Meaningless Bound Form no.2 (2022), installation view, Documenta Halle, Kassel, Germany, as part of documenta fifteen

Works for documenta fifteen: 

 

Meaningless Bound Form 1 (2022) 

Fluorescent Lamps, Steel, Prepared Motor

346 x 80 x 557 cm

Edition of 3+1

 

 Meaningless  Bound Form 2 (2022) 

Fluorescent Lamps, Steel, Prepared Motor

346 x 80 x 557 cm

Edition of 3+1

These works are represented by Lumbung Gallery

 

They were created for documenta fifteen and presented in the context of Baan Noorg Collaborative Arts & Culture’s project “Churning Milk: Rituals of Things” in the Documenta Halle in Kassel Germany from 18.06.2022-25.09.2022.

 

Artists’s thoughts

 

'Meaningless Bound Form 1" and Meaningless Bound Form 2" work in the tradition of Ngan Wat (temple Fair) light towers.  Such vernacular 'towers' are commonly found in Thailand used as activators and signifiers of the change of state of a place; they let the people in that area know that that place has been transformed temporarily into the social space of a Temple Fair. These over-sized moving objects alter place and communicate and broadcast that alteration to the surrounding community. They call people to come and complete the activation of the Ngan Wat space.

 

As installed in documenta fifteen, within the context of Baan Noorg's "Churning the Milk Sea: Rituals of Things" these two works provide this activation of space while also, through form, respond to the mythology of the Churning of the Milk Sea. Alongside the moving-by-air representation of Mount Meru and Vishnu-as-transformed-into-the-turtle-Kurma, the two light-objects work with the motion inherent in the legend itself: the rotation of the mountain and the actual churning of the milk sea that results from this spinning: rotation and counter-rotation. In the epic, this motion is achieved by the cooperative efforts of the devas and asuras, who are otherwise at odds with one another. Towards this, the two objects make use of the archetypal symbolism of Light and Darkness, and the relationship of co-dependency between the two which is found throughout the Ramayana as well as in epics and mythologies from many other cultures.

 

Layered onto to the circular motion of these works is the crossing back-and-forth of the skateboarders in Baan Noorg's mini-ramp. These many-directional movements point to the actual chaotic movement necessary to churn milk into butter/ghee and this sets the space for the other activations and events to take place which further this interpretation.

 

This titles of these works come from a linguistic description.  A 'bound form' is an element of language which can't be used by itself: it is always bound to something else.  For example, in English "ly" is a bound form, as in 'suddenly' or 'pleasantly'.  But 'ly' is a meaning-ed bound form, as it has a specific meaning and function.  Whereas in other languages, notably Chinese, there are Meaningless Bound Forms: linguistic elements which have no meaning at all when they are alone, but create meaning when combined with other characters, for example, '珊' and '邋' are meaningless bound forms.  These meaningless bound forms create meaning only when placed in the context of something else: they need a second character to form a meaning.  In this sense, they are an activator of meanings, rather than a carrier of meaning.  

 

Although they do not carry denotative meaning in the language, they are characters on their own which we can see and read and that are made up of different components. Within each character, there are radicals and strokes and abstract shapes that may give  certain feelings or thoughts to one who looks at them.  The forms of these two examples give very different feelings, despite having no linguistic meaning:

 

 珊    邋

 

This thinking can be extended beyond the field of linguistics and give direction to the consideration of meanings created in the combining of elements in other contexts.  What is a potential meaning, a meaning that doesn't yet exist, but could exist? Form as signifier. An object which has form but only potential-meaning, not inherent-meaning.    

 

So these two works carry these questions and functions. They work to create meaning when combined with other elements, other spaces, other forms. But, at the same time, they exist as forms in- and of themselves,  with potential meanings or non-meanings.  Signals, transformation-instigators, beacons, calls, invitations. What is a skateboard ramp without people to skateboard on it? What is a Temple Fair without a community of people to activate it?