Himali Singh Soin and the Four Spirituous Libations(feat. Artist Yi-Chun Lin)

Citing Bar II – Himali Singh Soin

Text: Feng-Yi Chu

Solid Art’s “Citing Bar” introduces its second project featuring artist Himali Singh Soin with two of her recent series “As Grand As What” and “we are opposite like that”. Both works encompass a diverse range of mediums, including video, artist books, sound installations, performances, photographic works, and textiles. This article, in collaboration with artist Lin Yi-Chun, echoes the concept of “Citing Bar” by designing four spirituous libations based on four key concepts related to Himali’s art. While dissecting Himali’s artistic practice, this article further explores how and why these four concepts: écriture féminine, ecofeminism, mysticism, and futurism, mutually influence, reflect each other, and manifest themselves as a whole within the global contemporary art world.

🍷 The first glass: “The Girdle of Venus,” homage to feminine writing
Where do I Start?

From a slit. A point. A ray, a gash, a measure, a beam, a line, a hole, a drum, a horn, string, a skin, a wing, from a black square wet with worship and smeared red with turmeric and lime by wives that cannot exactly ask what they are asking for. Still, there is power in that too. One non-body vibrating against another non-body, being by being quiet. ” (Himali Singh Soin, “Nāsaḥdyaḥ, Sacred Geometry”, Ancestors of the Blue Moon, 2018-2020) 

Read it. Read it aloud. In English or Mandarin, as you wish, following your own rhythm, feel the rise and fall of the tones. Feel the curl and flip of the tongue, the gentle taps and clicks like ballet dance inside the orifice. Feel the vibrations of the mysterious airflow emerging from the depths of the throat, the varied and exhilarating sounds produced by the contraction of the muscles in the lips and face, culminating in an army of voice that carries abundant emotions and decisive meanings, trumpeting and thrusting. Only through this can you come close to the aesthetic core of Himali’s art: literature.

Himali has a  background in English literature. Whether it is the poetic writings in “Ancestors of the Blue Moon”,  the rhythmic three-channel video of “As Grand As What” series, or the books, videos, and performances in the series “we are opposite like that,” they are all different forms of literary embodiments. Even “Mountain, Pixelated in the Water,” which visualizes sound through Ikat weaving, reflects the fact that literature and words are indeed the most primal form of visualizing sound.

Himali’s literary creations are a form of feminine writing. Whether in poetic writings or video works, Himali does not emphasize the dominant, ordered, logical, masculine language,  but focuses on the expression of psychic imageries, the transmission of emotions, and the rhythm of movement. Hence, you must read it, read it aloud. You don’t even need to fully understand it, if you know only a little English. Empty yourself, create space within, become a conductor or channel. Translate her sound while emitting the textual symbols; feel and bear her will, emotions, and the universe within the rhythm that she subtly created.

📜 Specialty of “The Girdle of Venus” : Turmeric, Lime, Pepper, Blackcurrant Liqueur, Whiskey.

🍷 The second glass: “Southern Lotus Realm,” homage to Ecofeminism
A comet spun out of orbit and swung towards the sun, releasing vapor, burning before it barely lived, like a mayfly, completing its life’s work in the span of one full day on earth. It singed into the water, and a lotus bloomed. I was born as a lake, my lost bla found in the mouth of the lotus.” (Himali Singh Soin, “Yéshe Tsō-gyal, Wisdom Lake Queen”, Ancestors of the Blue Moon, 2018-2020) 

The Earth’s ecology and natural environment are subjects that Himali deeply cares about, and her response and approach to these issues align with ecofeminism. This approach recognizes that a patriarchal and masculine-dominated paradigm, characterized by notions of exclusion, dominance, competition, and control, has shaped the relationship between human and nature over the past few centuries. This analytical and mechanistic worldview, which emphasizes exploitation and utilization, has led to irreversible damage to the Earth’s ecology and natural environment under the influence of the industrial revolution and the rise of modernity. The remedy and pathway for change lies in reflecting upon and criticizing this value system, and further developing a new model that is more inclusive, interconnected, and sustainable, fostering mutual coexistence between humans and nature.

Himali practices ecofeminism through the lens of feminine writing: by emphasizing a more heterogeneous, inclusive, and diverse form of feminine writing, she resonates with ecofeminism’s critique of systems of domination, exclusion, and exploitation. In her artworks, the audience/readers become scientists, healers, landscape painters, astronauts, extraterrestrials, lakes, snakes, ice, or the five elements of life—air, fire, water, earth, and space—experiencing and exploring the universe from alternative scales and perspectives.

📜 Specialty of “Southern Lotus Realm”  : Lotus Petal Powder , Kombucha , Coconut Milk , Tonic Water , Gin

🍷 The third glass, “The Lyre of Sirens,” homage to Mysticism

“It is time to begin the rituals to retrieve our lost bla. Bla, a cosmic force that moves though our bodies. Moves through the world, like breath, but brighter, electric. It’s spelt bla, as if it were something less than vital. But it’s pronounced la, like music circulating though our bones.” (Himali Singh Soin, WATER, as grand as what, 2018-2020) 

To transform a boundary-driven, exclusive, and competitive modern patriarchal model, and to contemplate an alternative, inclusive, and interconnected new relationship, ancient mysticism serves as the best reference and a rich imaginary and discursive resource. In “As Grand As What,” Himali, who was born in northern India and spent her childhood between Delhi and the Himalayas, draws upon the timeless wisdom of Bon, pre-Buddhist, and Tibetan medical  scriptures, using the framework of the five elements of life: air, fire, water, earth, and space, to evoke a new ethical spirit centered around love. In “Ancestors of the Blue Moon,” the thirteen deities represent the thirteen conceptual structures in Himali’s cosmology, including time, bla (energy and breath), wisdom, feminine power, consciousness and spirits, the body, and multiple dimensions of time and space. “we are opposite like that” narrates an Arctic myth where ice is personified as an elder, originating from distant past or future, traversing and experiencing glaciers, fossils, fjords, entangled kelp, moist sea stars, fishing nets, undersea cables, and distant love letters.

📜 Specialty of “The Lyre of Sirens” : Aloe Vera , Sodium Alginate , Calcium Chloride , Smoked Cinnamon , Tangerine Peel , and Vodka.

🍷 The fourth glass: “ACES” (Advanced Crew Escape Suit), homage to futurism.

“South Asian Futurism would like to call itself Subcontinentment, a skewed portmanteau of subcontinent and contentment. An idealistic futurism that is scientific but does not believe in science as a solution. Its science fiction does not project a dystopia despite the carbon. It wants an alchemy of knowledges, it wants rumors, humors, hypotheses, it wants ancient imaginaries and everyday erasures, it wants to rest. ”(Himali Singh Soin, Subcontinentment, we are opposite like that, 2017-2022)

However, there is a concern when “reverting” to traditional mysticism, as it may lead to a regression of values, ethics, and forms of social organization. Therefore, we need the fourth keyword (the fourth specialty): Futurism, which allows us to actively maintain a forward-looking perspective while seeking the help from ancestral spirits. “we are opposite like that” serves as an important statement and declaration of Futurism by Himali. In the poem “Subcontinentment”, Himali rejects the term “South Asian Futurism” as “South Asian” is merely a geographical term from a global perspective without specific regional connotations, and “Futurism” is complicit in the violence of an accelerated modern society. In opposition to that, she creates the term “Subcontinentment” as a replacement, aiming to develop a new future imagination that is non-linear, non-acceleration, and non-historical development, while simultaneously emphasizing the interplay between material and spiritual, science and mysticism, the present and the future, and the individual and the collective.

📜 Specialty of “ACES”: Orange Foam , Gold Leaf , Mint , Cucumber , Absinthe , Tonic Water. 

(The Advanced Crew Escape Suit [ACES] is a full pressure suit that Space Shuttle crews wear for the ascent and entry portions of flight.)

1 Cixous, Hélène; Cohen, Keith; Cohen, Paula (1976). “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Signs. The University of Chicago Press. 1 (4): 875–893. Access: https://artandobjecthood.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/cixous_the_laugh_of_the_medusa.pdf

2 Fraga, Mari (2021). “The Bond for Environmental and Social Justice.” Zeitgeister (Goethe Institut): https://www.goethe.de/prj/zei/en/nac/22234151.html

3 Chien-Hui, Kao (2019). “Retrogression: Futurisms in Asian Style.” Artouch: https://artouch.com/art-views/content-11857.html