There’s a thing we, us humans, do. An authority we parade. An intricate and multi-layered authority that is assembled (just as a book may be compiled in a factory, or a village). The process is mostly unrecognisable but we really believe in it, take it as hadith. We mine history, nature, and space for knowledge. We trim it and glue it and clamp it all together to convince our herds and ourselves that we are indeed objects of our own experience. That this ship we have a ticket for is heading to an island of comprehension and acceptance. And while there is a potentiality in that voyage, I’m sure you agree it is a laurel best not rested on. And it is also a voyage that Tarik Ahlip’s Lysergia benevolently wants to navigate.
When we attend to art there’s a push to connect with ‘honesty’, to feel the artist in the work, as though what were actually on display are x-rays of the creator’s psyche. Formulaic diagrams of the infection that stomached the art. Sometimes that is blatantly the case and it works, yes. But sometimes we are shown such intricate workings of infection that they cease to be the artist’s x-rays and transform into a truly democratic chart of ourselves and the world around us. The first piece to Lysergia in a corner of Alaska Projects is Female Amplifier (2018), a square and stained ply plaque with a copper relief. It is a sentimental entry-point because the colours are harshly reminiscent of an old kitchen I grew up in and I wonder if the work itches a similar nostalgia in the people around me. The pattern appears self-aware, self-blossomed. Its whir begins in frame and extends beyond. I’m convinced for a moment that the relief is oscillating, urging me into a scrutiny of my perception, my passivity. It forces me to fan-out my knee-jerk conclusions, mirroring the form in an attempt at keeping them thin and penetrable. I get a sense for what Ahlip is trying to do already: suggest a psychedelic enquiry – I’m not sure as to what into, yet. Heaviness (2018) is visually contrary to its namesake but the pull into the white void is, well, heavy. There is a reversal of control in its making, an upending of traditional layering. A confusion of flesh arises from crustacean somewhere deep beyond the surface and the nugget of calm rising in my chest is equal to the suffocation pushing against it.
The sister works of the exhibition – The Secret Sex (2018) and the show’s title bearer Lysergia (2018) – allude to something divine, like a really decent high. What has brought these puddles and symbols together? I imagine a boiling-up of irritation. A smashing of stone tablets, of commandments, by a giant. A moment of peace. And then ultimate high-frequency genius. An elegant summation of a trip decreed by reverence and worship. These works are a final reckoning of compositional acceptance. Ahlip has crafted a tension between question and answer that oozes from the segments and curves and sets on my shoulders. It hangs on as I reach Techne & Episteme (2018), an obvious break in aesthetics from the rest of the show. The red resin cast and aluminium leaf slab gleans against the unpretentious brown, yellow, white, blue of the other work. It acts as a refuge for my perception but is forthright in having no empathy for me. Techne & Episteme watches me watch the room. Its surface is entirely flat but at different angles the nodules are deep, high, endless. It creates its own reality that I am weary of accessing lightly for fear of drowning. I get the gist of that psychedelic enquiry now, I think. It’s an enquiry into my body and what it is doing folded here in this room among concrete and cars.
If The Secret Sex and Lysergia are sisters, then As a Body imagines Itself (2018) and Sexual Transmission (2018) are fraternal twins. It may even be immoral to display them separately because the space in between is akin to the vacuum of self and sexual analysis that has sucked humans in for too long. Amoebas and fossil-like mouldings merge with multi-blue oceans. They serve as a cross-section of the mechanics of humans and their sex and create an airtight space for fragile puzzle pieces to congeal. Ahlip has so eloquently pressed me on from outward existentialism to an intoxicating bodily retreat.
It is not a consequence that the last two pieces in the exhibition regress my worldly angst into my body in a search for understanding. Nothing in this show is capricious. Ahlip is suggesting that laden in my make-up is a resolve. Lysergia is the mind-expanding equation that nurtures a step toward solution. It is an altruistic questioning of physical and ethereal construction. It is the distilled workings out of an artist concerned with the motivation of himself, of you, of me, in deep temporal space.
George Haddad has had many jobs that have nothing to do with writing. He writes about humans and their bizarre relationship with honesty. His work has been published in The Lifted Brow, Overland and Runway, and he is currently doing his doctorate in the creative arts.