Video of my Theatro Florae installations at the Gumusluk Academy. Soundtrack Zeb Sufism, remixed by me.
I was fortunate enough to be an artist in residence at the Gumusluk Academy, a “thought farm” located in a small fishing village on the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey. While there, I constructed a number of installations on the Academy grounds and around the area.
Korek plants, strange looking, almost humanoid, with large flower-like heads having identical smaller flower-like heads protruding out of them, proliferate in this part of the world. In some lights, and from some angles, the smaller plant appendages look like hands and fingers. I collected them, both relatively fresh green ones and dry stalks, for installations, along with other fresh flowers, fabric, ribbons, and the like.
For the first tableau I arranged ten korek flower heads in glasses filled with water in a triangular formation, called by the ancient Pythagoreans the tetractys, the number of the universe. Ten is the sum of the first four numbers, 4+3+2+1 – my korek flowers were arranged in rows representing this summation. The candles were also arranged in a triangular formation under and around the flowers, causing them to cast shadows on the wall behind. The water in the ten glasses moved ever so slightly, also causing interesting shadows to be created when illuminated by the twelve tiny candles.
The Pythagoreans represented numbers by patterns of dots, probably a result of arranging pebbles into patterns. The resulting figures have given us the present word figures. Thus 9 pebbles can be arranged into 3 rows with 3 pebbles per row, forming a square. Similarly, 10 pebbles can be arranged into four rows, containing 1, 2, 3, and 4 pebbles per row, forming a triangle.
One particular triangular number that the Pythagoreans especially liked was the number ten. It was called a Tetractys, meaning a set of four things, a word attributed to the Greek Mathematician and astronomer Theon (c. 100 CE). The Pythagoreans identified ten such sets.
Ten Sets of Four Things
|Living Things||seed||growth in length||in breadth||in thickness|
|Ages of a Person||infancy||youth||adulthood||old age|
|Parts of living things||body||three parts of the soul|
Read more about the Pythagoreans here.
See pictures here.
Other variations on this theme followed.
Next I created an assemblage set up against one of the large plate glass studio windows with the garden trees and town panorama in the distance. I was interested in seeing what the reflection of the objects in the framing windows would look like as a counterpoint to the piece itself.
As I looked at the reflection of the tableau in the mirrored surface behind, and the reflection of that reflection in the window opposite, I couldn’t help thinking about my old Greek friend Plato’s idea about art being three times removed from the “Throne of Truth”, merely a reflection of a reflection of the ideal in the mind of god.
The second small set of four images represents a smaller piece, in which I have included several silver objects – skull, shallow dish, korek, tile – in homage to Gumusluk, the “silver place”.
See pictures here.
Later variations on the theme became more elaborate, with large stalks of Queen Anne’s Lace gathered from local fields, painted banners and korek stalks, as well as large-scale photographs and dance movements, included.
See the complete set of photographs of this piece here.
For more information on this project and on my time in Gumusluk, go here and scroll through the May 2009 archives.
Read the catalogue here.