Tag Archives: Religion

Ideas – Apple

I had decided I wished to create a film piece for my CURA300 studio practice and had already established that I wished to use the plimsolls and Newton’s Cradle in my work.

For me, the plimsolls had reminded me of my school days and as mentioned in previous posts, religion had played a part in how my experience affected me in a negative way.  I thought about another visual I could use to create a further semiotic meaning to the viewer which may hint toward the idea of religion.

As I already had two visuals which were somewhat pendulum based in composition – I thought about using an apple hanging from a tree which could be comparable to the metal spheres of the Newton’s Cradle.  The apple can have many symbolic meanings including:

  • Religion i.e. Garden of Eden > Eve > Temptation > Original Sin > Tree of Knowledge
Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1507. Image available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/met-around-the-world/?page=10191&
Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1507. Image available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/met-around-the-world/?page=10191&

 

  • Education i.e. the act of giving your teacher an apple – thought to have perhaps originated in early America when families would give apples to frontier teachers as part of their responsibility for looking after the teachers who taught their children – (Children’s Museum, 2013)
  • Physics – Gravity i.e. the story of how Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravitation on witnessing a falling apple (Tiner, p28) – (this also links into my use of the Newton’s Cradle)
Sir Isaac Newton and the falling apple. Illustration taken from
Sir Isaac Newton and the falling apple. Illustration taken from p28 of Tiner, J. (2006). Exploring the world of physics. 1st ed. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

There are possibly many other meanings the apple can have, but I am happy for the audience to interpret the addition of an apple depending on how they personally perceive it.

References:

Tiner, J. (2006). Exploring the world of physics. 1st ed. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Children’s Museum (2013). Why Do Teachers Like Apples? – Children’s Museum | The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. [online] Childrensmuseum.org. Available at: http://www.childrensmuseum.org/blog/childrens-museum/why-do-teachers-like-apples [Accessed 4 Jun. 2014].

Open Call Artist Research: Kader Attia

I was reminded of Kader Attia’s work during the Liverpool Biennial 2012 (http://liverpoolbiennial.co.uk/download/LB2012_guide.pdf).  Attia grew up in France and Algeria finding himself between the religions of Christianity and Islam.  This upbringing led Attia to question ideas surrounding identity and the relationship between the East and West within his artistic practice (Edge of Arabia, 2010).

Following online research into his work, I came across the recognizable image of Ghost, 2007.  The installation is made from foil moulded into empty shells of praying Muslim women.  

Kader Attia, 2007, Ghosts, Image available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/kader_attia_ghosts_2.htm
Kader Attia, 2007, Ghosts, Image available from: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/kader_attia_ghosts_2.htm

Although the Hayward Open Call is a UK exhibition, I felt this would be a relevant piece because of the multi-cultural society the UK is becoming.  The piece instantly presents ideas surrounding religion and worship but also gives an eery and peaceful atmosphere.  Although the empty foil shells may give an impersonal feeling, the viewer could perhaps consider themselves within this piece – their mortality, vulnerability spirituality and place in society (The Saatchi Gallery, 2007).  I feel this piece would work well with my concept regarding hierotopic spaces as it gives a sense of contemplation and devotion, as well as reflecting on what one holds as sacred within a consumerist, ‘throwaway’ (with its use of foil) society.

References:

Edge of Arabia (2010) Kader Attia (online) Available at: http://edgeofarabia.com/artists/kader-attia (accessed on 23/02/2014)

Saatchi Gallery (2007) Ghost(online) Available at: http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/kader_attia_ghosts_2.htm (accessed on 23/02/2014)

Eye of Providence – all seeing eye

In one of my earlier posts, I had mentioned that the downward-pointing triangle carved from the tree (during my experimentation), also acted as an eye.  To explain further, the tree’s ‘eye’ acted as a witness to my subsequent actions of burning the removed bark – symbolizing an offering up of the tree’s life-force or immortality.  This could be construed as a rather torturous and cruel procedure – if one was to consider the tree as a living being.  However, as I was alone during the performance (referencing the idea of female segregation during initiation and rites of passage), the tree was my only witness.

This reminded me of the symbol of the Eye of Providence or all seeing eye – particularly the eye within an upward-pointing triangle, used by early Christians to not only symbolize the eye of God but to represent the trinity:

All Seeing Eye. Image taken from page 4 of Barber, A. H. (2006) Celestial Symbols. USA: Horizon Publishers
All Seeing Eye. Image taken from page 25 of Barber, A. H. (2006) Celestial Symbols. USA: Horizon Publishers

Although the symbol of the eye predated Christ, as well as relating to other religions and fraternities including the Masons and Mormons,  I felt that the triangular symbol had particular relevance to my own project.

The all seeing eye with regard to Christianity, symbolizes the all seeing eye of God i.e. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good – Proverbs 15:3” (Barber, 2006, p24).

With this in mind, similarly to St Peter’s cross which is the upside down crucifx which has been adopted by anti-Christian movements, the downward pointing triangle used in my performance, could be seen as a direct rebellion against “God”, particularly as the ritualistic symbology of the performance also leans toward Paganism.  Therefore, the performance could not only be seen as an act against nature, but also an act against “God” – taking vengeance against these ‘higher powers’, for all that women have suffered throughout history and perhaps – if one were to believe – tracing this back to the original sin and punishment of Eve:

Genesis – Unto the woman God said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee’ (Berger, chapter 1, 1972)

In John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, the woman’s position is further highlighted by the “striking fact that the woman is blamed and punished by being made subservient to the man” (Berger, chapter 1, 1972).

fall and expulsion
Fall & Expulsion from Paradise by Pol de Limbourg, Early 15th Century. Image taken from Chapter 1 of Berger, J. () Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

On reading Ways of Seeing, one can see through Berger’s commentary on art, how women have been portrayed throughout history – being objects of pleasure to the spectator, being perceived as inferior to men, taking the blame for being spectated i.e. acknowledging one’s own beauty – ideas of vanity – leaving the spectator blameless and the idea of women surveying themselves and judging themselves by surveying others.

These writings are extremely relevant to my project, as they link Eve’s sin and punishment, right through to how women are perceived today and the expectations placed upon them to behave and present themselves in a certain way.

Although this should not be the case – especially considering the rise of feminism in the 1970s and equal rights to women and men, unfortunately, the media continues to put pressure on women to attain and maintain youthful looks and beauty.

References:

Barber, A. H. (2006) Celestial Symbols. USA: Horizon Publishers

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

Experimentation/Contextualization: “lest [she] reach out [her] hand and take of the tree of life and live forever” – Genesis 3:22

After my last experimentation, I decided there were a few things I wished to change and incorporate in my next performance.

In the previous piece, there was a lack of ‘beginning’ and therefore felt that I could use the Yoni gesture I had developed in my next performance – to indicate the start and end of the ritual.  The use of this ‘symbolic’ gesture would mark a sense of respect for what I was about to do and had done and also demonstrate a reverence for the feminine and to show that I was blessing myself in the ritual and therefore wishing to embody the tree’s life-force.  Again, there is a sense of narcissism and elevating oneself, in taking something that does not belong to me – similar to the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden.  However, I am suggesting that I am taking back the immortality that was lost by taking from the tree – in a sense, it is a ‘profane (as opposed to divine) retribution’ of Eve.

I mentioned previously that I would be fully clothed in my performances because I felt it was unnecessary and perhaps too obvious to be naked.  Again, in line with the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve saw their nakedness after eating from the tree, became ashamed and covered themselves.  Therefore, I do not feel it necessary to my concept to be naked, as I not only have freedom of choice but do not wish to present my body as an object to be judged.

However, I did decide to be barefoot in my performance, not only because I felt my footwear was distracting but because I wanted to have a physical connection to nature as this is an important factor in the performance.

I wore black in my performance, simply because it is the colour of ‘mourning’ in the Western world and I was suggesting the loss of the tree’s immortality.

The result was as follows:

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Click image to view film

After taking photographs and watching the footage back, I did feel a sense of guilt at damaging the tree for my own selfish desires.  Furthermore, this was emphasized more, when looking at the photographs of the damaged bark, that looked like barbaric wounds – similar to flesh wounds.  From this I could sense the life of the tree and a sense of pain.

039049056This further highlighted the religious and spiritual feeling that the performance had evoked within me.  After experiencing the guilt of taking something that was not mine to take, I decided that I would not carry out the performance again.

These feelings emphasized to me how damaging the empty quest for youth can be on one’s inner self and well being.  The aging process is inevitable and is impossible to reverse no matter how many products or how much surgery one has – these things are unimportant and only superficial.

Experimentation: The Tree of Immortality

After considering my research in the symbolic meaning of the tree, I decided to develop my ideas from my findings.

In the book of Genesis, Eve is tempted by the serpent (the Devil) into eating from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, even though God forbid doing so.  In Christian theology, by eating from the tree, Eve and subsequently Adam, lost their immortality, became imperfect, sinful and began to grow old.

I feel I could use this idea of taking from the tree and notions of immortality in my performance.  I could take something from the tree to represent the idea of taking it’s life-source for myself.  In this respect, I would be giving in to the pressures to remain youthful and taking something which is not mine to take – much like Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Similarly, it would therefore be a selfish, narcissistic act.

With this is mind, I thought about what I could take from a tree which would symbolise its life-force. I felt that the significant thing would be the tree’s bark because the bark of the tree protects the inner phloem layer – the tree’s living tissue which carries nutrients throughout the tree and acts much like a skin on the tree.  Without bark, the tree would die – lose it’s immortality, so to speak.

I decided that I would take a very small section of surface bark from a tree, as to not cause permanent injury to the tree and would cut deep into the bark, as I would not want to damage the cambium which is “responsible for the healing of the tree” (Evans, 2013, online).

Image of cross-section of tree, Available at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/text/tree_anatomy.html
Image of cross-section of tree, Available at: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/text/tree_anatomy.html

To represent the female element of my performance, I decided that I would take a downward pointing triangle shape from the tree’s bark to symbolize the Yoni.

Following my last experimentation with burning the beauty products, I thought it would create a more symbolic presence, to burn the bark which I had removed.  This would demonstrate a sacrifice of the tree’s immortality and my embodiment of it’s life-force.

I obviously, did not want to do this performance a large number of times, as I did not want to cause damage to several trees, so, unfortunately, there were some things I would change in the original film:

Image of Tree with Yoni Symbol - click on image to view film
Image of Tree with Yoni Symbol – click on image to view film
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Image of Yoni symbol carved from tree

After watching the film back, I was slightly annoyed that the camera wasn’t focussed very well and also because the bark and ground was damp, the bark would not light (even with the addition of a small amount of lighter fluid.

I also felt that it perhaps needed more of a ‘beginning’ to the ritual, as opposed to cutting into the tree straight away.  Perhaps, I should consider using the Yoni gesture I had developed as a way of beginning and ending the performance.

Furthermore, I was disappointed that I did not have the film finishing with just an image of the carved tree – so that there would be some similar comparison from beginning and end i.e. te film starts with just the tree and would have worked better to finish with just the tree.

Reference:

Evans, E. (2013) Tree Anatomy. North Carolina: NC State University. Available from: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/text/tree_anatomy.html (accessed on 25/11/2013)

Ideas: The Sacred Tree

Following my initial experimentation, I felt that perhaps, it was too literal to use beauty products in my work.

I again thought about the idea of nature being preserved and valued as it ages, whereas the aging woman in today’s youth obsessed culture, is disregarded – particularly in the media, where aging is seen as a negative occurrence.

With this in mind, I considered my own religious Christian upbringing and the significance of the tree – particularly in the book of Genesis with the story of the Tree of Knowledge, which Adam and Eve were not permitted to eat from.

Furthermore, it called to mind Anna Mendieta’s work and Mircea Eliade’s writings about girls (during their puberty rites) retreating to a dark place that represented the womb of rebirth – this could be a cave, a hut or a hollow tree.

Image of hollow tree
Image of hollow tree

Thinking about the tree, as it ages, it is seen as a symbol of wisdom and strength, as well as playing ‘an important cultural, spiritual and recreational role in many societies. In some cases, they are integral to the very definition and survival of indigenous and traditional cultures’ (UNEP, 2013 online).

Trees are also seen as a symbol of immortality (e.g. the Tree of Life described in Genesis 3:21-24) and fertility (e.g the ancient Canaanite Goddess Asherah, the Egyptian Goddesses Hathor and Isis have been depicted as trees and symbolize fertility) (Lanfer, 2012 p36).

Image of Ancient Egyptian Goddess Hathor taken from p185 of Remler, P. (2010) Egyptian Mythology, Infobase Publishing
Image of Ancient Egyptian Goddess Hathor taken from p185 of Remler, P. (2010) Egyptian Mythology. New York: Infobase Publishing

Although some of these ideas may seem examples of ‘ancient’ beliefs – today, trees are preserved, respected and valued as they age, as well as playing an important factor in human existence.

With these points in mind, I felt that the use of a tree in my performance would be extremely relevant to the following ideas:

  • the tree is a symbol of immortality: whereas growing older is a sign of mortality: according to the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve lost their immortality when eating from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil;
  • the tree can symbolize fertility: a young woman is the epitome of fertility, whereas an older woman is seen as becoming less and less fertile as she ages;
  • an aging tree suggests strength and wisdom, and is valued and respected; in today’s media driven society, youth is suggested as being more valuable – beauty advertisements focus on the superficial – promising youthful results to women.

I feel these ideas could strengthen and support my concept and performance development further.

References:

Lanfer, P.T. (2012) Remembering Eden: The Reception History of Genesis 3: 22-24. New York: Oxford University Press

United Nations Environmental Programme (2013) Trees & Humanity [online]. Germany: UNEP. Available from: http://www.plant-for-the-planet-billiontreecampaign.org/GetInvolved/TreesAndHumanity.aspx (accessed on 24/11/2013)

Remler, P. (2010) Egyptian Mythology. New York: Infobase Publishing

 

Ideas: Blessing Ritual

Following my first experimentation, I felt that perhaps the actions were too literal to the concept.

I also felt that there needed to be more of a ceremonial nature to the performance as opposed to just doing something with no obvious beginning or end.

This led me to thinking about religious rituals and the symbolic, recognisable movements involved – particularly in Christianity – namely to bless oneself my marking out the cross on the body.

The crossing oneself gesture is carried out to bless oneself, others and objects or to begin and end ceremonies and prayers.  It also be done while naming the Trinity as follows:

  • use the right hand fingertips to touch the forehead and say “in the name of the Father;
  • touch the sternum and say “the Son”;
  • touch the left shoulder and say “and the holy”;
  • touch the right shoulder and say “Spirit.
Image of Crossing of Blessing Oneself in Christianity
Image of Crossing or Blessing Oneself in Christianity

After considering this, I thought about how I could develop my own symbolic gesture which would be in keeping with my ideas.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have researched and experimented with using the Yoni symbol – the sacred feminine symbol (the downward pointing symbol).  I felt the most simple and effective way of using this symbol would be to adjust the crossing of oneself as follows:

yoni

I feel that if I incorporated this into my performance in some way, it would perhaps make the audience recall the crossing oneself gesture, which in turn would indicate that the performance was implying a ceremonial ritual practice.

I am using the Yoni sign because my concept is predominately focused on the female and by marking out the Yoni symbol on myself, the audience will hopefully get an indication of this.

Also, in line with my concept, the gesture will be carried out in a clockwise direction to emphasize the idea of the cycle of life – of moving forward and therefore growing older.

I am however, unsure of whether I want to develop a mantra to speak while making the gesture.