Ignota Hosts: Tai Shani, ‘The Neon Hieroglyph’

Ignota Hosts: Tai Shani, ‘The Neon Hieroglyph’

‘The building of a house we will never live in – a house for our ghosts where the gothic and the hallucinatory collide.’  

Tai Shani presents The Neon Hieroglyph in a special event featuring readings, a musical performance by composer Maxwell Sterling and a conversation between Shani and anthropologist Amy Hale exploring the feminised history of ergot, metaphysical and material realities and psychedelic mythos. The event is hosted by Ignota in partnership with Manchester International Festival (MIF). 

Tai Shani creates worlds that are at once dark yet luminous, both feminist and fantastical – and in The Neon Hieroglyph, she constructs a story-world that draws inspiration from her research into ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains from which LSD is derived, as a psychedelic catalyst. Ergot played an important part in the North West’s agricultural, social and medical history: linked to local crops and breads, outbreaks of ergot poisoning caused mass hallucinations, with the last reported UK incident during the late 1920s in Manchester. Composed of nine short episodes and featuring a mesmeric soundtrack by Manchester-born composer-musician Maxwell Sterling, The Neon Hieroglyph uses these experiences to spark new visions and alternative realities: a dreamlike CGI journey that takes us from the cellular to the galactic, from the forests to the subterranean, from the real to the almost unimaginable. 

Tai Shani creates large-scale immersive installations, combining experimental texts, performance, film, photography and sculpture. She takes inspiration from disparate histories mined from forgotten sources and transforms them into rich and complex monologues that explore feminine subjectivity. She is the author of Our Fatal Magic (Strange Attractor Press, 2019). She lives and works in London. She has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally including Tate Britain; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Hayward Gallery, London; Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham; Glasgow International, Glasgow; De La Warr Pavilion, UK; Arnolfini, Bristol; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; The Tetley, Leeds. She was a joint winner of the Turner Prize 2019 and she was shortlisted for the 8th edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Woman. She is the co-founder and co-curator of artist-led digital film channel Transmissions.

Amy Hale is an anthropologist who specialises in contemporary occult and Pagan history, religions, and culture in the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of The Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor Press, 2020).

Maxwell Sterling is a composer and sound artist, releasing his debut album, Hollywood Medieval in 2017.

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