To Dance in the Dark: On the worldbuilding artworks of Kinnari Saraiya
This visual essay draws attention to the diversity in the meaning of “the image” beyond Occidental visual culture. Written alongside the interactive animations of the decolonial, feminist, Indian artist Kinnari Saraiya, this text opens up a space for the shared commonalities between the indigenous Carib and the Indian poetics of touch and proprioception. The importance of interrogating the historical, cultural and ontological injustices embedded within colonial reality, its mentality and gaze cannot be understated. In the sensory scale of races, a hierarchical world structure was created by the natural historian Lorenz Oken (1779 – 1851) (Howes, 2013). Here, the civilised European eye-man who focused on the world with imperial visuality was positioned at the top and at the bottom was the African skin-man who used touch as his primary sensory modality.
This essay focuses on an indigenous concept which is conceptualised here as skin-thinking. Skin-thinking thinks through the lesser known sense of proprioception or kinesthesia - the sense of self-movement, force, and body position. And skin, unlike the eyes which are closed during our sleep, is always thinking, always processing information from the many worlds we inhabit. We can rethink the concepts of close proximity and co-presence as we use our fingertips to move through worldbuilding artworks such as, prakṛtiḥ, nṛtya, laya (2022 onwards) and Seven Acts of Nature’s Devastating Dance (2023 onwards). Finger kinesthesia is a form of haptic perception that relies on the forces experienced during touch (Graham-Rowe, 2006). As the rhythm of our fingers dance us, (as informational beings) through these worlds, our mind creates virtual, illusory haptic shapes. Prioreception, our skin-thinking sense is what allows us to see in the dark.