Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

  • Timo Nasseri
    born 1972
    born: Berlin, Germany ; active: Germany
  • Pion, 2015
  • Where object was made: Berlin, Germany
  • bronze, wood, strings
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 65.5 x 65.5 x 65.5 cm
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 25 13/16 x 25 13/16 x 25 13/16 in
  • Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Germany
  • Not on display
  • EL2016.008
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Temporal Turn: Art and Speculation in Contemporary Asia", 11-Nov-2016
Like One and One #35, also exhibited in this gallery, Pion springs from artist Timo Nasseri’s abiding interest in his Persian heritage. The piece resulted from his investigation into the life and legacy of scholar and calligrapher Ibn Muqla (886 CE–940 CE).
Ibn Muqla flourished at the Bagdad court of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258) in the early tenth century, and eventually rose to prominence as vizier, or chief consul, to three different Abbasid rulers. During his career, Ibn Muqla not only codified the six Arabic scripts, but also formulated the “theory of proportioned script” (al-Khatt al-Mansoub), an approach to calligraphy based on geometric proportions. Ibn Muqla’s innovative approach to calligraphic structures transformed Arabic writing from the dominant angular Kufic styles into a harmonized cursive script that has come to characterize the beauty and elegance of Arabic calligraphy.
Yet, for those who viewed Arabic as the unchallengeable creation of Allah, Ibn Muqla’s alphabetic and calligraphic reforms were seen as blasphemy. Although Ibn Muqla rose in political stature under three Abbasid rulers, during an ensuing period of political instability he was imprisoned, both his hands were severed, and his tongue was cut out before he eventually died in prison. Despite his tragic demise, Ibn Muqla’s influence endured. Like the sculpture’s title, Pion—a reference to the subatomic particles that comprise the material world—Ibn Muqla’s contributions to writing constitute an essential, foundational structure of modern-day Arabic calligraphy.