NOWHERESVILLE \ 'NÄ-KŌJA,-ABÄD \: Ala Ebtekar
The Third Line is pleased to open its Spring 2015 program with Ala Ebtekar's Nowheresville \'nä-kōja,-abäd\. Working with ideas of the celestial, home to planetary and spiritual configurations that have fascinated humanity since the beginning of time, the artist combines early 12th Century traditions of Persian cosmic philosophy with modern-day scientific imaging of the heavens. His explorations over the years, into the union of both spectrums, and a search for the portals into imagined futures, culminate in this mystical homage to Light.
In the Illuminationist cosmogony of the mystical philosopher Shahabuddin Suhrawardi, the Light of Lights, unlocated in Nowheresville, radiates the Universe into being, dispersed into Nine Spheres. Man who lives on the Ninth Sphere, furthest from the Light, still gazes upon the stars; some just see the sapphire sea of stars; others see the stars with an astrologer eye, but do not see the skies. There are a few though, who know that seeing is a journey, the first step shutting the eyes, and the destination: Nowheresville \'nä-kōja,-abäd\—the abode of Simurgh, the benevolent, mythical flying creature, atop the cosmic mountain Qaf—untouched by time and space.
Inspired by this cosmogony, Ala imagines this journey to/through Light, where every space—silent or clamorous, bright or opaque—can be used as a portal to Na-Koja Abad. Each opening hidden in clusters of symbolism gazes back at the audience, waiting to be discovered. The artist invites the viewer to make the journey to the symbolic Qaf, and perhaps catch a fleeting glimpse of Nowheresville.
Continuing his investigation into traditional and popular depictions of space and time, Ala is presenting a new body of work where the cosmos are used as a metaphor for exploring transcendence. He moves fluidly between mediums—working together with traditional methods such as drawing and painting and new-media platforms such as digital interventions, and sound and light installations—to create a dialogue that is reiterated in the choice of medium and the process itself. Through the visual juxtaposition, Ala interlaces a narrative of the collective histories, theories and archetypes that tie our past in with the visions of the future.
Exploring this direction, the artist has also produced new works through the distinct Cyanotype technique—a photographic printing process invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, a scientist and experimental photographer who made significant contributions to photography. The cyanotype process includes a surface being treated with potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate, and then exposed to the sun or other source of UV light. The result is dependent purely on the relation between the treated surface and light, with the final bleached marking on the transforming natural indigo base looking remarkably similar to a starry sky. In doing so, Ala is able to use light as both technique and medium.