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Edouard Glissant


I believe in the spirituality of the sacred. Not of religion, but of the sacred. What is the spirituality of the sacred? It’s the intuition of how we relate to the world. This is what the imaginary is: we feel the world rambling underneath us.


Following Edouard Glissant, Healers considers the place of the sacred within secularised western society, where rationalism and science are deemed to be the founding principles of knowledge, while non-monotheist traditions are often dismissed and stigmatised as witchcraft or primitive. As bell hooks explains, in a culture dominated by secular individualism, there seems to be no place for spiritual life. That said, it appears that rationalism is somewhat going through a crisis lately. Haven’t we entered, as we now often hear in the news, the so-called post-truth era, where misinformation proliferates on the Internet and where groups can find themselves disbelieving facts and even science?

By looking at the work of Melike Kara and Jesse Darling, we are reflecting on the sentiment of how to relate, on what a practice of reflection might look like outside religion. We ask what is the place of the sacred in today’s world? What can the sacred bring us in times of heightened adversity characterised by economic precariousness, divisive politics and global emergencies? After Glissant, we ask how the sacred can become a form of resistance to capitalist alienation: by relating to the world through the spiritual, one refuses the colonial secular project that characterises modernity*.


Rosa Burç


Melike Kara’s works become a space where the present meets the past, where the spirit and magic of a lost land is transported and revived in the here and now.


The poem Healers by Sophie Collins, included in the “further reading” section of this presentation, offers further reflections upon the themes of faith and vulnerability that are discussed here. It was previously published in How to Sleep Faster 5 (Arcadia Missa’s journal) in 2014. Jesse Darling’s correspondence with Reverend Dr. Christina Beardsley (for Art Now, 2019) and Melike Kara’s personal archive are also included in this section as a way to give further insight into each artist’s practice.


Martin Herbert writing on Jesse Darling for Artforum


The unremarkable domestic sphere can enlarge wildly if one inhabits it deeply enough; can become ghosted with magical thinking.


Further Reading


Jesse Darling

Jesse Darling

Jesse Darling is interested in the myths that underline modernity – the constructs that are at the foundations of our religious, political, cultural and medical institutions.
Steel, a material favoured by the artist, is historically associated with the complex system of extraction and colonialism on which the West was built. In the sculptures presented here, bent and elongated pieces of steel are assembled together to conjure flimsy, fragile bodies, at odds with the notions of industrial progress and domination that the material usually evokes. They are faceless yet contorted in deep expression; while looking at them, one can’t help but attribute movement and even feelings to them. vers top seems to be enthusiastically throwing itself forward in a kneeling dance move, while the piece of railing in The Road Extinct (municipal fragment) appears to be awkwardly gesturing towards us, its open hand holding out a plastic tree like a precious offering.


Darling describes his work as ‘a bunch of visual and verbal puns slung together with magical thinking’ *. Magical thinking is the human tendency to confer agency to a person’s thoughts, actions and words in influencing the course of the world. Indeed Darling’s sculptures compel us to confer life and anthropomorphic qualities to inanimate objects, to find reassurance and companionship in them – a sacred feeling of not being quite so alone. The sculptures’ fragility becomes a reflection of our own. Through these works, Darling awakens our intuitive way of relating to the world, the “imaginary” that Glissant talks about. As Darling deconstructs the myths of modernity, their works also posit new ones. In an uncertain, broken world, the sculptures become totems of resistance against alienating narratives of exclusion and division.


Melike Kara

Melike Kara

Melike Kara’s work is a constant activation of her Kurdish Alevi heritage and its traditions and history. Shamanism and sacred rites occupy an important place in Kurdish culture, and the artist’s great grandfather was himself a shaman believed to have magical healing faculties. Kara recalls that her grandmother had this magnetic power when she once accompanied her on a trip to her native region: “Everyone wanted to touch her”*.


Kara’s installations are often inspired by Kurdish places of worship, as seen in düzgün baba (2020), a work that evokes a pilgrimage site of the same name in Eastern Turkey dedicated to a shaman who had miraculous powers. The rock in the background is where worshippers lay down their offerings or attach a piece of cloth in the hope that their wishes and prayers be heard. In front of it stands an almost monumental structure of knotted textiles, made out of cloth that the artist inherited from her late grandmother. By enacting a site of worship within an installation, Kara doesn’t just pay tribute to her own Kurdish heritage, but also posits her own search for the sacred within the present, as integral to her artistic practice.


In her most recent series of paintings, Kara uses Kurdish tapestry patterns as the starting point of her compositions. Each painting references a specific motif from a region which is alluded to in the title of the work. The compositions are achieved through a heavy build up of painted layers that emerge in and out of the surface. They evoke the intricate weaving of tapestries while eluding representation, lying ambiguously between figuration and abstraction. Like her installations, Kara’s paintings foreground traditions in order to create new narratives. The artworks can be seen as what Glissant describes the totems of the present: objects that we invest with spirituality to guide us through the world.