In “Temporal Semiotics,” Malak Yacout teases out the relationships between the oral, the visual, and the text in Islamic thought, architecture, designs, and patterns. In constructing a mammoth cement structure to visually represent the temporal flow of Quranic rhythmic patterns, Yacout seeks to reconcile existing tensions between time and text, sound and language, stasis and progress
In the Islamic tradition, time is a central query both theoretically and literally. Time, after all, is eternally constructed and reconstructed, produced and reproduced, only ever actualized in relation to material notions of space or sound. In traditional recitations of the Qurʾān, or tilāwat al Qurʾān, strict rules dictate when vowels are lengthened, when consonants are stressed, when to stop and take a breath, or when to continue without stopping. ʾAḥkām al tajwīd, the science and rules of reciting the Qurʾān, orchestrate the pace of the reader in order to synchronize time and sound, which, together, coerce meaning from the text
This visual representation of the Arabic language of the Qurʾān is an exercise in semiotics, a practice that traditionally uses structural systems of signs and symbols to derive meaning from language. Yacout’s meditation on Quranic text expands on these traditional semiological practices, using audiovisual renderings to open possibilities for the procurement of meaning
Paired with an auditory orchestration that synthesizes a variety of sounds, the abstracted pieces are necessarily informed by the accompanying audio schema. In a symbiotic dance, the ten and a half meter cement installation provides inspiration for the sounds, which are, in turn, drawn from the individual symbols present in the visual forms. Yacout’s experiments with conceptions of time, sculpture, rhythm, meter, and sound result in a work of audiovisual transliteration
This work was first shown at the American University in Cairo’s graduate exhibition in 2015. “Temporal Semiotics” will be on display at the Townhouse Gallery until April 9th.
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