'Consciousness' A Personal Interpretation of The Mayan Long Count Calendar ; a countdown to December 21st/22nd 2012 . The Journey so far..............................................................................
The Mayan Long Count Calendar is how the Mayans marked the unfolding of time over a period of just over 5125 solar years. It is this long count that is said to be ending around December 21st 2012. It is my goal to recreate and in effect re-interpret this long count calendar by reproducing 13 rows of 20 thrown vessels (260 in total), each made in close and tight proximity to the next and representing roughly 19.7 years . I have also purposely altered the height and volume of the pieces within a Fibonacci code of the numbers 13 and 20. An example of a Fibonacci sequence of numbers would be: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 etc. The next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it. The Fibonacci number sequences can be found everywhere in nature, from the leaf arrangements in plants, to the pattern of the florets of a flower, the bracts of a pinecone, or the scales of a pineapple. The Fibonacci numbers are therefore applicable to the growth of every living thing, including a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, and even all of mankind. The 13 rows of this piece are thus made up of 8 rows of vessels of one height and 5 rows of vessels of a different height, perhaps suggesting a sense of gravitational weight; of the 20 vessels in each row, 10 are of a certain volume, 6 of another and 4 of another still, a pattern that is reproduced throughout the whole work in order to represent a sense of rhythm. The aim is to give a visual reference to one of the main themes of the piece, which is a sense of time getting faster and faster as we approach the last day of the calendar. All 13 rows will sit on top of each other to form a block or three-dimensional canvas. This will be a wall-mounted installation approximately 300cm high by 320cm wide. A shelving unit made up of 13 mdf spray-painted and wall-mounted shelves will be commissioned to facilitate the whole visual effect.
Many of the apocalyptic interpretations of the Mayan Calendar have gained infamy. However, I have personally always been fascinated and intrigued by the calendar as a vehicle to explore the notion of cycles, their beginnings and their ends. As I write this statement on the 17th November 2011, the manifestations of a world in crisis or transition are everywhere to be seen. Crippling debt in Europe threatens to blow the European political project apart (as well as unsustainable levels of debt in the USA and Japan), while the new emerging economies of China, India and Brazil in particular are readjusting the balance and creating a new world order. The MPs expenses scandal and outrage over bankers' bonuses in the UK specifically, as well as the London riots which spread to other parts of the country, are perhaps a reflection of the malaise and double standards observed in society. We are also witnessing before our eyes the crumbling of the Murdoch media empire, which in the opinion of many people has contributed to the corruption of our political system by applying excessive pressure and influence. The anti-corruption protests in India led by Anna Hazare are further evidence of dissatisfaction, while the global unemployment for which the young are bearing the brunt may have been a catalyst for the Arab Spring Revolution. The global anti-capitalism movement (such as the Spanish Indignados and those protesting in the City of London and on Wall Street) has re-ignited the belief that political and business infrastructures should put people before profit and the environment before growth and consumerism.
Albert Einstein famously remarked: 'You can't solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created the problem'. I believe our leaders, both business, political and religious ( as evidenced by the suppression of women and gay people, the recent furore over St. Pauls reaction to the protesters camped outside their building, and the catholic church's exemption of guilt at the disclosure of child sexual abuse scandals which took place under their care over decades in many parts of the world), have failed because their consciousness has remained in the old paradigm. Individuals all around me, from friends and family to strangers and acquaintances I might happen upon quite randomly , readily describe themselves as currently being in transition. While their metamorphosis may be out of personal crisis like redundancy , relationship breakups or the death of a loved one, these episodes in our personal lives force us nonetheless to re-evaluate our value systems and priorities. I have also spoken to many people with high-flying and stressful jobs who readily admit to using their high salaries to buy themselves things as a means of compensation (In fact any compulsion is usually a sign that we are burying feelings deep down we are not ready to address ), but who ultimately feel exhausted and unfulfilled by this lifestyle. I adhere to a vision of the world where people find value and passion in the work that they do and are therefore responsible with regard to the level of their own consumption and behaviour. This is not necessarily in conflict with pleasure and appreciation. If I were to define the word 'consciousness', I would say that it is a seed that grows within those who submit to their intuition and inner voices; it is self-determining in character. When I was growing up, the prevalent wisdom at the time was that you studied hard and made sensible choices based on your ability to have a career path which would earn you good money and enable a lifestyle of comfort, stability and security. Today, however, such logic cannot easily be applied. Thankfully I followed my heart and went down the unknown path. When I look back over the last 17 years (I graduated in 1994), I can see that all my choices were about forging a lifestyle for myself that was inexpensive to run so that I could pursue my passion, which is clay. However my crisis came about 5 years ago when I lost faith in the work I was making. I felt that I had reached a dead end with the one-off thrown vessels. I had refined the process while simultaneously backing myself into a corner. My work since could be seen as an interesting visual diary of somebody growing within their own consciousness. Ironically, it is the vessel work itself that brings the story back full circle because I have used it as a vehicle to reproduce this Mayan Long Count time piece. I am making a statement with my labour and my skills to signify a mental shift. You could argue that my work before my crisis point was unconscious. I think my journey to becoming more conscious was about becoming more self aware and thus taking responsibility for and control of my life without blaming others for the things that had gone wrong (not an easy thing to do!). I was fulfilling a need to bring a sense of meaning and purpose into my artistic practice. My last body of work ('Todo Sobre Mi Padre', All about My Father) was a personal journey looking at aspects of my identity I had never been comfortable with before. Specifically, I was charting my father's various migration routes throughout his life in order to make sense of where I belonged. In the pursuit of that story, I also recognised that what so often divides us is a sense of tribe which is at the root of many ongoing disputes over ever-dwindling resources in a world where population growth has according to the UN now reached 7 billion (in 1900 there were roughly 1.608 billion people on the planet).
Ultimately this piece was made out of a sense of hope and optimism for the future at a time when the world's tectonic plates seem to be shifting metaphorically and quite literally (witness the recent natural disasters in Haiti, Chile, China, New Zealand, Japan and Turkey). I believe that the changes forced upon us will further stimulate progress and evolution for humanity out of a renewed sense of empathy, collaboration and love. In that sense, the new discoveries within the sciences and technologies as well as social networking sites are further enabling a sense of a global mind which has no tolerance for despotic business practices, institutions and governments. Consciousness for me is the unity of intelligence, wisdom and evolution which brings about solutions to long-term problems; seeing that individuals can make a difference through their own actions and courage. Consciousness is an awareness that every single living thing is related not just to the earth but also the cosmos, and acts like a self-regulating organism in its own right. One of the values I most admire within indigenous communities around the world is their sense of living within the cycles and rhythms of nature, how they develop their intuition and marry their spiritual and physical lives into one. This is what I strive for. Of the past 5125 years, look how much has happened just within the last 100 years of human civilisation. As we approach the last day in the calendar, I do not fear catastrophe but see an opportunity to pause and reflect on the way forward, to awaken fully from our sleep.
'The symbols used by Amerindians-dots, zigzags, scales, spirals-record and manifest observations about the contingency and fragility that characterises everything that exists in creation: Floods and draughts, rainy seasons and dry seasons, disappearing and reappearing stars in the sky, growth and decay, death and rebirth, the rise and fall of rulers and cities. These symbols were abstractions of such natural forces and rhythms, but also contained an overall message concerning the absolute contingency that affects everything that is.'
'The focus was on the longterm. Thus, the world view of Amerindians was acutely aware of time. Time was conceived as flowing like Water, which not only takes an infinite number of shapes but also comes in cycles.'
Taken from the book What if Latin America Ruled the World by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera.