Before we adorn a thought with understanding and before attempting to represent it, we should be able to provide some sort of definition of it. The abstraction of thought ends up in letters, and letters cannot reach the depths of thought. Just like letters and thoughts, the container and the contained imply a visible/invisible formulation, in which one encompasses the other. Mahsa Aleph has utilized this impotent overt/covert formulation to create her new series.
In her installations, the properties of materials carry the conceptual weight: in “Aleph’s Library” (2017), salt preserved thought at the cost of robbing the reader from the ability to read, and the documents and texts of “The Aleph Archive” (2018) were burnt with sulfur.
With her usual approach to the narrative quality and lauding material, Mahsa Aleph is dealing with the classic, philosophical contained/container dichotomy. In one of the works, she has adorned seven hundred simple dishes made of bread. In another work, she has created a pile made of thirty-five thousand burnished date kernels. There is also sulfur on a table that has been deprived of blessing, so the truth of a claim can be uncovered, as eating sulfur used to be a way of verifying the truthfulness of a person’s claims.
The dates and the wheat covertly reflect a regional narrative and a tradition that emerges from it in these process-based installations. Even though the dishes are made of wheat, they are devoid of what they should contain, namely a meal. The inside/outside and the overt/covert appear simultaneously in these Containers Made of the Contained,” at the cost of eliminating bliss.
In the meantime, the levigated date kernels devastate the attraction between the contained and the container. These kernels were made by prisoners with life sentence or death row inmates. Here, however, the threads that used to bind the kernels together are broken, leaving a mere pile. The free will of inmates to produce a polished kernel is puny compared to life’s massive force and their unchangeable destiny. By manipulating the contained-container relation, Aleph creates a cycle of appearance/essence, in which neither the contained is able to survive in the container, nor is the container able to communicate the meaning of the contained.