Igor Ballyhoo’s Cyber Orthodox opened on Sunday May 11th, the first installation in the 4th round of the Linden Endowment for the Arts Full Sim Art series.
Born of the artist’s fascination with the amount of time and energy humans spend trying to convince the world at large that their way is the “right” way, hence the “orthodox” of the title, and his overall response to such attempts: that perhaps we cannot know, and that as such, it is better to keep an open mind to all possibilities, rather than in trying to constrain thinking.
The term “orthodox” implies religion; and there’s certainly there is much in the installation which does poke at religious dogma. However, it would not be fair to classify cyber Orthodox as “anti-religion”. While the symbolism in places is clear, there is much else commented upon here than may at first be apparent to the eye.
The setting for the installation is somewhat industrial; great steel scaffolds stand on two sides of the flooded region, supporting two mammoth curved walls made up of overlapping metal plates. At the base of these are piled the kind of concrete forms sometimes seen in parts of sea defences, designed to break-up the force of incoming waves.
To the north side of the region stand four large concrete piers, towers rising from their northern ends. Sculptures stand both at the ends of these piers and atop their towers, while steel frames supported thick glass form bridges between them, alternately connecting tower with tower, pier with pier, and thus to a further walkway at the foot of the high wall which forms a route around the installation.
The sculptures on the piers range from a piece called The Processing of Splitting Things, through Icarus, the all-seeing eye (with it’s religious and cult related meanings), the cross, a stylised mosquito, to the remnants of a great model of Titan. What do they mean? And what of the ornate cube, suspended between four great concrete piles between two of the piers, within which sits a strand of the double helix?
Out on the water are four more pieces. There’s another gigantic scaffold, the upper parts of which resemble the masts of the ship. This shares the space with a cross of transparent cubes, within which sits a chariot, as if surrounded by clouds, a pair of stylised winged horses, flames rising from them, the entire piece, at first suggestive of Apollo riding his chariot across the sky. Not far from this is an apple floating in the centre of an Esher-like staircase, and a group of slowly rotating minarets floating among clouds. Meaning here is layered.
To take one of these pieces, the apple within the Esher staircase, for example. At first look, it might be taken as a comment upon how the strictures of religious belief (represented by the apple and its association with humanity’s fall from grace). The adherence to the orthodox dogma of a religion can ultimately be circular in nature, appearing to go somewhere whilst ultimately going nowhere.
However, closer examination of the apple reveals it to be etched with a grid work of lines, suggestive of some form of digital mapping, perhaps indicative of the creation of the perfect apple. So is the apple perhaps a metaphor for our hunt for perfection (as modern society perhaps tries to impress upon us through advertising, etc.) in looks and form? The comment again being on the circular nature of such pursuits?
Thus, the various pieces within the installation appear open to more than one interpretation, something which itself underlines the central theme of the piece, that insistence upon orthodoxy is a negative presumption on our part which, in the face of all that surrounds us, tends to limit our understanding more than it gives us growth?
In this, three of the pieces might be seen as particularly poignant: Icarus, the sailing-ship like scaffold and that of chariot lifted aloft by winged horses. These seem to be encouraging us all to keep an open mind, to spread our wings and set our thinking free as we voyage the sea of infinite possibilities, considering all and rejecting none.
Which brings me back to The Process of Splitting Things and the cube housing the DNA strand. Both might be seen as reflections on the reality of life and how it has over the eons, through the simple act of division – the process of splitting things – gone from the most basic of single-celled organisms to the very richness and diversity of life as we know it today, as exemplified by the DNA strand.
Here, perhaps, stands another message which can be addressed to those seeking to impose the confines of their own orthodoxy on us all, a message perhaps best summarised in a quote from Rad Bradbury: Life was its own answer. Life was the propagation of more life and the living of as good a life as possible.
Cyber Orthodox will be open through until the end of May 2014.
- Cyber Orthodox SLurl (Rated: Moderate)