Devotional Diagrams for the Desert

My research explores healing practices in Pakistan’s delta and desert regions, ancient ecologies now ravaged by coal and dam infrastructure, where centuries of Shivaite and Sufi practices converge. Referencing Sufi cosmographic drawings and the Sri Yantras of Hindu/Buddhist traditions, I will create a series of devotional diagrams based on endangered ecological forms central to healing/mystical practice. These plants, vines, and trees are cosmic beings, apparitions of the divine in deathscapes devastated by energy infrastructures.

Zahra Malkani / Karachi, Pakistan — Nov 16, 2020

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Devotional Diagrams for the Desert

Working across different South Asian aniconist traditions, I will create dynamic, layered, and ephemeral imagery that venerates, invokes, and explores divinity as a system, as interrelation. Aniconist traditions grapple with problems and limitations of representation through the diagram form. How can the formless, immaterial spiritual/divine realm be represented in material or visual form? Visual representations of the divine threaten to make static that which is dynamic, flatten that which is deep, make singular and bounded that which is infinite and expansive. Diagrams are dynamic visualities representing duration, motion, relation. Devotional diagrams imagine divinity not as a being but as a system, a cosmic flow of relation. Creating these diagrams as an audiovisual web installation will allow for multilayered, interactive, fluid forms that explore divinity through endangered indigenous knowledge and ecology, thus envisioning other, alternative energy infrastructures latent in all being.

Zahra Malkani

Zahra Malkani is a multidisciplinary artist and Assistant Professor of Practice in communication and design at the Habib University in Karachi. She completed her MA in contemporary art theory at Goldsmiths University of London/UK (2013) and her BA in studio art at Bard College, New York/USA (2009). Her research-based art practice spans multiple media including text, video, and web, and explores the politics of development, infrastructure, and militarism in Pakistan. Together with Shahana Rajani she is the co-founder of Karachi LaJamia, an experimental pedagogical project founded in 2015.

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