Date of Submission
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
Feared as a dark age, Kali Yuga is an era of rebirth and transformation. This film is an offering of decolonial darkness and a tantric practice of becoming. It began as a struggle towards reconciliation between art and science, without wanting to make a film “about” my past academic experiences at an engineering school. Just as I embodied the dissonances, the film called on me to change to be able to see something new about external categories internalized. In allowing for the many deaths of transformation, I began to say my exploration had expanded to rationalism versus mysticism, especially in terms of transgressive perception, forbidden knowledge. Sin. I remembered that I had wanted to be a cosmologist out of a longing for direct experience, a fruitful contradiction I did not realize as a child. The decolonial response to oppositional thinking is the contradiction, the paradox. And so I began to weave together a poetics of darkness, with threads of science, spirituality, and identity, and it seems to me that all darkness is darkness. In tantra, the sacred and the profane are not mutually exclusive.
Kali Yuga is an essay film mindful of Trinh T Minh Ha’s question of how to talk or think “about,” and seeks instead to perform the thinking in the manner of the poetic essay, the prose poem, the tantric vessel. What is the sin of the indentured, the enslaved, the savage? What does it mean to worship Kali Amma, the Black Mother, in a colonized world set on destroying the children of darkness? If this is her age, what are you so worried about? What if everything we are accused of is true? Can’t a sinner take a wicked pleasure in survival?
I work with darkness as a formal element, as a subject, as a sonic source, as the kala pani (“black water”) that my edits sink back into. I make use of found footage of a comet I once felt as if I had seen 16mm footage of along with data sonifications of black holes, which do not capture any real sound but map image to sound, aesthetic choices made for the blackest parts of our universe to feel within reach. The high resolution images of the comet make me nauseous, like I’m seeing something I’m not supposed to. I juxtapose tappu drumming used in Indo-Caribbean Kali worship with images of dancers at Carnival. I layer data sonification over old recordings of the priestess of my Kali temple– you can’t see her eyes but they’ve always reminded me of black holes. Kali is the goddess of generative destruction, as in the cycles of nature, the goddess of time. The ritual drumming starts new cycles of time that you may give your own heartbeat over to. In Kali Yuga, may the disruption of time and rhythm, knock us out of a political body too ashamed to admit to the allure of surrendering to darkness.
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Chanchall, Ro, "Kali Yuga" (2023). Senior Projects Fall 2023. 10.
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