Session #7: Into the Horror Vacui
Rib is pleased to present an artist talk by Haseeb Ahmed; an occasion to delve into the vortex of his work and thought. With the intention of engaging deeper with artists’ practices, Rib invited Ahmed to conduct his project Taming the Horror Vacui from (January 2020—July 2021). Now one year into the program, Ahmed will present insights from the wide range of contributions and experiments that have come about both personally and through engagements with the various invited participants.
We live in the fluid medium of air; life as we know it exists only in the relatively thin membrane of the atmosphere. Ahmed elaborates on how the movement of air permeates our thoughts, our bodies, and our built environment. The notion of horror vacui was how Aristotle explained the way winds and water move—perpetually filling voids. Taming the Horror Vacui takes its name from a (1973) essay by German historian Ettingshausen who saw medieval Islamic art to be an attempt to ward off feared empty space—an instance of how these fluid realities infect our psyche. As the core of this 18-month process, Ahmed has constructed a wind tunnel at Rib to model the voids at the heart of every vortex and to observe those voids which are created by models. The wind tunnel’s intake of air from the city beyond Rib’s walls creates three distinct vortexes around which the installation is organized.
In 2008 Ahmed placed a sword in the MIT Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel to produce an infinite cut through the air, and since then he has worked with the wind—and sometimes against it—to produce art. In order to give form to that which is otherwise invisible, Ahmed works with practitioners from a variety of disciplines. To support this approach to transdisciplinary work, practitioners from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds have been invited to Rib to give site-specific talks as sessions.
by Haseeb Ahmed
Haseeb Ahmed is a research-based artist. Originally from the US, he now lives and works in Brussels. He produces objects, site-specific installations, films, and writes for various publications. Often working collaboratively, Ahmed integrates methodologies from the hard sciences into his art production. His recently completed Wind Egg Trilogy blends art and aeronautics, myth and technology, to create new narratives for the present. It was developed with Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) in Brussels for and was the subject of his first solo exhibition Harlan Levey Projects in Brussels who now represents him, his solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary art of Antwerp (BE), as well as the topic of his PhD in practice-based arts completed in 2018 as a collaboration between the VKI, University of Antwerp, Saint Lucas Antwerp School of Art and Design,and Zurich University of the Arts. Ahmed has been a lecturer at the latter two art universities as well as the Royal Academy of the Art in The Hague. His work with the wind and science began during his Masters from the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology, completed in 2010. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ahmed has been a resident at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht (NL), the Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting (US), a EU Commission STARTS Vertigo resident at the Brain and Emotion Laboratory at the University of Maastricht, La Becque Foundation among others. His work has been exhibited internationally including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (US), The Gothenburg International Biennial of Contemporary Art (SE), and De Appel in Amsterdam (NL).