• The (in)separability of matter: on prāṇa, energy and permeation

      Sharples, Victoria; University of Derby (2021-10-01)
      ‘The (in)separability of matter: on prāṇa, energy and permeation’ is a paper in response to a three-year practice-led study, which speculates on (non)human bodily ‘intra-activity’ (Barad, 2007) relative to cremation practices at Pashupatinath Temple and along the sacred and contaminated Bagmati River in Kathmandu through Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma–Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) ash analysis readings. It is the outcome of field research, laboratory experiments and a series of participatory projects which aim to unbalance asymmetric tendencies which assume the ontological separation of the human and non-human through collective; microperformative, practices. Realised between 2018–2020, Ash is an international (e)mail art project in which three pieces of Nepalese Lokta paper were placed on the surface of the Bagmati downstream from Pashupatinath. Once dried, participants sent their contributions to the UK using their closest postal service. Contributions were received from artists Sagar Manandhar and Pratima Thakali from Kathmandu University, and from Nepali musician Anil Shahi. On arrival, the substrates were incinerated and analysed through GC-MS and ICP-MS at the University of York and the University of Leeds. Through the intersection of art, ecology and New Materialism, this paper calls into question the permeability of organic and machinic matter as agential, osmotic and energetic (Salter, 2020). It builds on the assumed ‘aliveness’ of ‘live art’ practice (Hauser & Strecker, 2020), and calls on ‘passive’ matter to contribute to this discourse. For ENERGY: SLSA 2021, this paper unpacks the spiritual substance of prāṇa as an energy-current that permeates all.