Containing 70,000 photoshop layers stripped from 10,000 photographsthat were then reconstructed to form 1000 3D video sequences across 96 monitors, the installation is a form of meditation and reflection, what Sabsabi calls “the spiritual component of the process”.
It was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad’s statement that there are 70,000 veils of light and darkness separating an individual from the Divine – veils which Sufis understand to mean layers of enlightenment. For Sabsabi, the work’s third dimension symbolises crossing a threshold into the metaphysical.
Using a decade’s worth of images, the installation is “always morphing, always changing … but the movement is also subtle, symbolic of life,” says Sabsabi, who describes the work as being concerned with memory – its worth, how it is shaped, how it determines the self, how it is lost, distorted and reconstructed.
The screens in 70,000 Veils are installed around a corner, like a beckoning hand or an arm around the shoulder. Corners are a foundational element of Sabsabi’s practice, where simple geometry allows for complex symmetries to play out. They are also employed in A Promise to facilitate pauses and transitions between works.
Another work, Sanjak (2002-2012), is also about transition and marking time, with a Sufi ceremonial banner decorated with holy names and the artist’s genealogical lineage. “I have a personal connection to the object [and] the community,” he says. “On my return to Lebanon in 2002 after migration to Australia in 1978, I walked into my first reconnection with tasawwuf [Sufism] and this Sanjak was being made. When I left in 2011 to complete the work Corner [of which Sanjak forms a part] this was gifted to me and was my friend in this journey.”
He adds: “Sharing it in this exhibition is a way to greet people and share this Baraka – blessing – with the audience. To share the knowledge, wisdom and goodwill of this piece [with the] community is part of the conversations that we need to have.”
A Promise: Khaled Sabsabi is at the AGNSW from July 18.