What fascinates me about ritual is its primal essence, reaching way back to a culture’s birth. They may be highly decorative or stylized versions of cherished concepts. These inflexible portraits of a culture are meant to endure the tests of time.
– Haveit Neox, Golden Light
With these words Haveit Neox introduces Golden Light, a small-scale installation that opened on March 19th, 2022 within the Ribong Artspace 2336, curated by San (Santoshima). While the scale might be comparatively small, this is an installation that offers a personally stylised and richly layered exploration of the subject of ritual, with symbolism that may well reach beyond what might first be apparent.
The core installation takes the form of a large bowl set beneath a dome of stars (whilst not expressly required, I set my viewer’s time to Midnight as the stars suggest – like many rituals – this is one undertaken after the Sun has set). The walls of the bowl bear four large paintings whilst its floor is largely given over to a vast pit, dark and foreboding and crossed by a single tightrope. It is a setting that can be best summed up using Haveit’s own words:
Draped chairs of giants stand among the plant life. The plants have yet to bloom; the seats have yet to be occupied. The landscape is portrayed entirely in 2D, except for the tightrope apparatus suspended over the deep pit. A supplicant brings a pinecone offering from the real world. Perched precariously on a tightrope over a deep, dark pit, perfect balance must be maintained for the ceremony to succeed.
– Haveit Neox, Golden Light
All of this is plain from looking at the installation, marking it as a statement on ritual; however, it is what is presented rather than what is going on that brings forth the richness of the piece.
Take how the tightrope is held across the pit by a pair of stags. Whilst perhaps superseded in some respects by the likes of bears, boars, great cats, raptors etc., as the totemic animals of deities across Indo-European cultures and civilisations, the stag nevertheless was of importance to the Scythians and the Kurgans, associated with strength and fertility; concepts that were carried westward, embraced by paganism. Similarly, across the Atlantic, the stag was seen as totemic of numerous tribal gods, and a harbinger of fertility. Additionally, white stags have oft been seen as symbolic of protectors watching over the land, the tribe, etc., and thus venerated.
Similarly, the pine cone, with its natural Fibonacci sequence has, throughout multiple civilisations from Ancient Egypt and Assyria on one side of the world, the Mayans and Incas on the other, and all the way through to modern paganism, been seen as both a symbol of fertility and of enlightenment; And I need hardly mention the physical and symbolic importance of trees to many cultures. Meanwhile the four paintings are placed at the cardinal points, so-called because they are the chief – or true – directions, whilst the reference to gold enfolds the idea of purity (of both ritual and self).
Thus, by including these specific elements, Haveit encompasses symbolise that have played a role in humanity’s cultures down civilisations down through the halls of time – and which continue to be a part of our cultures, rituals and religions to this day, even if we don’t always recognise them as such.
For example, we are all familiar with the role of trees within the Christian religions: humanity’s separation from God started with a tree (Eden’s tree of the knowledge of good and evil), with the path to redemption marked by a tree (the cross upon which Christ was nailed). However, what might not be so well recognised is that both the pine cone and the stag also have their places in Christian religions; the stag for example, is seen as representative of Christ, standing in opposition to the snake’s totem in representing Satan, with the white stag symbolic of God’s protection.
This continuing need for (/appropriation of) rituals and symbols down the ages is further marked by the fact the supplicant within the installation carries not an actual pine cone across the tightrope, but the image of a pine cone. It is symbolic of all that has happened down the ages, and which still happens in various ways and forms today, allowing it to stand as a symbol for future ritual, whatever form it might take (and in this, I was stuck by the way the paint itself resembles a tablet, something that has both ancient and modern connotations for ritual!).
Simple in style, complex is interpretation, Golden Light is another wonderful mix of art, metaphor and meaning from Haveit.
- Golden Light, Ribong Artspace 2336 (Mieum, rated General)