Geomantia (’ilm al raml)

Geomancy is a method of divination whose etymological root originates from the Arabic ‘ilm ar-raml (the science of the sand), Carrying several mythological associations rooted in Islamic mysticism this divinatory system is based upon the making and interpreting of markings in the sand as a form of inquiry. Inspired by this ancient art, Sabine Mirlesse pursued within AlUla a history of revelatory objects and reimagined their forms and application. Referencing the oasis’s source, another word for eye, as a prime example of how we read the Earth, she stages dialogues between visitors, and the natural phenomena that surround us.

The installation presented in the palm grove is an interactive work and a delicate instrument which makes it possible to disperse sand on the ground with each participant’s gesture. The public is invited to set the brass pendulum in motion: the resulting movement differs with the subtleties of each person position, as well as the delineation that forms on the engraved plates, also in brass, laying in the sands below. The various trails, which sometimes take the form of eyes, oblong geometries, and lines, and the dot-shaped inscriptions that appear within them, are inspired by a remarkable 13th-century geomantic device used to decipher the positions of grains of sand thrown at random and thus deduce answers to specific questions put by the geomancer. The pendulum is a mathematical instrument with calculable rotations but set in sway by the individual a reflection is made on the agency and uniqueness of the individual and their question. The falling sand references the passage of time. On several dials, clusters of dots allow the findings to be interpreted by applying them to different aspects of daily life, cardinal directions, colors, and constellations. The artist was inspired by the same design to create a monumental work, modified, which, this time, invites the public to become both actor and interpreter of a reading-in-progress.

Brass, sand, 2022



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