Indira Allegra, Twin Gravities (2020)
The newly commissioned work Twin Gravities, by KADIST collection artist Indira Allegra, speaks to the gravitational pull of grief—a force so strong they liken it to the magnetism of a planetary body. Its ebb and flow has been central to Allegra’s practice for decades, and in recent weeks a collective grief has unfolded across the country in the form of mass protests against racism and police brutality. Today, Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, when in 1865 enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas were told they were free, two years after emancipation. This year’s celebration has already become more widely visible than any year in recent memory, but it is also marked by the distance and isolation of COVID-19. For those who cannot come together physically, Allegra’s words offer the possibility for intimacy through connection to our domestic spaces, and the relief we might find in their witness.
View the work on IGTV or refer to the full audio transcript below.
Indira Allegra, Twin Gravities (2020), voice recording and image, 5:18 mins. Audio and image produced by the artist.
How is the force of grief’s gravity exerted on the body? As two planets – one which is the sphere of my desire to seek asylum and one which is the sphere of my inheritance which teaches me to fight. I’ve always experienced desire and inheritance as globes which exceed the size of my own. I have been suspended here for decades – my body signifying the tension of polar forces. The pull on my corpus has been so unceasing, I wonder how the orbit of these planets would slope if I myself did not exist as some kind of interplanetary intermediary.
The result of these twin gravities on my body is such that I have been emptying my heart into the street over and over as it seems to fill so quickly overnight. I am both soaked with grief and ablaze. The themes which I have been talking about/making work about and researching for so long are now finally front and center in the media and I am grateful and amazed that it took so long to get here. While it is risky to engage in public protest in any way and during the time of COVID – I believe there are things worth risking one’s life for.
I have never had safety or security guaranteed to me in this country. Navigating economic, racist and sexual violence is a regular part of my work and life. Precarity is unfortunately normal for me. In fact, I find myself agnostic about safety. I don’t deny its existence – but I don’t champion the existence of it either. I am not saying that we don’t need safety psychically/psychologically/physically but I am not confident that complete safety can ever be fully achieved. It may be that we pass through moments of safety, but cannot live there as a destination. It may be that the conversation is about achieving safer spaces. Maybe absolute social safety just doesn’t exist for me. I don’t know.
What I do know is that in lieu of safety – I have love.
I am not agnostic about love.
In lieu of human contact, I offer gentle hands for the soaping of a dish or the firm grip for the hanging of a favorite mirror on the wall. I press the surface area of my body against the smooth wooden floors and the floor touches back. As an artist, I have always been sensitive to the ‘animacy of inanimates’* and the ways in which objects reach back for us** – wearing on their bodies the repetition of our daily habits which includes the work of grieving. I remember that the floor is witness to my pacing through its sounding up from the boards. The couch holds the impression of the nap I needed to take this afternoon because my attention span could not hold while working at my desk – the emptiness of my desk chair, swivelled to the side becomes an acknowledgment of my need to do something else, feel something else – and that this was ok. Even as I am grieving I must remember the labor that my space is doing to hold me – how the movements of my body are absorbed into their own. Is this not a form of intimacy? To receive the movement of a partner’s body with your own?
I do not know if the table at which I am writing can feel the pull of polar forces I am subject to – but perhaps the marble here is a witness and can offer a kind of relief through the coolness of its surface. A welcome offering for my blazing heart.
*shout out to Mel Y. Chen here for their work on Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering and Queer Affect.
** shout out to Sarah Ahmed for her work Queer Phenomenology