by Alison Hugill // Mar. 4, 2022
Based between London and Delhi, Himali Singh Soin is an artist and writer whose work poetically blurs fact and fiction in the pursuit of new modes of thinking around ecological loss. In her current exhibition ‘Static Range’—presented at E-Werk Luckenwalde as part of the ongoing and continuously unfolding project ‘POWER NIGHTS: Being Mothers’—Singh Soin offers a layered perspective on nuclear culture, collaborating with healers and other creatives within the immersive, contemplative space she has created to embody the work. Ahead of her participating in the Biennale Gherdeina in Italy this spring, we spoke to her about the importance of collective making, both in dialogue with family and friends, and with the non-human entities among us.
Alison Hugill: Your exhibition ‘Static Range’ at E-Werk Luckenwalde takes on multiple dimensions in terms of materials and forms. Can you speak about some of the ways in which you’ve chosen to unfold this story?
Himali Singh Soin: ‘Static Range’ is a collection of transmissions: poetry in an epistolary form, two videos, music, embroidery, healing, a phyto-remedic garden and, soon, a ceramic piece. This style of building a narrative that accumulates was developed in my previous series, ‘we are opposite like that,’ and leaked into this one too. As the research develops, new ideas form. New ideas birth new mediums, and new mediums portend new collaborations. This is also the way that nuclear dust travels, and the way that messages move through the world. With wind, they land randomly. Sometimes, the post is delayed. It’s a methodology that to me feels organic and non-linear, and slower, both for the conceptual work to elaborate on a solid foundation, and to have the time to find the resources to support the work.
AH: The installation is also collaborative, with works by other artists and healers presented as interventions in the space. Why is it important for you to work in this way?
HSS: This method allows us to move away from the obsessive culture of individualistic expertise and share knowledge. It also allows for new languages to develop as disciplines work together. This sensibility of collaboration seems to be the only way in which to operate today, as a political citizen living in an era of climate change and many degrees of cold wars. ‘Static Range’ is a collection of wonderful minds, but also my family, and friends, all partaking in a worlding. It’s felt like a feast. It also allows us to spread the wealth so it isn’t concentrated but diffused, like the subject matters themselves.
AH: To what degree did E-Werk’s space and history factor into your concept for the project ‘Static Range’?
HSS: It is so interesting to show the piece in its first iteration at a power station! It feels profound to build the therapeutic garden with plants that can help clean its former life of coal contamination. We found a perfect cold war period radio and speakers in Luckenwalde, and a similar lamp for the install. And then creating a soft space with cushions felt like a starker contrast with the external structure. The osmosis of the extrinsic and intrinsic narratives is so multi-layered and invites viewers to make their own playful interpretations.
AH: What are some of the ways you use non-human life as a storyteller and protagonist in your works? I am thinking of the ongoing series you mentioned, ‘we are opposite like that,’ where mythologies of the poles are told from the perspective of the ice, as witness. What possibilities do these kinds of poetic abstractions afford you in the visual presentations of your work?
HSS: Writing from the perspective of non-human forms of life, like ice, or in the case of ‘Static Range,’ from the nuclear powered spy device and from the mountain or in ‘Silicontology,’ from the perspective of silicon, is first and foremost a personal and somatic practice. It is really trying to inhabit the body of a mountain, become a base and a peak. It is channeling my own sense of loss, being brown, being an alien, being human in an era of deeply accelerated extractionism and harm and sadness, into these forms of life. What can these other voices tell us? How can they help us be better, and be better cohabiters, collaborators, family? It doesn’t quite attempt to de-centre the human experience, but pitch these multiple realities, and the possibility of extra-human consciousnesses, beside each other. What happens when we reconfigure our world this way?
AH: Can you tell us about your work that will be included in the upcoming Biennale Gherdeina this summer in Italy?
HSS: ‘An omniscience: an atmos-etheric, transnational, interplanetary cosmist bird opera spanning seven continents and the many verses’ combines epic poetry and an original score for four wind instruments to tell the story of the Arctic Tern, a bird that travels from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back annually, the greatest migration of any creature. Blurring fantasy and fact, the opera uses the bird to think of questions of wind, horizons, lightness, flight, transnationalism, cosmism and climate change.