ASH IS AN INTERNATIONAL (E)MAIL ART PROJECT IN WHICH THREE PEICES OF LOKTA PAPER ARE PLACED ON THE SURFACE OF THE SACRED BAGMATI RIVER; DOWNSTREAM FROM PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE.
(ASH SCORE (2018–2020).
CONSIDERED HOLY BY HINDUS AND BUDDHISTS, THE POLLUTED BAGMATI RIVER FLOW THROUGH PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE, WHICH WAS BUILT FOR THE GODHEAD SHIVA (KNOWN AS 'THE DESTROYER'). PASHUPATINATH, LOCATED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE RIVERBANK, AND CONNECTED BY A SERIES OF BRIDGES, IS HELD BY MANY AS ONE OF THE MOST SACRED SITES ON THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT. TO THE EAST OF THE TEMPLE, FORTUNE TELLERS IN SAFFRON, YELLOW AND BURGUNDY, WEARING FACE MASKS AND HOLDING UMBRELLAS FOR SHADE, LINE THE PATHWAYS READY TO PROVIDE PREDICTIONS AND READ PALMS. THEY HOLD RUDRAKSHA BEADS, SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH MARIGOLDS, WOOL, AND SANDALWOOD PASTE, ASTROLOGY CHARTS AND THE NEPAL SAMBAT. DISTINCT FROM THE GREGORIAN CALENDAR, THE NEPAL SAMBAT USES LUNAR MONTHS AND SLAR YEARS, AND IS 56 YEARS AND 8½ MONTHS AHEAD. TO THE WEST OF THE TEMPLE CREMATION PYRES AND GHATS CAN BE FOUND, WITH STEPS LEADING DOWN TO THE WATER'S EDGE. HERE, RELATIVES AND THE DECEASED ARE PREPARED FOR CREMATION; THE WATER USED FOR WASHING AND BATHING, TO SPIRITUALLY CLEANSE THEIR BODIES.
REALISED BETWEEN 2018–2020, ASH IS AN INTERNATIONAL (E)MAIL ART PROJECT IN WHICH THREE PEICES OF NEPALESE LOTKA PAPER WERE PLACED ON THE SURFACE OF THE BAGMATI RIVER IN KATHMANDU, NEPAL. INVITED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROJECT THROUGH EMAIL, PARTICIPANTS PERFORMED THE ACTION OF PLACING THEIR PAPER SUBSTRATES AGAINST THE SURFACE OF THE ASHEN GREY AND CLOUDY WATER DOWNSTREAM FROM PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE; AN OPEN-PRYE CREMATION SITE. ONCE THE PAPER HAD DRIED, EACH PARTICIPANT SENT THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE UK, USING THEIR CLOSEST POSTAL SERVICE. ON THEIR ARRIVAL, ONE PEICE WAS SAVED FOR EXHIBITION, THE SECOND WAS REDUCED TO ASH, AND THE THIRD WAS CHEMICALLY ANALYSED THROUGH GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY MASS SPECTROMETRY (GC-MS), AND INDUCTIVELY COUPLED PLASMA MASS SPECTROMETRY (ICP-MS) (DESTRUCTIVE TESTS THAT QUANTIFIABLY DETERMINE MATERIAL COMPOSITION).
OVER THE DURATION OF THE PROJECT, CONTRIBUTIONS WERE RECEIVED FROM ARTISTS SEGAR MANANDHAR AND PRATIMA THAKALI, FROM THE KATHMANDU UNIVERSITY OF ART AND DESIGN, AND NEPALI MUSICIAN ANIL SHAHI. THANKS ALSO GO TO PARTICIPATORY COURIERS: GPO (GENERAL POST OFFICE), NEPAL, AND THE ROYAL MAIL, AND TO PARTICIPATORY SCIENTISTS: KARL HEATON FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF YORK (GC-MS); SIMON REID AND ANDREW HOBSON FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS (ICP-MS); AND ANDREW SMITH FROM SGS LABORATORIES, MIDDLESBROUGH (GC-MS & ICP-MS). THE PAPER'S SPIRITUAL STATUS WAS ALSO CONSIDERED BY BUDDHIST MONKS AT KOPAN MONASTERY; A SCHOOL IN THE GELUG PRACTICE OF TIBETAN MAHAYANA BUDDHISM, AND HOME TO A MONASTIC COMMUNITY. THAT IS, I ASKED THEM TO CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY THAT, THROUGH THE PROCESS OF THEIR SATURATION ON THE SACRED BAGMATI RIVER, IF THEY HAD BECOME IMBUED WITH THE AURA OF SHIVA, OR IF THIS WAS DISPLACED IN THE PROCESS OF EVAPORATION.
FOLLOWING THE ACQUISITION OF THE THREE PAPER SAMPLES, ONE WAS BURNT AND REDUCED TO ASH. FOR THIS, I PLACED THE PIECE OF PAPER INTO A GALVANISED INCINERATOR AND SET IT ON FIRE WITH A SINGLE MATCH. AS THE SUBSTRATE BEGAN TO BURN ALMOST IMPERCEPTIBLE CLOUDS OF SMOKE ASCENDED FROM THE BIN, AND AN ORANGE FLOW FROM THE INTERIOR FIRE RADIATED THOUGH OXEGYN HOLES THAT LINED THE CYLINDER.
// GAS CHROMATOGRAPHY MASS SPECTROMETRY ANALYSIS
GC-MS is an acronym for Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry; a destructive test that quantifiably determines material composition. As noted by Mass Spectrometry Technician Karl Heaton, who carried out the experiment: ‘The process begins with a liquid sample being injected into a GC injector port (which is held at 280C) where it immediately vaporises and the gas flows onto a GC column. The GC column has a thin film of material (with very specific chemical properties) coated on the internal surface and the components of the vaporised sample interact to a greater or lesser degree with this film, depending on their own chemical properties, and are hence separated from each other into discrete ‘parcels’ of like compounds. The electron ionisation begins when these parcels flow out of the GC column and into […] the mass spec. There they collide with a beam of ions from an EI filament […] and the energy of these collisions shatters the compounds into fragments […] Over the years, labs around the world have been acquiring fragmentation spectra, submitting them […] to a large library (half a million entries [...]) that hopefully provide us with an id for the compound that the fragments originate from.’
The following records enumerate numerical, phonetic, graphic and diagrammatic information provided by the fragmentation library which is contributed to by universities, such as the University of Minnesota; Funatsu Laboratory from the University of Tokyo; and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Like the library which catalogues and gives order to fragmentation patterns, the GC-MS records function as an archive enumerating the composite elements of the papers materiality as inseparable from the matter found on the substrates through the process of their permeation, transportation, and analysis. Here, I refer to the placement of the samples on the Bagmati River; the envelope’s postage, shipping, and human-handing; an approach which allowed human pathogens, skin cells, and ‘air miles’ to imperceptibly accumulate on their surface. During the analysis Heaton noted that some contaminates could be caused by the apparatus, or from residual matter if the instrumentation had not been thoroughly cleaned prior to experimentation. These records afford a (de-) and (re-)constructive meditation on the composition of the samples, and their conditionality. They are available as PDF's below.
// OCTADECANONIC ACID
// ACETIC ACID
// PROPIONIC ACID
// HEXADECANOIC ACID
// N-HEXADECANOIC ACID
// GC-MS & ICP-MS ANALYSIS DATA
ANDREW SMITH FROM SGS LABORATORIES ALSO CARRIED OUT A GC-MS ANALYSIS AND ICP-MS ANALYSIS USING DICHLOROMETHANE AS A SOLVENT EXTRACTION. FOR THE GC-MS EXPERIMENT A AGILENT 7890 WAS COUPLED WITH A 5975 TO QUANTIFIABLY DETERMINE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS FOUND ON THE SUBSTRATE. THE RESULTS FOUND PRESENCE OF: TETRACHLOROETHYLENE, N-BUTYL METHACRYLATE, DIISOBUTYL PHTHALATE, 16-HENTRIACONTANONE, AND 18-PENTATRICONTANE. SMITH ALSO RAN A SAMPLE FOR INORGANIC COMPOUNDS THROUGH ICP-MS USING AN AGILENT 7700. TO DO THIS, THE SAMPLE WAS DIGESTED AND FILTERED THROUGH ACID. THE RESULTS FOUND A ‘SIGNIFICANT’ PRESENCE OF ALUMINIUM (620MG/KG, AL), MANGANESE (21MG/KG, MN) AND IRON (240MG/KG, FE), AND SMALLER AMOUNTS OF VANADIUM (V), CHROMIUM (CR), COBALT (CO), NICKEL (NI), COPPER (CU), ZINC (ZN), ARSENIC (AS), SELENIUM (SE), MOLYBDENUM (MO), CADMIUM (CD), ANTIMONY (SB), LEAD (PB) AND MERCURY (HG), ALL <10 MG/KGS. AS OUTLINED BY SMITH: WHEN THE AMOUNT IS <10 MG/KG, IT MEANS THAT THE ABUNDANCE OF THAT PROPERTY IS BELOW THE SYSTEM LOD (LIMIT OF DETECTION) AND IS THEREFORE CONSIDERED ‘INSIGNIFICANT’. LIKE THE GC-MS, THE ICP-MS RECORDS ENUMERATE THE COMPOSITE ELEMENTS OF THE PAPERS MATERIALITY INSEPARABLE FROM MATTER FOUND ON THE SUBSTRATES THROUGH THE PROCESS OF THEIR PERMEATION, TRANSPORTATION, AND ANALYSIS.
THE ASH PROJECT TAKES THE FORM OF A PARCEL BOX FOR POSTAL DISSEMINATION AND COMPRISES A SERIES OF PRINTED PUBLICATIONS WHICH CAN BE SENT TO YOU IN THE MAIL. this artist's edition comprises: THE ASH project BOOK (with photographic DOCUMENTATION), the ICP-MS 'SAMPLES' PUBLICATION (a5), the GC-MS ANALYSIS PUBLICATION (a4), the ICP-MS PUBLICATION foldout (a2), THREE POSTCARD SCORES for participants, And a PEICE OF NEPALESE LOKTA PAPER. these SEPARATE publications are held in a series of envelopes and the parcel also contains a hand-written note by the artist.
the COMPLETE edition is AVAILABLE at £85 (plus p&p). SEPARATE publications are also AVAILABLE. please message me for further information.