27 Years of Lazarian Delights
World-building + exploration
“27 Years of Lazarian Delights” is a brief journey into an obsessive mind. From acid lakes to fiery planes, from suicide ceremonies to a cipher for a script, this explorer records it all with the precise eye of a scientist unwrapping the logic of a new system. In doing so, he takes the language of scientific knowledge and bends it to a world of fiction and speculation, reapplying these tools to fanciful and radical ends. The world the explorer captures is fantastical, but in its essence it is a project in seeing, pushing us Earthlings to reimagine life with eyes anew.”
Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, exploration and creation, with this installation work, architect and artist Chong Yan Chuah (b. 1992) opens the most personal space of that of an explorer, scientist and artist: his study. Specimens, drawings, notes, renderings, facts and figures, all documenting a 27-year-long journey into the unknown, are laid bare through 27 Years of Lazarian Delights. Amongst all of these sits a codex, a book, that holds key to all the knowledge acquired on Somnia XYZ-G. It is the name given to his finding: a trinary star system, orbiting in a figure-eight loop. Here is a project where art and science meet, and where one plays a double voice. Each choice brings a clearer vision of the world built by the “artist” as each day leads to a new discovery for the “explorer”.
27 Years of Lazarian Delights was realised with help from: Architectural Association, Bethany Edgoose, Charlie Sturgeon, Nathan Su, Natasha Sandmeier, Manolis Stavrakakis.
‘‘ Setting out on a journey to the edge of the known universe I came across a strange cluster of planets in a faraway galaxy. This world’s characteristics, workings and inhabitants amazed me. So fantastical yet so much like our own Earth, it is almost a thing of dreams. Losing track of time and place I slowly grew exhausted both physically and mentally, I couldn’t contain my excitement however and worked tirelessly to document every single organism, landscape, different planets and rules of this universe. I found out over time that the reason I was growing so weary was partially because of the different circadian rhythms of each different planet all slightly longer than our 24 hour cycle on Earth. I also suspect most organisms on these planets (referred to as M01, M02, M03) are not suitable sustenance for human beings. Metabolization of the plant like organisms was possible but had a strange effect on the colour of my skin, a slight blotchy purple hue appeared on my forearms and abdomen (I therefore called it Baralpa lilac) so I refrained from trying to digest too many different species. There were also creatures on this planet that appeared to have sufficient cognitive capabilities to create their own spoken and written language. After observing the creatures from a distance for about 2 years I began to have a grasp on the vocabulary and grammar of this strange language. The documentation of Somnia xyzg is written in the indigenous’ creatures language which I managed to fully master after I found out the creatures were actually very friendly and docile. They taught me even more about the world and thanks to them I managed to make my way back to our universe. I find it therefore only natural that in thanks I honour them with a codex about their land written in their own language. ’’
Fragments of Lazarian Delights
Two-channel animated video with sound [30:05]
World explorationStepping one foot at a time, from one whimsical environment to another, the explorer slowly unveiled each of the three planets, namely M1, M2, and M3. Starting from experiencing its different temperatures, down to studying the forms and textures of its multi-layered surface structures, orbital and rotational velocity, time zone, amongst many other factors of what makes Somnia XYZ-G. Each day never failed to surprise – the appearance of extra-terrestrial creatures on M2 being one of the things that fascinated him most. His biggest discovery however, was what he later described as the inter-convergence period, a time where all three planets would be aligned. A phenomenon that led him to discover the planets’ natives, the Incolé, creators behind the library of bells on M1, and inhabitants of the Luyong Poli settlement on M3. The latter is a planet best described by its contrasting temperatures, forcing the Incolé to move from one layer of the planet to another in search of the perfect heat, all by dissolving into the wave of light. A world that bends physics, and left him in awe with what other realities actually sit outside of ours.
World-buildingWhat came first in the world-building process rather than its scientific and visual attributes, was the language. More than a tool of communication, it is what shapes the identity of a place. Fascinated by the concept of an asemic language system, a wordless, open-semantic form of writing, the artist then developed his own. Each combination of lines and forms bears no logic, yet unfolds open ended meanings. This is parallel to the act of world-building, where facts serve merely as hints of what a place could be. The project goes back and forth between reality and imagination, as the artist applied concepts inspired by the fields of astronomy, physics and mathematics, and took a scientific approach of archiving and developing imagined data into a set of tables, maps, and 3D world. Apart from the break-down of observations and theories, one would find it fascinating to discover the world from a first-person point of view of the explorer, narrated through the video piece, or jotted down as personal anecdotes. The plot, inspired by Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, follows the narratology of a protagonist who embarks into an adventure and returns transformed. An invitation to unravel – taking life more than just is.
Text by Amanda Ariawan
An Atlas of Somnia.XYZ-Gthe scale of the universe
An adventure in magnitudes. Inspired by Eames power of 10. Out to the edge of our universe.
the scale of the world
the scale of the people
the voice of the explorer
“ It was a love affair. When I found SomniaXYZG, I felt alive once more, overcome with a thirst to experience everything, learn everything. My joy in novelty was hedonistic and reck¬less. I was an explorer, called to seek out new worlds and civilisations, to go beyond the frontiers of my own knowledge and gather for others the wonders of the unknown. I remember the contraction of my heart as I entered the system’s orbit. My mind raced ahead to the future and placed itself within alien landscapes, my skin tingling with the anticipation of new atmospheres and textures. The lethargy of my Earthly existence was falling away. I had been an automaton, moving through over studied envi¬ronments. The 27 years I spent within Somnia XYZ-G revealed to me the beauty, complexity, danger, and wonder of her worlds. It’s a joy to share my footage and my discoveries. Voices, clearer than mine, will recount my journey. By way of an early conclusion, I will say that while the laws of thermodynamics indeed confirm that there is nothing new under the sun, it does not then follow that we can never look at the world in a new way. ”
“ Som 1, 26 hours since dawn. The landing was harder than I expected. My fuel reserves are gone and I’m suffering from the low oxygen levels. I’ve noticed a sulphurous tang on the air. It has been the greatest relief to remove my suit and protect my skin instead with a curious heat-resistant powder which I discovered through pure chance. My sense of touch returned, I ran my fingers across the walls of the cave where I’m camped, and I found them to be slippery like soap with pieces that flake away like pastry. ”
“ Som 60, 11 hours until dusk. 30 days ago, I observed nest-like structures against the horizon. I was walking towards them, hoping to find something other than rocks and minerals. I emerged from a cave and before me wasa mind-warping sight. It was if the world had been folded in half. Drawn by a low resonant boom, I went around a corner and then I saw it - what humanity has been imagining, dreaming and writing about ever since we became aware of the vastness of the universe. An alien. Life on the planet I have named M2 in Somnia XYZG. Since then, I’ve spent weeks crouching in salty water, waiting for the creature to acclimatise to my scent. I feel pickled – and I’ve lost all the hair from my legs. I’ve concluded that it must have travelled here from another planet as the ecosystem of M2 is too salty and hot to support organic life. Tonight, when it retreats towards the structures, I will follow. ”
“ Som 100, 33 hours since dawn. I remember drawing closer to the structures, the air becoming almost unbearably warm. I was drenched with sweat. Brushing my fingers against the rocks, I felt a strong vibration. I was watching footage from my drone up ahead when I first saw it – a sudden flash. I knew then that I’d found them – whatever they are. Exploring further, I came to the base of the structures, towering into the sky. I spied platforms – like solid webs - arching overhead and the tell-tale glint of small fires. I thought I would edge closer, try to find some clue to their biology - I failed and still have no idea what these people might look like; however, undeniably they have a civili¬sation and some system of production…one minute, I was standing there – wondering – and then – with a single step, I was displaced.
I barely remember my arrival on M3. My head was pounding and my entire body on fire. Fire – that may well be my end here. They burn continuously, feeding on grasses that spring up overnight. I seek new shelter everyday to escape their reach. Inevitably, the ravaging flames burn whatever supplies I mange to collect. I’ve continued to gather samples and measurements where I can – but truly I am exhausted. With the long days, I don’t know when to wake or sleep, and the grasses offer little sustenance. My skin has taken on
a purplish hue. These past few months have been the hardest I’ve ever faced and if anyone ever reads this note, please reconsider any intrepid dreams you might have. My one hope is an area of grass that seems to be harvested regularly. I will head there tonight because if there is indeed any people within this system, I need their help.”
“ Som 3700, 1900 hours. I eventually learnt the name of my saviours. With a human tongue, it is best pronounced Incole. Their relationship to energy is both reverent and utilitarian. Energy becomes life, and to the eternal system of energy will life return when the form it wears grows old and thin. On M3, I observed the ritual of The Return, when weak-formed Incole voluntarily walk into the raging fires. Meanwhile, their attendants gather for food the grasses that grow particularly lush in that area due to the strength of the flames. In nature nothing dies, nothing is created, everything changes. M3 is an agricultural planet. M2 a site of industry, where its crystals are mined and minted for currency. Really though, both planets are cultural satellites. They service the heart of Incole society that exists here - on M1, the pride of this alien civilisation, and my home for the past 10 years. I’ve dedicated myself to the study of this paradise. Logging the fantastical creatures that I find here is a salve against any longing I feel for a more familiar landscape.
Every half day, the surface becomes unbearably hot, and I retreat underground, to run my fingers over the etchings of Incole script that mark the corallite walls. As I com¬prehend their language, I’m uncovering the laws of their physiology. The Incole can dissolve their physical form into waves of light and then reappear elsewhere, seemingly at will. I don’t know how – but I’m fascinated by this bending of physical laws that I believed until now to be absolute. I will discover the secret. ”
“ Som 9720, 2600 hours. M1 is a paradise, teeming with exotic animal life and stunning landscapes. A new wonder awaits in every grain of sand, under every rock. Hundreds of life times would not uncover all its secrets, secrets made and remade through the eternal cycle of energy. Today is the 27th anniversary of my arrival in SomniaXYZG. Today I finished my research on the Incole people’s great discovery. The Library of Bells. A giant space, hidden beneath rocks, bell-like structures move together in a deep, resonant sym¬phony. Through their cadences, the Incole record the genetic code of their existence. They internalise the resonance of their own form, using this knowledge to transform into light and then reform somewhere else. They study and record in the bells the reso¬nance of every living creature, every physical law, every stunned visitor to their planet. ”
“ I thought when I arrived here that I would stay forever. The past 27 years have brought me back to life. Somnia XYZG has revealed so much to me and I travel onwards with an en¬cyclopaedic knowledge of the physical and cultural systems. I’m an explorer, called to seek out new worlds and civilisations, to go beyond the frontiers of my own knowledge and gather for others the wonders of the unknown. A new site of exploration calls to me – a beautiful planet called Earth. I’m going home, but I’m also ready for the next adventure. ”