“Canticles of Ecstasy”; Paint, Farsi letters, Fountain, Mirror, Posters, Handwritten text, Post-its, 5000 Handmade glass tear drops, Table, Table clot with text burned into the fabric, 100 Lights, Computer control board; 17’H x 30’W x 40’L
“Canticles” consisted of five site-specific installations and two performances that together explored the experiences recorded by various mystics. The five installations, presented at Santa Clara University’s deSaisset Museum, were entitled “Search” in the Foyer, “Union” in Gallery One, “Awakening” in Gallery Two, “Longing” in Gallery Three, and “Discovery” on the Mezzanine.
The first performance, “Ecstasy” was presented in the Santa Clara Mission Church. It consisted of three cello players, located at different places throughout the Mission. The musicians were playing Bach´s Cello Suite #3 as a round with a 30 second interval between each player. The second performance, “Offering” took place outdoors, near the Chapel of Saint Francis of Assisi. It consisted of using birdseed to write selections from Saint Francis’s poem “Canticles of The Brother Sun”. The text remained for several days until it was consumed by birds.
“Search” responded to the architectural character of the Foyer and the Mezzanine areas of the museum. The pattern on the wall was created by painting very large Farsi letters in various washes of blue, and allowing the paint to drip naturally. These letters were words to a poem by an anonymous Sufi poet. The following is the English translation of this poem which was also presented in the stairwell, on the way to the Mezzanine and the “Discovery” portion of the work.
There is water in the well, yet we wander about complaining of thirst;
The Beloved is in the house, yet we roam around the world in our search.
As the viewer entered into the Foyer, in addition to the fountain, and the blue pattern on the walls, she could also see a glowing image of the ocean framed upstairs on the Mezzanine. When the viewer approached this image on the Mezzanine, she discovered that it was actually the reflection in a mirror of a stack of posters. The posters were available for the viewer to take with him and were printed with an image of the ocean and the text to a poem by Mahmud Shabistari.
Behold how this drop of sea-water
Has taken so many forms and names;
It has existed as mist, cloud, rain, dew and mud,
Then plant, animal, and perfect man;
And yet it was a drop of water
From which these things appeared
Even so this universe of reason, soul, heavens, and bodies
Was but a drop of water in its beginning and ending…
When a wave strikes it the world vanishes
And when the appointed time comes to heavens and stars,
Their being is lost in non-being.
As the viewer took a poster, he saw his own image reflected in the mirror.
The walls in the “Longing” room were painted blue, and 5000 teardrops made out of clear glass were glued to the walls. In the center of the room was a long table at the center which was covered by a muslin table cloth. The text of the following poem by Mechthild of Magdeburg, a German mystic of the Thirteenth Century was burned into the fabric.
O soaring eagle! darling lamb!
O glowing spark!
Set me on fire!
How long must I endure this thirst?
One hour is already too long,
A day is as a thousand years
When Thou art absent!
Should this continue for eight days
I would rather go down to Hell
Than That God should hide Himself
From the loving soul;
For that were anguish greater than human death,
Pain beyond all pain.
The nightingale must ever sing
Because its nature is love;
Whoso would take that from it
Would bring it death.
Ah! Mighty Lord! Look on my need!
“Awakening” presented a darkened room, with a single light bulb hanging at the center of the room which very slowly faded in and out. The room was completely dark when this light faded out and when it came on, it made visible shadow like patterns on the wall, as well as other lights hanging at various heights throughout the room. These lights, which at first appeared to be randomly placed, were programmed to chase, flashing on and off according to specific patterns. These patterns consisted of various straight and curved lines that were radiating from or rotating around the center of the room. The overall effect was similar to a spark of light traveling along a single line. In addition, the patterns were randomized, so that the viewer was unable to predict from which direction the light would next appear.
“Union”; Some 85 love poems were selected from the various mystical writings of many different spiritual traditions and presented as handwritten text on blue color post-its. The post-its were then placed on the wall in such a way as to create a pattern similar to those of ocean waves, so that what appeared from a distance to be lines of waves/ ocean were actually composed of single drops/ post-its. The text was created utilizing a font on the computer that was created by combining my wife´s handwriting (uppercase) with my own (lowercase).