Now open at Split Screen, curated by Dividni Shostakovich, is From Here On There Be Dragons by Alpha Auer. It stands as a celebration of these mythical, mystical beasts and much of what they represent both culturally and in terms of our own psyche.
Within an abstract environment of ornate towers lit from within and semi-transparent floors, sit the dragons of the title. From Alpha’s notes, they stand as guardians of self; that this strange structure is perhaps – if I might borrow from the current British television incarnation of a certain sleuth) – a “mind palace”, in which is hid the wonders and terrors contained within our deeper selves; countries of the mind through which we might only travel with care, and having accepted the challenge presented by the dragon standing before each one.
More than just a guardian, however, the dragon can be seen as a symbol of the challenges we might face in travelling those countries of the mind. As the protector of treasure, it stands as the guardian of Self; as a creature of power, harnessing a primal element – fire – it is a reflection of our own force of personality; it can also stands as a symbol of the fears we might want to overcome and of our own self-courage in doing so; and it may also reflect our baser emotions: anger, selfishness, temper.
But there is more here that introspection. As notes, this is a celebration of all that dragons can represent. Hence why the floor of this “mind palace” is inlaid with a leaf from Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (“Theatre of the World”), considered to be the first true modern atlas. It is, as Alpha notes, a reminder that dragons once represented the unknown and the need to take care in the world at large: that there were limits to our knowledge and understanding of all that lay around us.
Then there are the dragons themselves, a mixture of common western and eastern archetypes, all vibrant and alive in this ethereal setting. Within their claws many hold an egg; a further symbol of the dragon’s role in many creation mythologies. Of course, in some religions the dragon symbolises the End of Times. In fact there is hardly a culture in the world, east or west, north or south, where the dragon doesn’t resonate in some way.
Hence why Alpha notes, “Dragons have always been with us, although we have come to deny their existence and their potency.” Hence why, perhaps, she also includes an extract from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, allowing it to stand as an echo of the fact that dragons have always been with us, and always will be.
From Here On There Will Be Dragons will be open through until the end of January 2017, and you can also pick up one of alpha’s free avatars during a visit.
- From Here On There Be Dragons (Amra, rated: Moderate)