Gabi Dao & geetha thurairajah

soothsay

11 September - 25 October 2020

The sentence longs.
 

All that richness and drama sealed away in a fortress whose walls echoed with communication of elemental or exquisite language—and yet only the fire escape, a clinging extremity, inanimate and often rusting, spoke—1

HI 

I see an H resting on its side. 

Between letter and scaffolding. 

Icons hang. Dingbat. 

Still lexical, the letter holds up. 

The word holds up. 

Floating. 

Sun, Moon, Names. 

Noun announced into the air. 

“Look, they got their trusses up!” 

Kharma says about a barn being built across the field. 

Later, a star appears like a hole in the face of the building. 

An old shape. A hollow glyph. 

A small portal. 

A picture of the cathedral reproduces it in printer ink.

In the library, a woman carefully lines a desk and chair in newspapers. 

A quiet study. 

The cathedral was designed as a book for the poor and illiterate. 

Sculpted columns and stained glass animate biblical narratives on its facade. 

They tell the stories of monsters and salvation. 

On the desk, the woman sleeps amongst the dailies. 

Her body napping on the letters. 

The library’s curved contour nests her nook. 

I access the microfilm scanners in that section.

I sometimes attempt to rest too.

The security guard wakes her up. 

There’s no sleeping in architecture.

I go back to my writing. 

She reads the newspaper. 
 

Sentimentality sours in the presence of the reader. 

Fruits revert to a state of green unripe. Or rot. 

Fruit sugars are emblematic of the weather that bore its plant.

Fruits are weathered. 

Fruits wait. 

Sweetness, ripeness and rot come to a pause. 

Fruits labour. 

Labour fruits.  

A feeling cast into a memory then a sentence. 

Longing for a potato, an apple and pieces of bread displaced in the process of writing. 

Now I am here in the future of colour.2

Garbage scorches late in the afternoons in my hometown. 

Burning refuse like leaves and food scraps return to the earth.

The prefix reenters the word–shifts temporalities and meanings. 

Charred wood burns to soot and ashes. 

Bread rebakes, browns into croutons.

Mushrooms, flowers and berries regenerate on the forest floor.

After the fire. The soothsayer rewrites.

These sentences are assembled on the occasion of Gabi Dao and geetha thurairajah’s exhibition ‘soothsay’ and borrow from (1) Ocean Vuong’s ‘The Weight Of Our Living’ and (2) Bhanu Kapil’s ‘Text to Complete a Text’. I wrote these sentences with gratitude to these artists and their work and to my friends and readers Tobin Gibson, Kiel Torres, Wendel Vistan, and Aubin Kwon.
 

- Christian Vistan

 

Dao (b. 1991) addresses the structures that influence biography, history and memory.  Her interdisciplinary practice insists on counter-memory, hyphenation, multiple truths and blurred temporalities through the pursuit of sculpture, installation, moving image and sound. Dao is a co-organizer of exhibitions, readings, musical performances and other happenings at Avenue (2013-2015) and Duplex Artist Society (2015-present). She has recently exhibited at the Kamias Triennale, Quezon City, Philippines (2020); the Nanaimo Art Gallery (2017) and Vancouver institutions such as grunt gallery, Simon Fraser University’s Audain Gallery (both 2019); the Western Front, Artspeak (both 2017); 221a and Spare Room (both 2015).

 

thurairajah (b. 1986) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Sackville, New Brunswick. thurairajah studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design and Wilfrid Laurier University. Recent exhibitions include Migration is more momentous than ancient invasions, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; No body to talk to, Invisible Exports, New York; Downward Flower, Fourteen30, Portland (all 2019); An Assembly of Shapes, Oakville Galleries (2018); Mingling with flowers panthers’ eyes, The New Gallery, Calgary; Here’s Looking at You, Loyal Gallery, Stockholm (both 2017) and Goodbye here no matter where, 8eleven, Toronto (2016).

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

soothsay, installation view Unit 17

geetha thurairajah, He makes an effort, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 91 x 60cm (on wall)

geetha thurairajah, He makes an effort, 2020 (detail)

geetha thurairajah, GRIT III, 2020, acrylic and oil and canvas, 86 x 81cm

geetha thurairajah, GRIT III, 2020

geetha thurairajah, GRIT III, 2020 (detail)

geetha thurairajah, Take the Good with the Bad, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 167 x 129cm

Gabi Dao, Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), 2020, tapioca starch, vegetable glycerin, water, vinegar, dandelions, aluminum, ashes, sand, graphite powder, bentonite clay, turmeric, cumin, coriander, dimensions variable

Gabi Dao, Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), 2020 (detail)

geetha thurairajah, Plebeian, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 218 x 121cm

geetha thurairajah, Plebeian, 2020

Gabi Dao, CRUMBS, 2020, burnt sourdough crumbs, aluminum, dimensions variable 

Gabi Dao, CRUMBS, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, CRUMBS, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: just food flesh wound, 2020, torched wood, flocking, gelatin, ashes, micas, clays, vegetable glycerin, already burnt incense (holy basil), fruit fly traps (safe for humans and for pets), dimensions variable

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: just food flesh wound, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: just food flesh wound, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: just food flesh wound, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: just food flesh wound, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020, torched wood, flocking, gelatin, micas, clays, tapioca starch, vegetable glycerin, water, vinegar, ashes, smoked paprika, annatto powder, pearls, amazonite, aluminum, plaster, falsies, nail polish, necklace, bracelet, dimensions variable 

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail)

Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail)

geetha thurairajah, Sad Clown Anthem, 2020, oil and acrylic on canvas, 144 x 120cm

© 2020 U N I T 17.