Friday, February 17, 2012

FINAL: Neo-Huacas, Series

I had many ideas for the final, which made it difficult for me to find a direction for this project.  I chose to create altars and shrines out in nature, and thus making temporal sites of pilgrimage.  My initial thoughts were of the altarpieces and street shrines in Latin America.  However, I was aware that I needed to convey a more universal and elemental essence of spirituality, one that would identify as human and not as religion. 
In Overlay, Lippard talks of huacas (shines) that are along ceques (processional ways) found in the former Incan Empire.  These huacas can be stones, hills, caves, trees, springs, or "anything derived personally or communally sacred."  Most are natural and ritual sites that were considered extremely beautiful or impacting.
Huaca of the Moon, GOOGLE IMAGES

The Nazca Lines, created by a civilization that existed more than 500 years before the Incas, are thought to have inspired the creation of the ceques in Cuzco.  Just like the Nazca Lines are believed to be connected to water sources, so are the ceques.  These ceques end in huacas that mark underground water sources.  In addition, they served spiritual, social, and cultural purposes.  They were walked as processional paths to reach the sacred shrines along their way.
Man walking the Nazca Lines, GOOGLE IMAGES
Earth art borrows from ancient civilizations, so I too decided to borrow an idea from one. On a cold Sunday, I took a survey of Maymont Park and nearby trails to see if I could find inspiration in potential locations for my own huacas.  I wanted to look for sites that were in one way or another interesting and beautiful to me, and that I felt emanated a spiritual calmness.  I wanted to discover them and mark them with a minimalistic symbol: the three-dot equilateral triangle.


The three-dot symbol, suggestive of the equilateral triangle, is actually very ingrained in our collective memory.  For one, it is widely associated with conspiracy, mystery, and secret organizations, such as the all-seeing eye, the Egyptian pyramids, and other Freemason symbols.  It can also suggest extra-terrestrial existence.  On my third huaca, a passer-by commented to her friends, “Look at that, the aliens might have done it!”  This too recalls the three pennies I once found in the shape of an equilateral triangle in a public restroom.  Upon noticing them on the floor, I immediately associated them with the occult, enigma, and magic ritual.  At that moment I was almost scared, weary of what they meant, who positioned them that way, and why they were at the foot of the toilet.  
All-seeing Eye, GOOLE IMAGES
Pyramids in Egypt, GOOGLE IMAGES
The symbol’s spiritual, religious, and supernatural associations are also strong.  It symbolizes many deities.  In Christianity, it is the Holy Trinity.  In Hinduism, it is Trimurti, made up of the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  In Taoism there also exists a Taoist Trinity, the three Pure Ones.  Triple goddesses and other triple deities also exist in Wiccan and pagan religions.  
The Three Pure Ones, GOOGLE IMAGES
The equilateral triangle also commonly symbolizes certain values, like harmony, unity, and balance. It is also a mathematical gem, as is the number three.   Sets of three are also generally part of nature.  There is the notion of three human aspects: mind, body, and soul.  There are also three primary colors and three sub-atomic particles that make up the atom (the building block of all matter).  This shows that “three” is a common factor in our visual and tangible world.
Primary Colors of Light: Blue, Red, Green, GOOGLE IMAGES
Basic Model of Atom, GOOGLE IMAGES
For these reasons, I decided to repeat the use of the three-dot symbol in establishing the huacas, the natural "temples", that I would find on my Sunday journey.  The repetition of this symbol would tie my series of shrines together and give these otherwise unnoticed natural areas a touch of mystery to announce their innate sacredness with a visual.

A tree root was what first caught my attention..  The earth around this tree root was gone, exposing the roots until they entered the earth again.  It was beautiful and sight-worthy, so I dug three equidistant dot into the side of the dirt surrounding the tree root.  

Continuing the search, I found a majestic rock and wondered how I would mark it.  Then I saw the potential of the moss that covered it.  Engraving into the moss functioned much like Nazca Lines creation process: the first layer had to be taken off to leave a the lighter surface below visible. With this new huaca I reinforced the dots with the outline of a triangle.

The next site I discovered was an even bigger stone, with an even bigger mantle of moss.  I gave it the sign, this time with a circle around the tri-dot.  There was a crack in the rock that split into three seemingly equal paths, in which I centered another mark.  Even though the rock itself, dressed in green, was a beautiful sight, I returned to it later and covered it all with repeating symbols.  Because of this, it made a greater impact on the passer-by.  It was about this third huaca that I heard the alien comment.


Continuing, I came about an area greened with clovers instead of grass.  The clovers were cool and pleasant to the touch.  The air was calming and refreshing.  I just had to include it as a huaca.  I used stones to make my mark there.  The top formation was a triangle formed by mini-cairns of three rocks height.  the lower form of stones is a line with the purpose of pointing to the above triangle formation.  I was not thinking of anything religious while doing this, just the essence of the act itself: of laying stones down and caring about their placement on the earth.  After making it, I realized that I had subconsciously made a monstrance, which is a vessel used to display the Eucharist for adoration.

A few days later, one of the cairns fell over, so I had to fix it.

So far on my first journey, I found a tree root in a niche of dirt, two rocks, and a fresh-scented tree-scape.  On my second and third processions, I established three more huacas, all of which involved depth and negative space.  The first was the home of some animal,  just a hole dug under a set of rocks.  I created a path of stones leading out from the hole, to the middle of a rounder section surrounded by three stones.  The second was a crater-like imprint left by a dried up creek.  I used concentric imagery for this site by using three flowers, each encircled by stones, and those encircled by a bigger stone circle that followed the circumference of the crater.  The third was the negative space and darkness created by some stones on the side of a cliff.  I simply placed a large rock into the negative space and place there equidistant berries on it, which were held in place by pebble circles. These new huacas were inspired by ideas I had of nature as Mother, since I associated the “voids” I found with the life-giving powers of the womb.




Looking back at these processes, I see that somehow my own religion has shaped my motions and action.  Already I talked about the coincidence of the monstrance.  This form is also visible in the mark made for the huaca of the animal hole.  Upon further thought, the tri-dot symbol itself is also tied with the religious ritual of crossing oneself in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (called the Sign of the Cross).  I perform this action when I pray, when I go to church, when I receive a blessing from a priest, in confession, etc.  It is ingrained in me to the point that it is almost a reflex.  I subconsciously took this ritual hand motion and transferred it to the natural sites, signing them with my symbol as if I were baptising them.

Consciously though, a sense of awe was what propelled me to declare all of the aforementioned natural sites as huacas.  I believe that this awe is proof of our natural spirituality, one that is not dependent on ritual, myth, or religion. We find this spirituality when we appreciate the beauty in nature, the curiosities in the natural formations around us, and wonder about their origin and ours.  However, we find our society in nature less and less.  How could we take note of the sacredness in nature? That is were my symbol came into play.  Hopefully, the effect of the symbol helps the passer-by reconnect to their ancient self, our ancient selves having been more spiritual than us.  In this sense I too become a sort of shaman artist as discussed in class, drawing on the ancient memories of the human race through portraying the feeling of simple awe with a symbol.

Works Cited
Carr, Tarini. “The Nazca Lines: A Mystery on the Plains.” Archaeology
    Online, n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2012.
Lippard, Lucy. Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory. New York: Pantheon
    Books, 1983. Print.