Autoluminous (Everything Is Burning)
Ontological axiom, Augmented Laser Engraving Machine, Silk-coated paper, Bottled Residue
Reimagining The Waste Land, Art Heritage, New Delhi (2024)

Autoluminous is an index of our awareness of the inscription of energy into every waking, sleeping and dreaming moment. We live in the energy-field that we call the world. Doubt of constituted authority is also a kind of energy; something that ignites a consciousness into vigilance and alertness.

In ‘Provisions for Everybody’ (2018/2022) Raqs already marked the Kesariya Stupa in Bihar as the site where the Buddha’s sermon in praise of doubt (The Kalama Sutta/Discourse to the Kalamas) provides philosophical anchorage for radical skepticism towards all forms of constituted authority. The image of the Buddha in Autoluminous echoes, too, the diptych, “Ignition” (2020) by Raqs that references the decapitated icon-friezes of seated Buddhas on the outer walls of the Kesariya Stupa. There are no extant historical records that demonstrate when and by whom these icons were damaged.

By drawing this form of the Buddha image in fire, with laser, and by inscribing the key words (‘sabbam adittam’/‘everything is burning’) of the Ādittapariyāya Sutta (“The Fire Sermon”), Raqs invite anyone who witnesses this work to face the danger, delight and consequence of an intimacy with energy. This intimacy also draws on the proximity with which a machine (a yantra) touches materials with its own light and fire.

To do this is not to turn one’s face away from the ‘everything’ that is ‘burning’ (desire, delusion, doubt) as per the accepted understanding of the import of “The Fire Sermon”, rather, it is to face the consequences of figuring out how we ourselves are constantly becoming the fuel of the life-processes (biological, social, technological) that we consume and that consume us in turn. Perhaps this is a rewriting of the fire sermon, in letters of fire.

Everything Ignites, Everyone Combusts.

Every use of energy needs to be a deliberative act.