In The Feather of Ma’at, Fernando rewards the attentive reader who does the heavy lifting to fill in the gaps between his lines for themselves. In this regard, he leaves the authorship and authenticity in making meaning, and meaning-making, to the reader thus rendering us (his readers) a part of his tapestry of loose writings surreptitiously strung together as signposts for the one who chooses to follow him down his ‘rabbit-hole’ (Chen, 2022). The artistic gaps in Fernando’s writing speak to the ‘wounds’ he philosophises in his other seminal collaborations such as in ‘The Scars that Write Us’. As part of his exploration of unknowability, Fernando once again invites the reader to explore the openings from and in which both authorship and authenticity bring forth meaning, thus revealing the weight given to these significations that each craft for him- and her-self.
On the question of weight, Fernando considers the weighing of social relations against the ‘unknowable’, the sacred, and invites his readers to offer their own profanations as a form of original testimony. In Illuminations (1968: 220), Benjamin argues that in the age of mechanical reproduction of artworks, “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be”. Benjamin further elucidates that the “presence of the original is a prerequisite to the concept of authenticity” (220). Furthermore, authenticity is conveyed when
the original meets “the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art; the choral production performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room.” (1968: 221)
Interestingly, both writers illuminate the expansiveness of the “human apparatus of perception” (Benjamin, 1968: 240) from textualities of thoughts and touch (Fernando, 2022: 56) to the mass production and introduction of aesthetics into politics.
The apertures in this piece of artistic writing are symbolically representative of Benjamin’s ‘aura’ of the work of art (1968: 243), as well hark to a point made by Agamben that painting “is the dormition and exposure of gaze” (2022: 19, 22). Fernando’s own recollection of his friend Slavoj Žižek’s articulation that, “art lies in the gap between the frame and the viewer” (Fernando, 2019: 32); and, for Fernando’s readers, art is an awakening, “the trembling of skin” (62). The invitation to tremble in a state of unknowability is not only a natural reaction but also a call to action, as a response to the destructiveness of society in this age of digital reproduction and war.
The contemplations in The Feather of Ma’at scratches for meaning in art, perhaps hint at the aura of art such as the question of the weight of a painting. Despite the weight of its musings, the book finds a way to move the reader beyond a mere search for answers, to tearing at the partial and concealed, like scars and stains, originating in the penumbra and umbra of human shadows.
Agamben, Giorgio (2022) Studiolo (Alberto Toscano, trans.) Seagull Books (original work published 2019).
Arendt, Hannah (ed.) (1969) Walter Benjamin Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (Harry Zohn, trans.) New York: Harcourt, Brace & World (original work published 1968).
Chen, Junni, ‘back cover blurb’ in Jeremy Fernando, The Feather of Ma’at. Singapore: Delere Press, 2022.
Chen, Yanyun (2018) The Scars That Write Us (online) https://www.yanyunchendrawings.com/thescarsthatwriteus#:~:text=Unfolding%20as%20a%20series%20of,and%20body%3B%20you%20and%20everyone. Singapore Art Museum.
Fernando, Jeremy (2019) Nine Rings Around A Pit – an art manifesto, of sorts. London: Pendant Publishing, (online) https://www.berfrois.com/nine-rings-around-a-pit-jeremy-fernando/.
Jeremy Fernando. The Feather of Ma’at. Singapore: Delere Press, 2022.
Janice Sim is an emerging writer living on the Gold Coast with her husband and three boisterous children. She is a sessional academic at Griffith University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and author of Parents Killing Children: Crossing the Invisible Line. She has poems published in the Fahmidan Journal, Lavender Lime Literary, Spellbinder A Quarterly Literary and Art Magazine and Native Skin Literary Magazine. She tweets @lishen_sim.