Taking a vision quest with Black Elk

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Black Elk, LEA1

Livio Oak Korobase returns to the LEA on Wednesday September 17th, with a new installation entitled Black Elk at LEA 1. The installation draws on the life and writings of Black Elk, a medicine man (wičháša wakȟáŋ) of the Oglala Lakota,  born in 1863, and author of The Sacred Pipe and Black Elk Speaks, a book responsible for sparking a renewal of interest in Native religions, based as it is on Black Elk’s experiences and those of the Lakota people.

Livio takes for the central theme of the installation, Black Elk’s great vision, which came to him as a boy of nine, while ill. In the vision, he was visited by the Wakinyan, Thunder Beings, who took him with them to the centre of the earth, and to the central mountain of the world, the axis of the six sacred directions, watched over by the Grandfathers.

This was the first of many vision he had throughout his life, and which, when he related it to the medicine men of his tribe when 17 years of age, established him as a great medicine man himself.

Black Elk, LEA1
Black Elk, LEA1

Symbolism is strong in the work at LEA 1 – as you might expect, given the focus – with horses, birds, bison, fish and more featuring large (literally as well as figuratively), together with more sacred characters. Around and among these hang quotes from Black Elk, powerful statements on who we are, where we come from and what we are a part of – that we are all, really, one nation; joined together and sharing hopes, loves, fears, life – and death. These words were formed through an early life marked by war and conflict and events such as Wounded Knee.

Given this, it should come as no surprise to see a quote by John F. Kennedy sitting alongside those of Black Elk. The quote is from Kennedy’s June 1963 Commencement Address at American University, given in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event which came so close to visiting a global calamity on the world, and time when Kennedy, whose early adult years were also shaped by war and conflict, resolved that East and East must find the ways and means to live and work together as peoples of a single world. In this, they offer something of a latter-day reflection of Black Elk’s words.

Black Elk, LEA1
Black Elk, LEA1

When visiting, I would recommend that you use the region’s default windlight setting – used to take the images seen here – as this will allow you to experience the installation to the fullest, the use of reflective surfaces is very well executed, and gives a further depth to the piece. Also, if you don’t feel like walking everywhere, there is a horse rezzer, so you can ride around the pieces in the installation – and don’t miss the two teleport arrows at the arrival point to get you to the more elevated parts of the installation; and do keep an eye out for Livio’s signature Creature!

All told, a thought-provoking piece, beautifully executed and well worth visiting.

Black Elk, LEA1
Black Elk, LEA1

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5 thoughts on “Taking a vision quest with Black Elk

    1. 🙂 Dunno about that – I’m WAY behind in other posts! But I’m not going to miss out on spending an hour or two exploring and contemplating your work :).

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