Monique Todd on Rehana Zaman's 'Alternative Economies'

A close-up of a herbalist's finger using a small beige spoon to push some wet, dark brown plant material through a small metal sieve. The light in the image is warm and yellow
Rehana Zaman 'Alternative Economies' (2021). Courtesy the artist and LUX

ONE WORK is a series of online discussion events to think more deeply about how an artwork came into being. Focusing closely on a single work, these generous discussions provide space for an artist to present a recent work and talk through the work’s creation. The events are accompanied by a month-long online screening and specially commissioned written response published on the LUX Scotland website.

Rehana Zaman’s work Alternative Economies’ was presented on the LUX Scotland website in September 2022 as part of our ONE WORK series.

We commissioned writer Monique Todd to respond to Alternative Economies’ and you can read their text on the work below.

Monique Todd is from London and currently makes work orbiting the following themes: thresholds, expulsions and incontinence.

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The marc and the menstruum

One definition of tincture is a slight trace of something’. A slight trace can fray the figure whilst keeping it intact. A slight trace alters the palette delicately, impressively. A slight trace of something’, like the romance of just enough pain. Slight traces are prone to evaporation – it’s to do with lightness, or an improper relation to form. Have you used tincture this way? Might you replace tinge’ with it? They had a tincture of moral delusion. They had a tincture of ambivalence. This is the kind of measure for what cannot be held between fingers, unlike a pinch’ or a smidge’. A tincture is neither less or more than that, and so we might depend on assessing its trace as it collects in the pit, dusts the surface, coats the air inside the mouth. Tinctures waft, intuition has antennae for it. There’s something here, I just don’t know what it is.[1]

Consider tincture production on the vertical axis, where remedial liquid accumulates on a gradually descending path. A sieve or a cloth mediates the flow of liquid, distilling it from solid matter at a speed permitted by the membrane’s holes. Pressure is applied to the solids to rinse moisture into designated containers, darkening and/​or thickening the solution. Those same solids might be decocted repeatedly, until emptied to its extraction limit. These are some of the numbered steps that make a linear line towards ingestion. As soon as the throat carries the tincture down its slope, the body starts to sort the useful from the useless. We trust in this automation, one prefers to think about the investment, not the work. Certainly not the waste. There must be something in it.[2]

Sometimes reciprocation isn’t enough. A drive exists for more, exponentially and forever, how do we account for this? A return’ is a name for more, it is not a name for receiving what you have given in likeness. It is a calculation for the measurement of profit, from which we assume nearly everything can yield: time, love, health, care, money. Risk makes investments wet tipped with sweat, it hardly makes sense to invest gingerly. Not knowing and nearly knowing what return you’ll make has more heat than clarity, it puts our skin to use. We cannot underestimate the erotics of uncertainty. There’s a veil held up for this purpose, we might call it an algorithm – that’s the name for a formula that has a bias which is not consistently guessable. As risk increases, so does the veil’s opacity. And what about loss? What about lack? Both have declevity, and a return sometimes traces those paths back upwards. Not everyone loses in the same way though, there is such a thing as a plummet that is too deep. You go into it very soberly, understanding that you can lose all of your principle[3]—this drives the descent and it’s how we draw the vertical axis.

When you are making a tincture you’ve got the marc and the menstruum. The marc is the [investment], the [hope]. The menstruum is the [hope, returned].[4]

I’m sure there’s something in it.[5]

[1] Spoken at 00:28. The screen is black, this is how we enter Alternative Economies. The voices make the speakers visible: upward inflections, news anchor cadence, panelists out for the jugular. There’s nothing to see here, why would there be?

[2] Spoken at 14:07. A puddle of colours: coral and muddy yellow orange brown diffused over off white, black brown spots and squiggles. A splatter of frantic components intermingling. Rachel Bardiger’s voice is clear but uncertain.

[3] Spoken at 04:32. The screen is black again.

[4] Spoken at 06:06. Originally, Rasheeqa Ahmad says the following whilst pressing the decocted reishi mushroom through a sieve: When you are making a tincture you’ve got the marc and the menstruum. The marc is the herb material, the plant material. The menstruum is the liquid.’

[5] Spoken at 14:21. The screen is electric blue. Heavy-weighted, frayed and broken fluorescent yellow letters rapidly scan across. I decipher X, T, b, Q, A, a, with uncertainty.

Image description: a close-up of a herbalist’s finger using a small beige spoon to push some wet, dark brown plant material through a small metal sieve. The light in the image is warm and yellow.

Audio Version