MEDITATION MEDIATION 4/24/05
IN ILLO TEMPORE: Confronting the Uncertainty Principle
ON THE OCCASION OF THE LUNAR ECLIPSE:
An International Collaborative Project Conceived by Daniel Rothbart
Max Blagg, Adrian Dannatt, Anthony Haden Guest, L. Brandon Krall, Abraham Lubelski, Francine Hunter McGivern, Larry Miller, Valery Oisteanu, Enrico Pedrini, John Perreault, Douglas Rosenberg, Bettina Sellmann, Lisa Paul Streitfeld and Martha Wilson.
The April 24, 2005 performance of Daniel Rothbart’s international collaborative project, MEDITATION/MEDIATION, took place under a potent lunar eclipse occurring at sunrise. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth aligns between the Sun and Moon to manifest shadow where there is typically illumination. During this time the divine marriage of God (the Sun) and Goddess (the Moon) is absorbed into the collective unconsciousness. This is altered state — known as the conjunctio, or hieros gamos — is why the ancient priests timed their religious ceremonies to the eclipse cycles.
The number 24, reduced to 6, symbolizes the integration of the opposites symbolized by the Lovers card of the Tarot. At 4:45 p.m. on April 24, approximately 11 hours after the sunrise lunar eclipse, a lab gallery experiment was initiated with Meditation/Mediation. At that moment the sign of the Lovers (Libra) approached the horizon where it would meet up with Jupiter during the course of the ceremony, thereby delivering a bountiful atmosphere of cooperation. Meanwhile, a Yod formed byfour planets established the sacred marriage (hieros gamos) in the collective unconsciousness. The goal of our experiment was to make this constellation conscious to the international avant-garde.
Fifteen metal vessels and a striker were installed in the gallery against a backdrop of Branchings mounted on the walls. Selected artists were asked to interact with one or more of these ancient symbols for 3- 5 minutes each before a small audience of intimate friends.
This performance builds on 10 years of international semiotic experiments by Rothbart, a New York City based artist who spent several years in Italy. The artist grew up near the Pacific Coast where he was inspired by the evolution of trees shaped by the wind and adapted to the elements. After winning a Fullbright-Hayes Fellowship to Naples in 1990, he reflected on how the urban development of the city was a metaphor for the organic growth of a tree. His first exhibition, at a private Naples gallery, was an interactive installation of an invasive tree realized in various elements. At this time, he became interested in the tree as the central symbol of the Cabala, which is believed to contain divine emanations. He began to experiment with new materials, adding seedlings and creating duality between roots/branches through mirroring
In 1993, Rothbart returned to an earlier interest developed in art school: ceramic tea bowls. He executed a series of eighteen vessels in bronze. Thus began the project Semiotic Street Situations (http://www.semioticstreet.com) in which he transformed the bowls into signifiers interacting with unpredictable forces in everyday environments such as public parks, open-air markets and city streets. This ongoing project was radically altered by the September 11 tragedy. The proximity with which Rothbart lived to the terrorism site radically altered his vision; he began to view his objects as begging bowls, reflecting the Buddhist value of non-attachment. Shortly after the attacks, he won an artist’s residency at the La Napoule Art Foundation on the French Riviera. During his stay, he carried the vessels around with him in a sack and photographed them in various locations.
On June 28, 2003 the first group collaboration of Meditation/Mediation took place on an ancient Etruscan site at the Fondazione Baruchello. The stage was set by YOKO ONO’s IMAGINE PEACE prints pinned to the trees. Thereafter, the project was performed by individuals in France, Italy, Israel, Mexico and the United States.
Mircea Eliade warned that a new mythology can only be born on sacred ground. We intended to utilize the spiritual power of the lunar eclipse to initiate the first performance with the vessels against a backdrop of Branchings, a symbol for evolutionary growth reflected by Marcel Duchamp in his seminal work, The Network of Stoppages. Vessels, a symbol for the feminine, represent the egg, the microcosm of heaven and earth. The striker is the masculine spirit fertilizing the egg. With this interchange of symbols, we transform the gallery into a sacred space for the birth of the conjunctio.
The sacred space is bordered by Branchings and contained by the vessels holding the energy of two powerful cosmological influences — the Yod combined with the power of a sunrise lunar eclipse. The convergence point where two branches sprout from a central axis is the center of the Yod, the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet that means Hand or fate. In chaos theory, this is known as the bifurcation point where a dynamic split occurs, creating the potential for energy of the opposites to constellate. This unknown realm, postulated by Wolfgang Pauli as the collapse of the Quantum wave, is where the conjunctio is born. C.G. Jung and Wolfgang Pauli believed this emerging archetype, the hieros gamos, to be the 21st century icon establishing gender equality and resolving the struggle between the opposites currently threatening the evolution of humanity. Yet, an exchange of letters between these two prophets provides the evidence that they could not agree on the form. Pauli believed it to be the Seal of Solomon and Jung was certain it was the quaternary.
Anthony Haden Guest
Matthew Semler, artistic director of the Lab Gallery, welcomed participants and guests. As curator, I had no idea of any other performances but my own. To begin, I read my curatorial statement. I then initiated the interventions with a ritual blending of water (Scorpio) and earth (Taurus) dug up from the ground under a balance, the symbol of the Lovers, inside my garden altar. I combined the moist earth with a mixture of sunflower and moonflower seeds.
Quite magically, the thirteen interventions created new forms for the manifestation of the hieros gamos. They will be individually interpreted in the order of their appearance. The first three performances were previously recorded and projected on the wall as a preliminary to the live event. Adrian Dannatt established the theme for the event by giving birth to a vessel.
Douglas Rosenberg integrated the icon by carrying a vessel through the cornfields surrendering to the power of the feminine through a ritualistic dance inside a circle formed with vessels which he struck like gongs.
Martha Wilson impersonated Tipper Gore making music on the vessels with a paintbrush and chopsticks.
We moved on to the live performances. Rothbart invited each participant into the sacred space one at a time.
John Perreault struck the vessels while spelling out a coded message: THE EARTH EATS THE MOON.
Larry Miller imbedded his DNA inside a vessel through the ritual of taking a ball of cotton from his pocket, meticulously wiping the vessel clean with his spit, placing the material n a plastic box and presenting it to Rothbart in a silk lined white case.
Anthony Haden Guest invoked the role of the profane in the ever present origin of art by painting a selected vessel with images of sealed containers, thereby integrating the feminine power.
Valery Oisteanu purified the vessels with water while introducing the masculine elements of fire (a candle flame) and air (Tibetan Bells) to perform a shamanic ceremony eulogizing deceased Surrealist poet companions, evoking the power of the eclipse to close doors so new ones can be opened,
L. Brandon Krall set various spheres (symbols of the Self) in motion in and around the vessels, including a blow up sphere of the world, representing Gaia, the ancient expression of mother earth.
“There is no art without the book,” Enrico Pedrini declared before throwing the newly translated version of his 1992 essay The Irreversibility of the Avant Garde into a vessel.
Max Blagg honored his shadow by dedicating the eulogies of three friends “to the spirit of Dionysius, patron saint of drunks and hermaphrodites.” He proceeded to perform libations by drenching dedicated pages of his poetry with small bottles of alcohol – Vodka, Jack Daniels and Bacardi Rum – and setting them aflame within the vessels.
Bettina Sellmann evoked Mercurius, the patron of alchemy, by standing before a vessel in the guise of a masked androgynous trickster.
Abraham Lubelski evoked the Lovers by inviting his real life lover into the ritual through a cell phone message delivered inside a vessel; afterwards, he engaged in automatic drawing, combining the feminine elements of water and earth to create crosses out of chaos, therefore bringing the symbol of the hieros gamos into stasis through the quaternary.
Francine Hunter McGivern inked the circular base of a large overturned vessel in a spiral motion. She then applied ink on both the rim and the base of a smaller vessel and proceeded to paint on an unfurled white scroll three interconnected symbols of the sun, or the Self. With the number three representing creativity, an image of the eclipse completed the structure of four forms. This image represents the secure foundation of the hieros gamos in the collective consciousness. She proceeded to raise the image against a back gallery door, symbolizing the opening of undiscovered or formerly closed pathways under the influences of eclipses. This gesture brought the ceremony to a resounding close.
The divine spirit contained in the gallery was everything I have personally experienced of the hieros gamos and more. What took place, in fact, reveals the role of art in establishing the form for emerging archetypes. While we set a goal to conjure up an icon in this performance, we were also intent on establishing what Mircea Eliade referred to as illo tempore, the sacred time that a mythology is created in order to be re-enacted into perpetuity for humanity.
What we accomplished in the lab was the initiation of cross gender performances honoring the conjunctio through an engagement of the symbols and forms pertaining to the hieros gamos. Such seamless collaboration may have been attempted in the past but never under such explicit stated intention reflective of a cosmology evoking the hieros gamos in the collective consciousness. The vessels contain the power of the sacred feminine while the Branchings carry a range of pertinent symbols: the Yod (the bifurcation point); the bifurcation point of convergence (three branches meeting); the Aquarian glyph (the wave); and the hieros gamos (a six pointed star).
The introduction of the quaternary as a symbol of the conjunctio by the two concluding performances confirms that both Wolfgang Pauli and C.G. Jung were both correct in their interpretation of the form of the hieros gamos. Pauli’s Seal of Solomon need be contained by Jung’s quaternary in order for the icon to manifest in the world of matter. This integration of these two forms with the circle, symbol of the Self, has entered the collective consciousness with the appearance of the astounding “Work No. 396” by spiritualist Emma Kunz (1892-1963) on view at the Drawing Center at the time of our performance.
In illo tempore
Ultimately, the ritual exchanges taking place between the performers and the vessels, the performers with one another, and the performers with the audience under such a powerful combination of cosmological influences has established not only a focal point for dialogue regarding the hieros gamos in the international art world, but also an imprint for future rituals invoking the icon. As Eliade postulated in his extensive writing on ancient spirituality, the purpose of in illo tempore was to establish the mythic union of heaven and earth in sacred time. In the holy time of the beginnings is the initiation of a universal mythology enacted by the divinity and repeated into perpetuity by humanity. We have effectively established a form for this initiation in the international avant-garde collaborative celebration of MEDITATION/MEDIATION under a portentous lunar eclipse.
Lisa Paul Streitfeld