Seven Times by Idris Khan is a sculptural installation that consists of 144 sandblasted steel cubes in its complete form, 49 of which are displayed in a grid in the Corner Space of Galerie Thomas Schulte. With his work, Idris Khan primarily refers to the minimalism of Carl Andre and in particular to the work 144 Graphite Silence (2005). As with Andre, the installation adapts to the space, the surrounding space – the distances between the individual cubes become part of the installation.
At the same time, Khan with Seven Times refers to the Kaaba. The rectangular building, located in the inner courtyard of the Holy Mosque in Mecca, symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth. As the fifth pillar of Islam, every Muslim should make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, once in their lifetime. As the culmination of the so-called Hajj, the Kaaba is ritually circumambulated seven times in a counter-clockwise direction by the devout Muslims. Like the Kaaba, the surface of Khan’s cubes revolves around a ribbon. These are excerpts from the salāt in Arabic script – the daily ritual prayer that is to be performed by faithful Muslims five times a day at fixed times. The fivefold overlaying of the writing, which was finally sandblasted, makes it illegible and thereby obscures and abstracts the true sense of the words.
In his work, Idris Khan addresses expansive questions concerning art, time, and memory. In addition to the recurrent confrontation with minimalism, appropriation, abstraction, and writing, the subject of repetition – which in Seven Times equally evokes the title of the work as well as the superimposition of script – plays a major role in Khan’s artistic practice. In the installation, the artist takes up the principles of minimal art, seriality, and closed elemental form and breaks them down based on the aesthetics of the Islamic sanctuary. Repetition as a performative process of neutralization and abstraction coincides with the principle of repetition as a constitutive, meaningful, identity-creating ritual in religion.