The Studio of Eric Valosin

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Centering into CyberSpace

Though I've been negligent in posting about it, I've been working on another series of drawings all the while, prompted by a call for works for a "works on paper" show.  I was wondering what I could do on paper that would have any conceptual integrity within the realm of my other work.  This is what I landed on (still a work in progress):

I decided to start a series of Mandalas that are conflated with a QR code (that square barcode thing you see everywhere and can scan with your phone).  Formally they share some interesting parallels, but moreover I was enamored with the idea that in trying to use the mandala as a meditative tool, one could only truly complete this meditation by pulling out their phone and scanning it!

I remember years ago my church cleverly instructed people to silence their phones during the service by including a note in the bulletin that said "If God is calling you, it won't be on your cell phone." Though I appreciate the wit, my inner postmodern theologian was appalled to think that God couldn't use a cell phone (especially if he could use movable type back in Gutenberg's day, or powerpoint in the age of the contemporary megachurch...).  Why should technology be quarantined into this artificial prison of secularity?  Are not the trees or breathtaking mountaintops also mediators for encountering God?  What then draws this line before digital mediation?

Anyway, I began by researching the mandala tradition and selected the Yamantaka Mandala as my general template.  There are many forms of mandala, but this one is essentially a cosmological diagram moving from our earthly realm at the outside edges toward nirvana at the center, with Yamantaka (the conqueror of death) represented symbolically.  So I began developing my own postmodern Christian cosmology, and appropriating/creating symbols to be used.  I've also taken quite adamantly to making its creation a spiritual and meditative process.  That can't be lost, I think, and still end up with anything with any power when viewed.  Granted I'm not making it out of sand and then throwing it to the wind upon completion, but I won't work on it without first closing my studio door, setting the lighting to a warm ambiance, playing something meditative (like Radiohead) on my computer, praying, and then picking up my pen.

The QR code at the center, hand drawn but entirely functional, directs the user to a random website, different every time it's scanned.  Conventionally, one would expect the grand "a-ha" moment at the center of the mandala.  This ironically anti-climactic output at first may seem a let down, but upon further inspection, it urges the viewer to consider the possiblity that any destination is just as valid as any other as an "a-ha" moment, since postmodernism rejects the idea that there is a sacred inside dualistically opposed to a secular outside.  Rather, everything is spiritual.  Furthermore, the outside of the mandala can no longer be sloughed off as undesirable since the viewer comes to see that the inside is actually the same as the outside, but just with a newly informed perspective.  On yet another level, it is only by embracing a journey into cyberspace that one can come to this realization.

yes, those are 1.5 mm squares in that grid
It's been quite a mental exercise trying to figure out visual analogies.  Many are blatantly playful and ironic, like the rainbow outer ring of the 5 elements that I replaced with Mac's spinning pinwheel of death, or the Vajra lightning bolt symbol that I replaced with the USB port symbol.  The masks guarding the 4 gates are a mash up of the all-seeing eye and the firewire symbol.  However, now, I'm really struggling to find the right symbols to complete it.  I've reached the crucial tipping point where I don't want to fall off into being entirely tongue-in-cheek, but I also don't want it to be completely dissimilar to the vocabulary I've built thus far...  Much to ponder as I continue working.

 I intend to do a series of these, with different QR codes.  Some may be more visually integrated (so that the whole mandala is the code), and others will be self referential (maybe the code takes you from one mandala to another, or helps complete or negate another existing mandala).

Well, I know that was a long post, but it's been several weeks of working on this without posting, so I thought it was about time!

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