I follow the road through canals, bordered by blooming gardens and brick houses to the home of Muha Nad Rasheed, an Amsterdam based dancer, choreographer, musician, painter and thinker.
In his little urban retreat, 20 minutes away from the city centre, lives and works the multisided artist.
Large canvases lean on the walls, showing surreal paintings. Persons in front of monochrome backgrounds, reminding me of old master portraits.
On the opposite wall across the room I found a mysterious mind map. Little post-its scripted with the tags of what’s on Muha Nads mind lately: Forest, gravity, the big bang, transformation, space, time, chemical events…
Since some time he’s studying the correlation of physics and cosmology, reaching out to all fields of science, to learn more about the origin of life and earth and its interpretation in religion and mythology.
As it seems, these scientific and philosophical questions are guiding him every moment and are the central idea for his various creations.
“There is only one life, you know.”
When he feels like he’s blocked with one media, like painting for example, he can easily switch, let’s say, to making electronic music. And from making music, he gets lead to dance. That’s the way he consolidates all those different things. “There is only one life, you know.”, he responded to my amazement. Although in every discipline he seems to be advanced, Muha Nad told me that for him, it is not about producing a result, but about enjoying the process of creating, be it in dance or in painting.
It is hard for me to grasp all they layers, all the branches of the cosmos of his views, ideas and thoughts, but I feel like his main approach is to search, research, to proceed and develop.
In his actual dancing project “Forest”, for example, he is searching for the origin of dance, its very essence, beyond the shore of just performing. He is looking for a kind of animal-like movement, you would naturally do, like if you were alone in your room with nobody to watch. “Moving in a way you wouldn’t want to be seen by your lover.”
In this seemingly natural way of a body in motion, he tries to find a rhythm and essential elements, that make sense with each other and depart it from simple improvisation. “Like a jazz pianist”.
Right now he is planning to work on a dance film, which has a cinema format. “With cinema you have the possibility to be direct … dance is something abstract”. The recipients can have associations with what they see, but what the dancer experiences is something completely different. Muha Nad wants to find a way to transport his message to a wider audience and make it less abstract for them.
In this context he uses the word “forest” as a synonym for nature. It means more than the vegetation, landscape and tides. It is the structure of things, from the accumulation of stars in distant galaxies, to the cosmos of atoms and even smaller particles, in the cells of our bodies. From the small-scaled processes on a molecular level, to the big forces in space, everything belongs to the “forest”.
“Maybe it is a wonderful idea, maybe not.”
The origin of things is also a thought that we found in the work of Karina Mosegård from Copenhagen.
One of the phrases she used, inspired Muha Nad particularly: “After an endless repetition, the origin is forgotten.”
It reminded him of his studies about the origin of space, the earth and life after all. Because our earth had changed its face so many times, even science can only speculate about the true story, he assumed. Although scientists require a huge knowledge about space and the world, in Muha Nads opinion, that still might be just a tiny drop in the ocean.
The idea that came to his mind was to create something, layer by layer, the surface hiding the original process, impossible for the recipient to guess, know or understand what lies underneath and how it was made.
“Maybe it is a wonderful idea, maybe not.” he said.
He decided to work with Fimo, a clay-like material, that is mostly used for little handicraft works. He started by plucking mass into flat pads. He spread the different colored pieces in front of him on the table. Then he took some of them and formed a little marble out of it, the cell of his object. He played around with it for a while, knowing that he would soon cover it with another layer of clay and never see it again.
Muha Nad proceeded by putting pads of clay around the ball and then fixing them by the circling of his hands.
“I’m afraid to look at it, something natural has to happen.”
The rhythm of his hands adapted to the fast electronic music in the background, as if he was actually dancing instead of kneading.
He repeated this process until all the clay was used up and he had a ball in the size of a nectarine.
“I’m afraid to look at it, something natural has to happen.” To secure that the result would depend on the coincidence and was definitely impossible to reconstruct, he spontaneously squashed the marble with his fist, and then roll a ball out of it again. The different layers and colors mingled now in a different, unpredictable way. “Even if I would concentrate very much, I couldn’t do it the same way again.”
Muha Nad doesn’t believe in god or whatsoever intelligent creator. He is convinced by the perception of science.
The more ironic I find, that in his performance of creating the little clay-planet, he appeared to me as an intelligent creator himself. Engaged and passionated with the process, focused and consequent, and then again, playful and experimental. Once the birth of the idea was done, he repeated the same scheme over and over again. The layers he added to the cell of the planet, also added more colors, more elements, more factors, that would influent the outcome. Then, when it felt complete, he shattered the earth with the power of his almighty fist. Deformed, almost destroyed, the planet would look nothing like before. Instead he turned it upside down, combined its layers and continents anew, so they made different sense, create new lines, forms and patterns. He flattened the appearance of the planet a little, covered it with the prints of his fingers and abandoned it to his fate, maybe evolution. He asked me to title the work for him.
The origin of the marble will be unknown to the beholder. After an endless repetiton, the origin will be forgotten. Just as the origin of dance, alienated by the tradition of performing, the repetition of established methods. The origin of the artwork, covered underneath the repetition of layers and processes, copies of copies of one idea.
Lucky me, I was there to see it with my very own eyes, the “genesis” of Muha Nads planet.