Reflection on Vandana Singh’s Chapbook Reading and Workshop

By Ursula Zia

Vandana Singh’s reading and workshop on November 17th granted us listening participants to an amorphous network of possibility in fiction. Through language, Singh ravels and unravels threads of science and society on multiple scales. Her abstract and interdisciplinary work is grounded in a few concrete representations of objects that funnel out of complex social and scientific concepts.

She considers the dichotomy of what she called “the machine” and “the tapestry” as contrasting symbols depicting shifting relationships between ‘human’ and ‘world’. The machine is a construct of western society, a representation of the all-consuming post-capitalist monoculture contained in our narrow conceptions of time, work, practices, values, etc. The machine functions by our collective blindness to its workings. Climate change is a physical manifestation of the planet’s reaction to the machine. Awareness of the machine, and the way the machine works matter, allows people to generate alternative possibilities out of their discontent to the machine’s linear, mechanized workings.

The tapestry is a fluid, living network of perspective. This is a perpetual interaction between living and non-living outside of deep time. The embodied experience of the earth that shapes all beings’ weaves this. Here, multiple possibilities for worldbuilding work together. Time and space crashes over us all at once. The tapestry as story is non-linear and woven from thousands of tiny threads. The tapestry engages a multitude of perspectives. One moment is a million moments in the perspective of a million beings. Narrative is an intangible gift, an exchange between multiple truths woven together. A mutual understanding of interconnectivity and the agency of matter.

During the reading, Prof. Singh read an excerpt from her new chapbook Utopias of the Third Kind. The photo above is a photo from this moment. Yet, the story exists outside of time. She considers the locus of a story as an attempt at the impossible, an ideation of radical reimagining of the machine. As she reads, her voice weaves the tapestry. Vandana’s concentric storytelling grants access to the tapestry and stretches dimensions of time and space. This is an invitation into the multiplicity of human and land relationships. Vandana Singh is also professor of physics at Framingham State University. Her work engages scientific concepts through a deep understanding of science as one of many stories.

Earlier, during the workshop, students were invited to call upon our unfixed experience of consensus reality. Push and pull at the edges. Elicit a paradigm shift as inspiration for your next piece of creative writing!

For example, when “a man goes to work” what is implied? Who is “man”? How do they “go”? “Work,” happens but why?

The imagination is tangible here. Visualizing alternatives to normative perspectives, Singh nurtures a point of connection inspired by seismic shifts in our worldview.  For Singh, speculative fiction is a tool to manifest the paradigm shift and build intrigue for the countless interpretations of the world as we know it.

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