Know The Ways


Navine G. Dossos and Sophia Al-Maria

Know The Ways is a collaborative work by Sophia Al-Maria and Navine G. Dossos for the stage of the Serpentine Gallery’s 2016 Miracle Marathon. It was installed in the Sackler Restaurant designed by Zaha Hadid on Saturday 9th October 2016.


Design stage drawing


Installation with human scale


The wall painting is derived from research into the visions of the 12th century mystic Hildegard of Bingen. In the twelfth century, spiritual and mystical visions were part and parcel of the medieval religious world. One of the most scintillating examples described is that of Hildegard of Bingen and her first work Scivias (a shortening of the Latin ‘Know The Ways of God’). This text was in large part influenced by the visual experiences she was having around 1142. Compromised of twenty-six visions divided into three parts, Bingen chronicles God’s creation of the world, the Fall, the Redemption, Salvation and concludes with an early version of her musical composition Symphony of Heaven.

Bingen located herself firmly within the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament. But several modern studies, including those of Charles Singer and Jonathan Sacks have suggested she suffered form a particular affliction of migraine called Scintillating Scotia, which produces an aura or flickering spot in the centre of the visual field before a migraine comes on. Certain very particular visual effects have been recorded; the most interesting are parallels with Second World War camouflage (such as Wadworth’s dazzle patterns) and Widmanstatten patterns.

Compromised of patterns created in green and blue screen emulsion paint, Know The Ways acts as a backdrop to the talks in The Magazine, but also as a ‘cinematic matte’ upon which Al-Maria’s video work on the same subject will be projected in the post-production of the recorded talks. This creates a scintillating ‘miraculous’ aura around the speaker, and a vision-like experience in the eye of the beholder.


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