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The building of a house we will never live in, a house for our ghosts, where the gothic and the hallucinatory collide…

As part of Back to Earth, artist Tai Shani is developing Untitled Hieroglyphs, a film and sound art project emerging from the artist’s research into psychedelics, feminism and myth and unfolding throughout 2021.

The project’s first release, Untitled Hieroglyphs, is a film emerging from an interview between Shani and Serpentine Curator of General Ecology, Lucia Pietroiusti, developed on the occasion of a collaboration between Serpentine and the Archaeological Park of Pompeii’s contemporary art platform, Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters.

Images credit: Ergot : the story of a parasitic fungus. Wellcome Collection. Ergot fungus infection in wheat. Anna Gordon, Fernan Federici & Jim Haseloff. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

About the Project

Untitled Hieroglyphs weaves together a series of poetic considerations on a feminist history of Ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other common grains from which the hallucinogenic drug LSD is derived. Shani’s investigation spans many fields – from the cellular to the galactic, from Palaeolithic cave markings to the optic markings left by drone photography in our internal eye, dancing plagues, communist psychedelic witches, hyper-sexual fungi, descents and ascents. In the artist’s words, through Untitled Hieroglyphs Shani addresses “the building of a house we will never live in, a house for our ghosts, where the gothic and the hallucinatory collide, where gothic affects and fractal dread form a mausoleum for psychedelic spectres. Also the sun! Sun is a ghost that haunts the night!”. The expansion of consciousness and hallucinatory qualities of psychedelic experiences thus offers both a hypothesis and an access point to multiple histories and alternative forms of knowledge.

About Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters

The Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Italy and Serpentine’s Back to Earth project have teamed up in the context of Pompeii’s first contemporary art programme, Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters, inviting three artists involved in the Serpentine’s Back to Earth project to share insights from their ongoing research which intersects with questions connected to archaeology, archaeobotany and archaeozoology.

Images credit: Ergot : the story of a parasitic fungus. Wellcome Collection. Ergot fungus infection in wheat. Anna Gordon, Fernan Federici & Jim Haseloff. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

About Tai Shani

Tai Shani is an artist living and working in London. Her multidisciplinary practice, comprising performance, film, photography and installation, revolves around experimental narrative texts. Shani creates violent, erotic and fantastical images told in a dense, floral language which re-imagines female otherness as a perfect totality, set in a world complete with cosmologies, myth and histories that negate patriarchal narratives. These alternate between familiar stylistic tropes and structures and theoretical prose in order to explore the construction of subjectivity, excess and the affects of the epic as the ground for a post-patriarchal realism. Tai Shani’s project DC Productions (2014-2019) proposed an allegorical city of women, it was an experimental and expanded adaptation of Christine de Pizan’s 1405 pioneering feminist book, The Book of the City of Ladies within which Christine builds a city for notable women drawn from a medieval conception of history, where fact, fiction and myth are blurred. This non-hierarchical approach also determined the construction of the characters and narrative of DC. The collected texts were published in 2019 as Our Fatal Magic. Shani is the joint 2019 Turner Prize winner together with Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo. In 2019 Tai was a Max Mara prize nominee. Her work has been shown at Turner Contemporary, UK (2019); Grazer Kunst Verein, Austria (2019); Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Italy (2019); Glasgow International, UK (2018); Wysing Arts Centre, UK (2017); Serpentine Galleries, London (2016); Tate, London (2016); Yvonne Lambert Gallery, Berlin (2016) and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2016).

Credits

The film series The Neon Hieroglyph is commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival. The project is also commissioned by The British Art Show, and is developed in collaboration with Serpentine’s Back to Earth project.

Untitled Hieroglyphs, 2021
Editor: Lori E Allen
Composer: Maxwell Sterling
Footage: Ergot : the story of a parasitic fungus. Wellcome Collection. Ergot fungus infection in wheat. Anna Gordon, Fernan Federici & Jim Haseloff. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Pompeii Commitment was conceived by Massimo Osanna and Andrea Viliani, who maintains it with Stella Bottai (Curator) and Laura Mariano (Project Manager).

Courtesy of the artist

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