ‘shabd’ becomes ‘alfaaz’, ‘ped’ becomes ‘darakht’, and everything begins from ikhlaq, ethics.
Shamsher is such a jaanbaaz insaan. He took me to a dera last night. I could have hardly imagined a Sufi dera in the container godowns of Karachi. ‘There is no religion of the breath,’ Shamsher explained to me as I was served Thums Up and kala chana by two shy and smiling men at the dera. As we sat in the small murky room with dusty brown bed sheets, everyone seemed astounded at my presence. We did zikr for an hour, an elating experience, of being fearless, exhilarating like new love and yet comforting like an old one.
Go away closer
I always wanted to ask you: who taught you how to love? Was it your mother, who slapped you for telling the truth? Your first infatuation, that you told me about, laughing? Or was it noticing the curve of your classmate’s chest on a sweaty day? Was it the change in the lilt in Nusrat’s voice, as he bent his head forward in the middle of the song? Or the boy band, whose poster you had up on your wall through your teens, and secretly hold onto now? Or was it watching Titanic, aged ten? Or was it from your sister, before she died? Your father, who left your mother seven times? Was it that night in Berlin? Or perhaps it was Paris, or Osaka? The first time you read Neruda? Or the last time you read Proust, or tried to? Was it that moment on the streets, fists raised, before they started shooting at us, and we started to run? Was it a moment in the light? The smell of sampaguita? The time you cried? A mountain, a river, a friend? Or was it merely turning over one night, and thinking, it is this, it is this, it is this.
you have known what came before. forever a goddess, an elder, time has traveled through you.
When Love does not protect, it prepares
The letter for words so heavy that at times the paper tears
While Love is capitalized in the mind, only the fine print reads true
Vows to pour yourself into another, and let them bleed into you
Bullet-riddled souls having everything but control
We stroke our scars and kiss the wounds that Love has blessed us with thus far
It’s not that I love her more the better she gets, it’s that she expands to fill the space of my love, she opens. And the same happens in the other direction, both of us like galaxies expanding exponentially but staying close. How to take your work seriously when your lover sleeps in the next room? What more could I need than this? The fleeting constantly renewing invisible joy of having love makes making something for posterity seem foolish. We are nonetheless and simultaneously always asking for more. Loving someone opens the possibility for the opening into love for the whole world; understanding what it is to radiate in the light of being beloved allows you to desire that everyone feels that.
now you hold me close, even as i dissolve you just by being.
i saw your perfect shoulder in the distance wrapped around a stranger
i like when you
turn your back on me
in someone else’s arms
makes the air sharper
makes me want to rip
flowers from the earth
with my teeth
and bring them to you
on my hands and knees
Through your body, we find narratives: deep and full of unconformities.
-Rattanmol Singh Johal
if you are the swirling now, i am the future perfect.
Love is a beautiful and expanding rhyme that holds your heart in concert with the universe.
-Diana Campbell Betancourt
if you’re the miracle, i’m the magician.
L’amour est l’inexplicable evidence
“L’amour qui meut le soleil et les astres”, dit Dante.
L’amour – oui – n’est pas un sentiment, n’est pas une émotion qui nous retient de temps à autre – c’est une condition… une condition de possibilité… de la vie – de toutes choses.
L’amour n’est pas une chose vague et passagère – c’est l’air que nous respirons quand nous sommes doués d’un cœur et d’une âme.
Qu’il disparaisse, et tout disparaît.
Aujourd’hui l’amour se réfugie dans des lieux à l’abri de l’effroi d’un monde qui sombre.
Il est dans le regard d’un enfant posé sur une fleur, dans le regard d’un oiseau, d’un tigre – qui malgré la tristesse qui parcourt nos activités féroces, sont traversés encore – et encore – d’amour, de part en part.
Alors, l’amour n’est pas une option, pas une assurance, pas une solution…. mais une condition sina qua non du souffle vital.
Et nous portons la responsabilité, en tant qu’homme, de sa présence sur terre. Sans nous, sans notre amour ineffable, le chaos prend le dessus, et tout précipite dans le rien.
if you are a monument, then i am violent.
I miss holding your hand. I rub my palm with my index and forefinger to remember how it felt and imagine the skin parting to pass an ooze like warm vaseline. That image is the way I miss you.
What does it take to love a country? What form, shape and how many false gods?
The protectress of time gives you a gift. It is something you already possess. The smallest unit of language meaning ‘take off your armour’.
11 000 litres of air.
12 -25 times every 60 seconds,
through the trachea, lungs, blood.
It took 77 days to reach a reported 204,200 cases (an estimated 5 508 000 unreported)
from the time was found in one.
Without ever being aware of your individual existence,
across 11,117 km of earth and ocean;
with every conscious and unconscious raspy draw of atmosphere,
with each slight touch of every invisible drop on every architectural surface,
I ingest all of humanity collectively.
My ancestors, the earth, the universe.
So much so,
that the only way to tear you from my veins,
to stop you from coursing through my every cell,
and then exhaling a piece of you back for the world to love,
is to so forcefully isolate
i am a witness, you a seer.
“Moon and Ocean”
Hips sway from side to side, 2 lovers caught up in timeless flow.
Love happens in exquisite detail: the wave of a note finding its place, the 2 milligram prickle of a single hair.
March 19th, 2021
To Himali | From Seher
A rare bird was left in silence
It began to forget its own song
It needed a memory to remember how to sing
Perhaps, love is that remembrance, of who we desire to be
isotopes of interdependence.
–because it is the natural order of things. from Resignation, by Nikki Giovanni
Cosmonaut : here comes our love letter. The audio is an excerpt from the (first monotheist) pharaoh Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Sun. The written text is the equations of nuclear fusion (how hydrogen gets converted to helium– the process that makes energy in the sun).
-Ayşegül Savaş and Maks Ovsjanikov
I get asked all the time by friends of mine — as their token romantic — to recommend love poems for weddings. It’s funny, though, all the love poems I’m drawn to are either not at all about love per say, or else are about the longing, the ache, for something that once was, for something that cannot be, a feeling for anything but the now, or else they’re poems about pain, maybe poems of ecstatic rapture, but always the feeling so big, so sublime, so bursting out of the confines of the body and beyond language that nothing, or at least rarely, in a love poem says: I’m here. I have arrived. My search is over. The few times in my life I have felt I have arrived, seeing and being seen in the eyes of my lover, I almost immediately feel the present bliss encroached upon by the premonition of inevitable loss. Can there be a present having without a fear of heavy losing?
But now it’s late afternoon and the violets have curled up in the shade of the muddy bank. Yes, I am writing these sentences about love in England. Shall I write something about the love a person might have for their country? I will, but not here.
To summarize: perhaps I have never loved at all.
you are the omniscient narrator. the second and third person.
you have this feeling, but you don’t where it is located or how it comes to you. something like loss. marking our cosmic end.
I’m sorry this has taken me so long. I can’t remember or even begin to imagine what it was that I’ve been doing. It’s late afternoon, I messaged you – I just woke up. I sleep at night, sometimes again in the morning, always in the afternoon. I have no choice. It’s uncontrollable and overwhelming. It leaves me unrested and my mind feels hazy. I’ve not managed much, just this, and this is deviating from writing you a love song.
I miss the mediocre beer at that terrible bar. I miss everything and that’s not enough. I miss the then and the way we were. I miss the night. I miss you. I miss the us.
I sleep easier when I return to you.
In the midst of building our own domestic grammar with rules and exceptions, glottal stops and liaisons, your “I love you”s – the first thing I hear when you kiss me in the morning, and what you whisper when you kiss me goodnight – have become the parenthesis signs that contain my dreams; and your actions like those vowels in Arabic that might not be written out but are pronounced, invisible but vital and acknowledged.
A wish upon a star -and a fortuitous crossing- later, here we are, talking together in present and future tenses, buying daybeds, planning avenirs, making each other shine, fully aware that all of this is but a dream contained between your “I love you”s. But the thing is that, at the end of it all, and technically speaking, I am not just in love with you, I am love with you.
**Lines from Etel Adnan’s collections, Seasons and Sitt Marie Rose