Amba’s new body of work includes sculptures and drawings that explore the performativity of technology and relations to otherness.
Abstraction allows for instability and multiplicity, a possible means of communing with difference without it being instrumentalised. In addition to working with processes of abstraction, Amba explores our use of language, scientific methods, and her own encounters with materials in the studio, as staging relations to otherness in the form of the non-human.
Connected to this is an interest in Posthumanism. Ninety five percent of the neurotransmitters in our brain are made by bacteria in our gut, which makes it hard to say where the human ends and microbiome begins. Amba is not only concerned with these biological instances, but also with other encounters that extend our notions of the makeup of ‘human’ subjectivity. Centra, a modular hanging structure that sits somewhere between vertebrae and shedded skin, the former the body’s information highway and latter its interface, resonates with Amba’s making process. Whether using a drawing stencil in her works on paper, or a computer modelling program such as Rhino, she explores how, rather than being passive tools, these apparatuses have agency. Her works develop through human-material feedback systems resulting in a hybridised aesthetic. Composed of various organic and inorganic parts, her practice operates as a cyborg assemblage, much like the thinking, speaking and writing subject that she considers in this exhibition.
Language serves as our dominant cognitive technology—it is used by humans however it is non-human. As a kind of prosthesis, it enables different extensions of thought. Language is other but it also others. It has been used as a tool of colonisation. Amba is interested in what biases are built into the infrastructure of the technologies that we inherit (language included), what inequalities they enact and perpetuate. Writing systems are means of communication that function through the removal of the embodied and speaking subject. Claims to objectivity are often delivered in the third person, where universalism is favoured over positionality. From pastel colour palettes to ideological positions, neutral tones display a cool and detached sensibility. The clinical shades of the works: mint green and off-white, along with clean lines and smooth surfaces conspire to create an austere environment. The work explores the more sinister aspects of processes of disembodiment and sublimation and how they function as mechanisms of power. Scientific experiments similarly function through processes of exclusion: the removal of contaminants (including the human body) to observe, through machine vision, a predetermined object of attention.
Informed by her time spent at CERN last year, where she was struck by the vast subterranean architecture used to find the Higgs boson, a particle that was believed to exist some time before its discovery, Amba describes how the repetitive experiments used in its detection felt ritualistic, and how the material infrastructure of the Hadron Collider seemed to enact this belief. Throughout the exhibition, forms are often doubled. Blur is a layering of a single form, offset and visually hard to focus on, whilst the repeated structures Oure and Seynt are reminiscent of church altars, objects found in religious inner sanctums and engaged in ceremonial practice. Repeatability in science is a means of verifying hypothesis. It can be an industrial and mechanised act, but it can also be meditative, ritualistic and performative. A Mechanised Thought is a unique testing ground; material experiments offering a partial perspective into questions around the performativity of technology and non-human agency.
The exhibition is accompanied by a text by Moad Musbahi who was invited to respond to Amba’s new body of work.