First exhibited at ARoS Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017-18.
Installation: silk parachute from WWII (1942), mouthblown glass objects with topography 3D print, iron construction.
The project is about seeing a way out of collective traumatic events. As a starting point for healing wounds that date back several generations by re-establishing a balance between the fundamental elements, cultural traditions and ancient experience that make up our physical organisms and mental energies. I believe that this exercise is particularly important today, at a time when our collective memories about our (traumatic) experiences of war and conflict are being forgotten and new wars are begun as rapidly as governments and presidents succeed one another. Even though our limited human consciousness forgets, the body remembers – and perhaps other parts of us do too.
Buddhism speaks of karma. It states that different forces are at work in us and drag us in particular directions unless we are mindful of them. Classical Greek thought believed that the world was made out of four elements – air, earth, fire and water, to which Aristotle added the aether – and this laid down the basis for the scientific revolution of the Middle Ages. It is also in keeping with current Western thought: matter and the human body are thought to be present only in a single, earthly life, as one physical form. The Indian Ayurveda school of thought has five elements: air, earth, fire, water and aether, which is also known as “akasha” or “space”. These five are also regarded as elements that make up our bodies, diet, seasons and thinking. They can cause states of balance or unbalance and are associated with the idea of reincarnation and a return to the fundamental form of materials. Chinese philosophy has five elements too: air, earth, fire, water, wood and metal. But in Chinese philosophy the elements govern how our senses perceive the world – they act as mediums or conduits for our senses. The elements are vessels of metamorphosis, of shifting forms of being. Physical manifestations are no more real than what our senses tell us. The experiences of the mind are ranked on a par with the physical world.
In this piece, I have arranged different elements such as stone, glass, fire, metal, space and air in varying stages, interacting with the scale of the human body and the law of gravitation. At the top is an American silk parachute from World War II (1942). At the beginning of the war, parachutes were made of silk, but when relations with Japan became strained the Americans ran out of silk and had to develop alternative materials. A parachute protects the body directly, but when used by paratroopers it can represent either liberation or invasion; rather like the varying roles played by the USA internationally. The hunt for valuables and raw materials predates the colonial era, and if we take a wide view of human history, we see that the wars of the world, to which the parachute is a reference, can be viewed as a sweeping, aggressive fire that runs rampant through our DNA as an epigenetic layer of inherent trauma and survivalism.
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