Hayakal Al Noor (Bodies of Light)

The central theme of my work explores the resonance of the unseen in the visible light, and how light can affect our perception of being. I create immersive light installations with Arabic calligraphy, animations, projections, subtle fragrance and audio voice. The experience of the seer is interactive, as they enter the space, they can touch, feel and hear. This sensory engagement is about being immersed in a mystical encounter with light, which on one end, is infinitely vast in its abstraction and on the other, is limited by material objects and images of this physical world. I position my installations as mirrors, or small ripples to reflect our state of being in this physical world.

Philosophically, my work is inspired by ancient Islamic philosophy of Illumination by Shihab Ud Deen Suhrawardi (CE 1154-1191), who was introduced to the western world in the 1960’s by French philosopher Henry Corbin. The title of my installation Hayakal Al Noor translated as Bodies of Light comes from Suhrawardi’s concept of “existence as a spectrum of Light”. In this spectrum, the visible world is the weakest manifestation of light, that intensifies as it moves towards the invisible Divine light. My attempt through installation art considers the creative potential of Islamic ideas and how they can affect our perception of reality.

The setting of the space in Hayakal al Noor is complete darkness, illuminated by a vivid projection of animations, familiar as Arabic Huroof (letters), yet unfamiliar in their meaning. These Huroof have an aesthetic and spiritual significance in Islamic traditions, and appear as small bodies of light. These Huroof fall on translucent chiffon silk. The several layers of silk hangs free and moves freely when someone approaches. The fabric has light bearing and emitting qualities; it holds a sharp image of the light and allows some light to pass through. In this way, through multi-directional projections, light falls on the chiffon silk and then onto the body of the viewer. To intensify the sensory engagement of the viewer, I also use sound and subtle fragrances, that immerse the viewer into the installation. For me, the format of installation art is helpful in inducing a feeling of wonder, that can lead to further aesthetic encounters. My installation practice taps into many territories: it is time-based, space-based, bodily-based and has the potential of creating an experience that can be outside the body; hence contributing to a nascent area of research in media art.