Fractured Reality: Travelling Towards the Infinite
Dr Gindi, September 22, 2023
In Dr Gindi’s latest series, ‘Fractured Reality’, she delves into the visceral depths of human experience – suffering, fear, and shame. Each piece is a powerful testament to her belief in the interrelation of the philosophical and the physical, the tangible and the infinite. She speaks through her sculptures, with every carefully crafted contour a word, every figure a sentence, every series a full-fledged philosophical dialogue.
In ‘Fractured Reality’, Dr Gindi invites the observer to step beyond the rigid confines of mundane perception and consider the fracturing of reality as both an impediment and a passageway. Her sculptures, much like the human experience they represent, are a blend of the abstract and the figurative, a fusion of the tangible and the intangible, a nod to the perpetual dance between our finite existence and the eternal infinite. The figures in this series, though seemingly tragic and vulnerable, are imbued with the potential for transcendence, embodying the transformative power of suffering, fear, and shame.
‘Fractured Reality’ is not just a series; it is part of an ongoing philosophical, existential, and aesthetic journey—a journey that begins with suffering, fear, and shame but culminates in the discovery of the infinite within and beyond us.
Siddhartha Gautama left his princely life in search of enlightenment. Finally, after many frustrations and false turns, he sat down under a tree in the Indian village of Bodh Gaya and resolved not to get up until he had achieved it. When he got up, Siddhartha Gautama was no more. The Buddha had taken his place. And in the first flush of his enlightenment, the Buddha gave his first teaching. And the very first thing he proclaimed was this: dukkha.
Dukkha means ‘suffering’, and it is the First Noble Truth of Buddhism: all life is suffering. It is remarkable, I think, that this is the first truth – the first thing that the Buddha wanted to tell us once he had become enlightened. When we look at life, at our lives, at the lives of the world, of the universe itself, the truth is undeniable: to live is to suffer.
The Buddha is not alone in this realization. It is in fact a truth that has constantly struck philosophers and artists through the ages. Schopenhauer, for instance, that acid critic of modernity and the prophet of our current malaise, insists that the world is suffering, that life is misery. When we understand this, he says, we can begin to understand how to live.
We cannot escape suffering – it is our human destiny. But despite this, we are constantly trying to escape it. We are willing to do almost anything apart from facing it squarely. At the heart of my sculptural series Fractured Reality lies an attempt to stop trying to escape. The characters in sculptures like Silent Resignation, Fear is Hunting You, Shame, and Terrified! are resigned and trapped, petrified in fear and shame, doomed to the despair that is uniquely human and uniquely intolerable. They portray human suffering in all its vividness, and are thereby an attempt to fulfil the challenging duty, shared by philosophers and artists equally, of presenting this aspect of reality to a world that is often afraid of it.
It is important to share this aspect. But it can only be a starting point. As soon as one faces up to the reality of human suffering, the question naturally arises: what can we do about it? How should we respond to it?
Over the centuries, there have been many answers to this question. Descartes asks us to imagine a perfectly benevolent God, one who would never do wrong by His human subjects. Armed with this faith, says Descartes, we can confront the world of suffering. Kant, too, makes essentially the same suggestion, except with his Königsbergian caution says: we do not know if God is benevolent, because we can only know about phenomena, never the real thing.
Kierkegaard rejects all this out of hand. It is bad faith, says Kierkegaard, to pretend that we can know anything about God or the universe. We cannot console ourselves with these fairytales of a benevolent God and a good universe. What we must do, says Kierkegaard, is embrace our suffering, our unknowing, and we must make the famous leap of faith – it is a leap precisely because we do not have any solid basis for making it. And in the leap, says Kierkegaard, lies our salvation from suffering.
Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard were operating in a world that was still, to use Max Weber’s beautiful term, enchanted. For them, the grammar and vocabulary of God, of benevolence, of a Providence that guides human fate – these things still made sense and resonated. But these were the last throes of a dying worldview. The response to suffering became secularized, it took place in the arena of sensual pleasures and personal preferences. Utilitarianism and its variants attained prominence as a response to suffering, the basic idea being that we ought to respond to the fact of suffering by trying always to realize pleasure.
Now, for all their differences, Descartes, Kant, Kierkegaard and the Utilitarians share one basic assumption – the assumption that suffering is bad. And of course, they are right – suffering is bad. But is it only bad?
In at least some philosophical traditions in India, suffering is seen not as an aberration but as an integral component of existence, intrinsic to the cyclical nature of life, death, and rebirth. The Bhagavad Gita, for instance, emphasizes the role of suffering in human life, bringing our attention to the core of our reality—where we must confront our fears, embrace our shame, and plunge into our suffering.
We oscillate between states of fear and courage, shame and honor, suffering and joy. Our reality is fractured, not because these opposites exist, but because we have learned to resist one state in favor of another, unable to embrace the paradoxical unity of these dualities.
In my series Fractured Reality, I try to give this thought tangible, physical reality. The series represents the twin poles of human existence, poles that we have danced around for eternity. It represents the human being stuck in her finitude, trapped and resigned – but the prison bars are simultaneously precisely the road to freedom, for how else can human beings approach infinity except through the finite? Let me try to motivate this thought.
Consider fear. It is unpleasant, a paradigmatic form of human suffering. Yet, when examined through the lens of philosophy, it becomes a stimulus, a beacon that alerts us to the transient and finite nature of our existence. It is fear that prods us into confronting our mortality, thereby unshackling us from the illusions of permanence and propelling us towards the infinite realm of possibilities.
Shame, too, holds a transformative power. When we expose our vulnerabilities, our imperfections, we expose our authentic selves. Shame becomes the scaffold upon which we build our dignity. It is through acknowledging our shame that we access the bedrock of our worthiness, opening doors to the infinite value within us.
Suffering is not merely a state of despair, but a catalyst for growth. It’s an existential crucible that tempers our spirits, refines our character, and amplifies our resilience. By embracing our suffering, we broaden our capacity for empathy, for love, and for compassion—qualities that are as infinite as they are profound.
Ultimately, my Fractured Reality series is not a chronicle of despair, but a hymn to the infinite possibilities inherent within the human condition. It is an illustration of the power of fear, shame, and suffering to become conduits, pathways towards the infinite within and beyond us. These sculptures are not just depictions of human torment; they are testimonials of our potential, of our capacity to break free from the shackles of the fracturing and embrace the boundless expanse of our humanity.
The Fractured Reality series is an invitation to gaze upon the abyss of our fears, our shame, and our suffering, not as oppressive forces but as doorways to infinity. Through this acceptance, we can transcend our fractured reality and travel towards the infinite.
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