Prima Materia

October, 2015


To the alchemists, the crudest base materials concealed a divine spark, a latent, transformative potential obscured within the darkness of matter. Prima Materia draws on the cryptic language of esoteric alchemy to distill, through the use of elemental processes and symbolically charged objects, both the personal experience and psychological phenomenon of surviving trauma. The calligraphic Farsi inscriptions on three imperfect strips of canvas are repetitive mantras of darkness, loss, and regret. A static, glacial wall of ice obscures them – cracked, however, in the process of filming, and embraced as an accidental and apt metaphor for the thaw of dissociation and return of feeling. Flames consume the dark matter of traumatic memory (and nearly the camera in the process), producing a circular halo effect similar to medieval depictions of the chaotic, mythical prima materia. Three voices of Iranian women – recorded live in a chance encounter – act as a trinity of catalysts for the transmutation. Destruction of the narrative transforms and releases it.


If the medicine is contained within the poison, then the process of alchemical transformation becomes its own inherent remedy. The disempowered, vulnerable, and wounded parts of the psyche that we deny and distance ourselves from are prima materia – and thereby hold the key to reintegration within their toxicity. Rather than failed or inadequate, they are necessary fuel, the base material of the work.




Worth Ryder Gallery, 2015