Inaugural exhibition of the Substantial Motion Research Network
In medieval Persia, Europe, and countries in between, many people used talismans to protect themselves and carry out their wises. Talismans were believed to function by interceding to the stars and constellations that governed earthly matters, drawing down these powers through the stones associated with them. Maḥmūd b. Aḥmad Ṭūsī Salmānī’s design for a talisman here (in ‘Ağayib al-maḫlūqāt, Marvels of Creation, (1388), based on an earlier work by Al-Qazwini) shows a man holding a stick and riding a vulture, to be inscribed on a crystal. I think it was intended to drive away snakes: many talismans of this time picturing raptors served that purpose. Al-Tūsī’s talisman manipulates the connections between the stars and the earth to target an enemy. What interests me in medieval talismans, and the unifying theme of this exhibition, is the idea that a material object can summon and (sometimes) manage hidden connections in the universe. These works by members of the Substantial Motion Research Network all, in different ways, draw together invisible powers and reorganize them into functioning objects.
Laura U. Marks
Ağayib al-maḫlūqāt va ġarayib al-mawğūdāṭ
About the Curator
Laura U. Marks is a co-founder, with Azadeh Emadi, of the Substantial Motion Research Network. Her book Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art (MIT Press, 2010) provoked the interest of artists and scholars around the world, many of whom come together in this network.