I don’t quote from scripture; I simply see what I see
A tree extends its roots; a religion spreads; a population of mosquitoes multiplies; a rumor unfurls, and an image is reappropriated back into visual culture once again. Often describing such dispersive movements, throughout these recent works by Muzzumil Ruheel the image of the virus is emblematic. In these terms, the virus is understood to represent something that spreads, contaminates, moves outwards, and latches onto other bodies, while ever retaining its original code or genetic ‘tradition’.
The works Ruheel has conceived for this exhibition utilize the calligraphic script, though rather than the calligrams that he is recognized for, Ruheel’s lines and phrases are densely accumulated in order that images are formed – not through discrete arrangements, but in a massified structure. While Ruheel has played on calligraphic ‘illiteracy’ in the past, in which his audience has been divided between those who could read the scripts and those who could not, in the case of these works, we are all textually illiterate. Though Ruheel’s marks are written, our ‘reading’ must be almost entirely visual.
The selected images, the traditions of the script, and the lines of text that Ruheel diligently transcribes are all ‘found’ materials here: borrowed and stolen from cultural history, news media, and the droning voice of the daily broadcasters. Various layers of time and history, therefore, exist in these works. The bodies of Ruheel’s scripts emerge from a deep past, observing from a distance their reiteration in contemporary form. The images that Ruheel collects form a historical middle ground – a not-so-distant past that saw the origination of these visuals: the demographic map, the canonical artwork, or the popular icon. Although they cannot always be read, the words and phrases that Ruheel transcribes exist within a slippery contemporaneity. Extracted from news media, they speak of the artist’s present, and of the political and social events that took place across the days and weeks that he spent producing these pieces. A socio-political ‘background noise’ has infected the space of the artist’s production, and has thus been incorporated, line by colored line, into his work.