Dr Gindi’s inklings are genuine and yet oddly generous. Her edgy figures have made her a well-known contemporary sculptor. In her new works, Dr Gindi is figuring out the metaphysics of the infinite. When one first encounters her sculptures, they are met with nothing less than a field which is personal, poetic, and poignant – her sculptures are studies of characters who struggle for the why and wherefore, whilst approaching the infinity of existence. Exactly when employing the ostensible processes of sculpting to avid ends, her three-dimensional works turn into philosophical reflections about the maze of life. By being thrown into the infinite void there is such a sojourn on the cusp that when we think about it, we are left pristine about how to react. To yearn for infinity is to see all existence as a gift, which is why existential angst is inseparable from existential joy. We talked to Dr Gindi about what philosophical foundations might help to illustrate the intricacies of bodily mass in general and the mundanities of living in particular. We are going to learn how she is using metaphysics as an inquiry into the nature of being. And we will realize that her curiosity and nonconformity light the human quest up like a beacon.
Andrea Guerrer: Dr Gindi, I am glad to be interviewing such a serenely substantiated artist. Let me delve right in: What drives you as sculptor to be philosophically informed and concerned? What schools of thinking are you affiliated with? In short: please share your formal thoughts and informal sensibilities about your sculptural practice found within the realm of reasoning.
Dr Gindi: As a sculptor I am a pantologist which is perhaps a neat way of saying that I contemplate on many different matters – I am not really a proponent of a particular school of thought. All that counts is not that I find answers within a specific set of reasoning, but that I keep the questioning alive, that I take the metaphysical aspects of infinity as my subject matter. You see, I am convinced that everything in the universe is infinite. Like in my sculpture Flying into Life: a seemingly relaxed character sinks to the earth, cruising the breeze, and landing on an imaginative runway. His aligned zest descends back to his erstwhile belonging, and yes, he is a ray projecting from the eclipse. Space and time quickly shed their meanings and become complete abstractions. The flying object, that nonchalant character under discussion, is not a vessel we can touch but rather a turbulent compression of energy with whom we are invited to engage with. For sure, when sculpting, I grapple with abstract questions about, say, what the world is like and where we humans come from – in a tradition running back as far as Aristotle and clearly expressed in Spinoza – that delves into insights about the world and our place in it. As you know, metaphysics literally means after physics in Greek – a general appellative for everything placed after things pertaining to physics, travailing to find in whatsoever an after and beyond. With Spinoza I believe that the infinite must be conceived beyond all confining echelons. Metaphysics, for me, has a good claim to be the most general philosophical subject, and hence in a way, the most fundamental way of reasoning. The other subfields of philosophy namely ethics, which is concerned with moral value; epistemology, which studies the nature of knowledge; and logic, which studies correct reasoning, are splinters of metaphysics’ overarching inquiry into the nature of existence.
Let me continue with the main idea behind your work: the infinity of human existence. I realize this is a big question, and I might have my own reading of it, but I am interested in knowing how you yourself soliloquize your oeuvre. Can you step outside Dr Gindi for a moment and let me know what you see?
I did not choose the idea of infinity; it chose me. Let me step outside myself, as subtly requested by you. After all we are all rather complex and delicate characters! I dare to say that we are all longing for the infinite as we are thrown into a world with unbound choices – life is not a one-way street. And the gates to infinity are wide open to those who explore and probe, who straddle the abysses and focus on the grand narrative of a self-determined world. But what does infinity really entail? What is infinity? Following Spinoza, I understand that the infinite consists of a magnitude of attributes of which each one expresses an eternal essence. The infinite is energy that is in everything we can think of. Let me add here an uncommon distinction, referring to Self-Laceration Beyond Recognition, one of my most recent pieces. The sculpture illustrates a character that wrestles with himself letting his entire body escape through his mouth – finally breaking his mental chains with a silent implosion, fleeing the self, flowing through its open wounds. The character transcends his finite being, experiencing the unadulterated infinite through his recognition of a potential metaphysical transformation – a positive, dynamic need. In this context, infinity does not mean that we are always around in our fleshy nature. The criterion for what a living creature essentially is might be determined by the relatively short time span of its being on earth. Infinity thus, is a metaphor for having the bravery to seize the unprecedented and to allow it to unfurl into life, within that eternal metaphysical yearning.
Could you sketch out whether and how your leaning towards metaphysics could help us approach the search for infinity in a novel way?
The search for infinity is the central human motivational force that is often rejected by the brevity of life and the impermanence of things, as the seeker finds in everything the abyss, the doubt, the despair. In this sense, the characters in my sculptures fervently wish to overcome such misery that is all too often marked by melancholy; and to arouse the wholeness of the universe in themselves, in all manners possible … we are all dichotomous characters. We don’t know who we are, or rather, we often fail to achieve what we could be. Here metaphysics come in: When infinity is at the core of our existence, the seemingly impossible can happen. With my artworks, I am reasoning about our basic urge to seek infinity in something greater than us. My characters shall have the sageness to realize the essence of their life, breathing in consonance with the rhythm of the orbit, from the ageless past to the unfading future. Take The Horticulturist, a gardener who has committed his life to the pureness and beauty of plants. Germinating his infinite self, he becomes at one with his objects of love. His yearning made him an alluring but bizarre creature that can only be deciphered through the enticement in the observers’ eyes. He is blooming just for us. Still, he is nature’s plaything, forging an existence beyond ordinary everyday life. The characters in my sculptures chart a course through adversity, through hindrances and painful annoyances. But they are very often able to transfer from one state of mind to the other, to a yet-to-arrive moment of fulfilment. I am with those who seek infinity in their life journey.
A portentous answer. Let’s move on to ethics. Do you think that moral philosophy has a major role to play in the human search for infinity?
My starting point for your question might be that all queries relating to the human search for infinity have a moral component, in a rather Kantian thrust. And I tend to believe that we all carry a system of moral judgement and are thus potentially able to discern between good and bad. But there are no strict set of rules one should follow – ethics is a very internal discipline, we always reason out why a certain undertaking is right or wrong – moral practice has to operate against expectations about what sorts of things might change the course of the world. I should mention at this point that a rational discovery what is right and what is wrong, legitimate or illegitimate, does not hold much heed for me. Here I differ from Kant. I rather favor asking who we want to be and in what kind of universe we want to live. I incline towards ethical projects that accept our limitations and recognize the future as open, leaving room for our humanness being the sole source of meaning in a chaotic world. Let me explain my position by reflecting on the sculpture The Fateful Choice: Deep in contemplation, a young woman is experiencing a sense of elation. Then on awakening, she is a frail stranger to herself. A knife is held behind her back, and she and the fatal tool are together until only the memory of her choice remains. At a turning point of her life, is she connecting to infinity or succumbing to the chimera of wan indifference? We don’t know if her fate is drifting in one or the other direction. The protagonist depicted in my sculptures are often at crossroads, they stand in front of their personal abysses, they are plagued by moral dilemmas about their very existence – stripping the human condition bare. A small shift and shiver can produce big changes in their life. Human existence can be traced to fateful choices – we can vanish into estrangement, or we can turn the tide of our eternity. I am pondering on the question ‘if we are going to be what we are envisioned to be’? I leave my characters the possibility of choice. The power to actualize themselves depends on that choice. In making them, humans not only affect their own future but also that of humanity at large. We are responsible for everything we do, in a very existential sense. The metaphysical and the ethical are conceivably two manifestations of the same reality. Thus, a change in one dimension leads to a corresponding shift in the other. Still, the metaphysical search for infinity always comes first, it is the mother of all inquiry. The rightness of action, or the best value in consequences, comes second.
That partly answers my next question as well, as I wanted to enquire of your stance towards epistemology and logic. Can those disciplines explain the mysteries and follies of humanity?
Only partially. Let me put it in plain words: Metaphysics concern not only our thinking, but it perforates also our whole being. Epistemology and logic, on the contrary, operate mainly with reason, hence with analytic assumptions and corollaries. Wittgenstein, and later the logical positivists, believed that metaphysics was essentially baloney and even pathological. I cannot disagree more: consenting that metaphysics is making non-scientific claims I believe that it is very meaningful, perhaps just because it is not eruditely rigorous. It is impossible to describe the human yearning towards infinity with Wittgensteinian empiricism. Look at She that Spreads the Winds, a sculpture embodying a female character taking a run into unchartered winds that she is spreading with her ever-twirling wings. What we can thus suspect is neither a stringent analysis based on logic or knowledge, nor having a criteria that language must mirror observable nature. The female character is just there; simply in existence. Airiness surrounds her. Perhaps on a lucent day, her exhilarated wings are unfolding into the melody of breath. When sculpting She that Spreads the Winds, I felt to illustrate a world that is in constant undulation towards the infinite. What I call infinity – so obviously in a dimension beyond space-time reality – is our essential mode of existence, a sensation of ourselves in another magnitude of being. She that Spreads the Winds cultivates a sense of spontaneous flapping by letting time flow through her ephemeral appearance. Whilst spreading the winds, she glides with the winds. And she enjoys that timeless moment – there is no normative dimension in what she does. You see, I am creating sculptures just for themselves, there is no epistemological nor logical groundwork for why I need to feel prompted. I reckon that Wittgenstein’s rule-following doesn’t lead to truth, even not to a pragmatic version of it.
Your practice is indeed motivated by vast imagination, avoiding the habitual scrutinizing of what it means to create something. How do you position your metaphysically induced sculptures in today’s world? Can you talk about the inspiration behind your work and why it has resonated so much with society in general and collectors as well as critics in particular?
I am concerned about the current upheavals in the world – I feel the chill of a continuous sickness when looking into the calamities of climate change, in particular. Upheavals have always been there in the history of human mankind. What remains is the search for the last questions, and the last answers. Metaphysics is probably in possession of these last inquiries whose validity is supposed to last till the end of days. Such inquiries are exemplified in The Last Second where I show a forlorn character in his last moments of life. Everything vanishes, frozen up in a bed of fortuity. The magnitude of perception got an appalling twist whilst delving into the shelves of decay. But does really nothing matter anymore, in that fluid moment of transition? Is there perhaps some revived fluctuation of energy, resurging desire, invincible infinity? In a last surge from the world of appearances, that perishing fellow might enter a rather serene espousal of that collective space of consciousness. His beclouding and his becoming coincide. It is the power of the infinite that transforms his abstract thingness, enabling him to surmount his own mortality, to become the celebrant of his eternal imagination. Death is not the end of life but rather the assumption of a different dimension. In our yearning for infinity, we are approaching the core of humanness beyond its mere physicality. My vision of infinity is immaterial rather than epistemological and logical. Such an infinite world represents the destiny of mankind, and the enmeshed fulfillment of such destiny guided by the ethereal forces that inspire all metaphysical underpinnings. The infinite is the void that is all. I guess that my hitherto treatment of the infinite is the reason why the public is increasingly appreciative of my sculptural practice.
This seems a good place to conclude. Perhaps we might finish with a comment on how you define yourself in the philosophical universe?
I have never really thought too much about what philosophy means to me, as philosophy has always been part of my intrinsic nature. My sculptures are genuinely a reflection of myself. By all means, I feel a fierce enthusiasm for metaphysics. I sense and catalyze uncertainties; these are, to a large extent, the cause of my protagonists’ search for infinity. All of us are drifting from one terra incognita to the other. Where Wittgenstein condemns the uncertainty of the infinite, I eagerly embrace it, so does Spinoza. Yes, I stare at the infinite without knowing if I see it. Infinity cannot be measured nor put into a grammar.
Dr Gindi, thank you so much for this fascinating interview.
Thank you very much for your stimulating line of questioning! It was a delight to think with you on metaphysics and its impact on my work.
Actor and performer, he loves visual arts in all their manifestations.