Skip to content

Paul Purgas: Scattered Fire 


Paul Purgas’ Scattered Fire brings together a new body of work exploring the interconnections between Indian and European Modernisms, focusing on the networks of exchange that operated between the artistic and philosophical traditions of Vienna and India, and expanding upon an ongoing research project into the ideological and political forces which encompassed the independence of South Asia.

Working across textiles, sculpture and sound the exhibition considers a 1921 public reading of the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore’s mystic play The King of the Dark Chamber in Vienna by Wittgenstein as a historic anchor between these two worlds. Extrapolating some of the play’s central themes of the symbolic, transformative and hermetic, the work forms a deconstructed restaging that mirrors a shared cross-cultural philosophical, artistic and sonic history. Integrating the ideas of the Indian spiritual philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti who came to the city to speak for the first time two years later in 1923, the project examines the enmeshed network of exchanges that underpinned the Indo-European correspondences at the outset 20th Century, challenging the popular conceptions of the post-War era as the defining conversation between East and West, and reflecting on the deeper complex roots within early Modernism’s interconnected channels.

Assembled within the exhibition is a collection of recordings of experimental sound and electronic music from an archive of reel to reel tapes uncovered by Purgas at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a school that hybridised the philosophies of the Bauhaus and Ulm with the holistic eco-conscious praxis of Tagore’s revolutionary 19th Century school Shantiniketan. Produced in the late 1960’s, excerpts from the tapes are recomposed into a narration of these principles and pedagogies, considering the emergence of experimental sound within a post-colonial imaginary and revisiting these historic recordings as a syncretic bridge between worlds.

Paul Purgas

Paul Purgas is a London based artist and musician working with sound, performance and installation. Originally trained as an architect, Purgas has presented recent exhibitions and performances with Tramway, Camden Art Centre, Spike Island and Kettles Yard. His written output includes essays for the Unsound:Undead collection published by Urbanomic/​MIT Press and the documentaries Electronic India and Krishnamurti in England for BBC Radio 3. He is one half of the electronic music project Emptyset working with electroacoustic and computer music, broadcasting and spatialised sound. Emptyset has presented new work at the Architecture Foundation, London, the Roberts Institute and Tate Britain’s Performing Architecture programme, performing recently as part of Sonic Acts and Berghain for Transmediale 2020.

This exhibition is supported by