The necessity of Infinity | 2017

Reading performance, Carpet, gold embroidery, Performers, musical tone generators; Carpet Dimensions 4 x 4.8m | Exhibited at Sharjah Biennale 2017, Sharjah

The Necessity of Infinity |  A Variant Reading of the Possibility of a Continuing Correspondence between Ibn Sina and Al Beruni

The Necessity of Eternity” recounts what must be one of the most exciting yet neglected exchanges (Al-As’Ilah Wa’L-Ajwibah/Questions and Answers) in the intellectual history of the world.

In the year 999 (CE), a twenty eight year old Al Beruni, sitting by the shores of the Aral Sea in Gurganj (in present day Turkmenistan) wrote a letter to the eighteen year old Ibn Sina, two hundred and fifty miles away in Bukhara (in Uzbekistan today) that inaugurated an exchange that lasted for two years.

What were Al Beruni and Ibn Sina quarreling about? Their disagreements centred around divergent readings of Aristotle’s understanding of heaven and the stars. “Are there other solar systems among the stars”, Al Biruni and Ibn Sina asked, “or are we alone in the universe?”

Ibn Sina answered Al Biruni’s challenges by asserting that the consideration of infinity necessarily entailed the admissibility of many worlds other than our own. The possibility of many worlds was simply a corollary of the necessity of infinity. 

Six hundred years later, Giordano Bruno would be burned at the stake for championing the plurality of words…but to these two men it seemed clear that we are not alone; unique, probable, but not alone. 

Raqs return to this exchange to perform a polemic that foregrounds plenitude, doubt and the need to set foot on other worlds. By speculating about the future of evolution of the human species and the possibility of exploring other worlds, Raqs gesture to the presence of infinity in our lives. In doing this, they inherit the past and reclaim the future.