artist / participant
An enigmatic blue ceramic tiling, situated upon the façade of the mausoleum of Miran Zain, the mother of the 8th Sultan of Kashmir Zain-Ul-Abedin (1420-1470) was the starting point for this solo installation. Situated on the banks of the river Jhelum in Srinagar, the mausoleum dates to 1430. Its architecture points to the links between Kashmir and central Asia—Miran Zain herself hailed from Turkmenistan. The tile itself, glazed in blue, had sculpted upon it a shape in bas-relief that Soi found difficult to interpret.
This tile was replicated at the Bordallo Pinheiro Ceramic Factory, located in Caldas da Rainha. The period of fabrication, starting from the modelling of the tiles to their eventual placement in the kiln, provided Soi with an alibi for observing the workers and the industrial processes employed within. Documenting it allowed the dynamics of the factory to seep into the ensuing video narrative. These same tiles, finished in an off-white matt engobe slip, now line the surface of the curving panoramic wall constructed for the Conversations space, adding texture to the mapped projection.
Within the video moving image, stills and drawings are cut out and stitched together, providing polyphonic structure to the narrative and allowing it an associative resonance. The making of the tiles is glanced against an exploration of the mausoleum, visited multiple times by the artist over the course of recent years. Architectural schemas become patterned backdrops. A chapter within the video consists of an animation documenting the Timurid jade jar from the Founder’s Collection. This object once belonged to Jehangir (1569-1627), the Mughal king who ruled over Kashmir. Locating its presence within the Museum helped Soi unfold the project for this edition of Conversations.
Work on this exhibition began more than a year ago with Soi’s invitation to outline a new work for the Museum based on his ongoing exploration of Kashmir. Soi has been visiting Srinagar since 2009 and engaging with artisans there in part to gain an understanding of this troubled border region. Kashmir is India’s northernmost state and since 1947 (the year the subcontinent rid itself of British rule) the site of a separatist movement. The red tiled mountain-like screen within the Conversations space allows Soi to recall the Zabarwan mountain range visible from Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital.
Soi’s repeated visits to Lisbon enabled a growing familiarity with the city and allowed him to internalise aspects of its history and culture and as well to ruminate upon certain objects within the storage of the Museum. The play of light upon the Kum Kapi rugs is one of these examples. A set of uncatalogued Sassanid coins is yet another. These he comments upon in a diaristic way within the video that is projected upon the back of a pillar placed deep within the room. The semi-circular front of the pillar is encrusted with a batch of the tiles, now colored and set in a formation similar to those that line the mausoleum in Srinagar.
The Lisbon based composer and architect David Maranha was commissioned by Soi to create a score for this installation. Maranha recorded sound within the factory at the start of their collaboration. His score layers against sounds that emanate from the video’s timeline in the creation of an aural atmosphere that envelopes the viewer and unites the installation.
The title Third Factory references the book by the Russian Formalist Víktor Shlovsky (1893-1984). Within the book the author recognises three periods of his life which were important to his formative growth as a writer. Soi takes his time in Srinagar, Caldas and Lisbon as points of departure, utilising space and the transformation inherent in the projection of video upon architecture to forward another agenda—that of the multiplication of points of entry and departure within subject matter.