Archive for quarry

Bhagavad Gita

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by javedbabar

“Why can’t we do proper stories?” said Danny. He was still unhappy about Tao Te Ching being forced upon him last month.

Maybe his mind is totally rational, thought Sophie, and this stuff is too wacky for him. But there was more to it than that.

He said, “It’s another piece of religious propaganda. Myths I am okay with, as nobody treats them seriously. People think of them as meaningful stories, but don’t insist they are the word of God. I don’t believe in supernatural agencies, full stop.”

He is becoming more troublesome, thought Sophie. I could fire him but he’s such a great technician. I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

“Going back to your original point, Danny, this is a proper story. The Bhagavad Gita is part of one of the greatest stories ever told, the Mahabharata, which is ten times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. The Gita is its essence.”

There were regular battles between Danny and Sophie. She liked working with people who brought positive energy to tasks. Danny’s endless negativity was tiresome and it affected other crew members. To pull off multimedia spectaculars at QARY, the converted old quarry, she needed a tight team. There was no room for cowards and traitors.

Sophie wasn’t against conflict. It was a way of sizing up opposing views, integrating, and hopefully transcending them, to a higher form of thought. Could she do that with Danny? He would need convincing. It was her leadership test.

She said, “Gandhi called the Gita his spiritual dictionary. Within it he sought the answer to every difficult question, and its teachings inspired the Indian independence movement. Do you practice yoga? You don’t? Okay, what about other people? Ah, most of you do. The Gita contains the essence of yoga; it details Karma, the yoga of action, Bhakti, the yoga of love, and Jnana, the yoga of knowledge, and promotes a positive philosophy of life.”

Danny was grinning, so Sophie asked, “What’s up?”

“I thought you would try to overwhelm us with stuff like this, so I did my own research. The whole story is about a war. The prince, Arjuna, is caught up in a huge battle; his brothers are on one side, and his cousins, uncles, teachers and friends are on the other. He doesn’t want to fight at all, he wants to make peace, and if he can’t do that, he would rather die than kill others.

“But his charioteer, Krishna, tells him to fight. He says it is his duty to fight. He has to do the best he can, regardless of outcome. And the Gita speaks highly of the caste system, and about women as lowly. Why do you want us to promote these ideas?”

Sophie was furious. Danny was trying to derail her project. She said, “I am sure you know it is symbolic. Sure, a war analogy is problematic. It can be misinterpreted, but it can also be used to show the ethical and moral struggles of life.” She decided to cut short her sermon and practice Karma Yoga instead.

They ran through the production’s practical aspects and then discussed the climax, where Krishna reveals that he is the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual existence, and his cosmic form, Visvarupa, is unleashed, a theophany facing every direction.

Sophie said, “So we will need one thousand projectors to emit the radiance of a thousand suns, and one thousand mirrors to contain all beings in material existence. Danny you are in charge of procuring those.”

“But I won’t be able to get so many so quickly.”

Sophie gave him a hard look and said, “Well just do the best you can. That’s the message of the Gita.”

Tao Te Ching

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by javedbabar

“This is ridiculous,” said Danny. “Can you please make up your mind which comes first, Tao Ching or Te Ching?”

“Well, that is what we are discussing,” said Sophie. “It could be either.”

“Isn’t the name of the work Tao Te Ching? It has eighty-one chapters in a particular order, so why don’t we stick with that?”

The rest of the production crew looked at each other in general agreement, but also at Danny, annoyed. He didn’t know how to endear himself to people. Sophie was much better at that.

She said, “Because there is a school of thought that the first thirty seven chapters, Tao Ching, and the next forty four chapters, Te Ching, were reversed in the original text. The original may work better for dramatic purposes. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on this before scheduling the show.”

Tao Te Ching had been an unpopular choice from the beginning. It lacked the narrative structure of previous productions such as Osiris, Beowulf or Gilgamesh. It was a mystical work full of contradictions.

Sophie envisioned the show as an experiential rather than narrative production, and had in truth, forced it upon them. The QARY project was her baby. It was she who had initiated the conversion of the old quarry into a venue for multimedia productions. She would call the shots.

Danny persisted in being difficult. He said, “Look, it’s easy to do. I know how to do it. We are trying to create the essential, unfathomable process of the universe. Something dreamy and mysterious, strange and illuminating. It’s the feeling you get when you’re stoned. All we have to do is re-create that.”

The production crew sniggered and ribbed each other. Sophie wanted to smile but kept a straight face. “Thank you for that, Danny. Why don’t you bring a joint for everyone to the next meeting? One, two, three…ten, eleven, twelve. That’s twelve joints, okay?”

Danny said, “Okay,” weakly, and Sophie forgot all about it.

At the next meeting, Danny looked pleased with himself. He opened a golden silk pouch embroidered with a dragon, and produced twelve joints. Everyone cheered.

Sophie had given up smoking four years ago but still indulged in herbs. Once everyone had a joint in hand, she said, “First I will recap, and then let’s brainstorm.”

She reminded them that Tao Te Ching is filled with short deliberate statements and intentional contradictions. Memorable phrases are delivered, and readers forced to create their own reconciliations of the supposed contradictions.

Poets, painters, warriors and gardeners had used it as a source of inspiration for millennia. It had political advice for kings, and practical wisdom for regular people. It had a long textual history and a limitless variety of interpretations. What could the production team glean from the work? They examined a few phrases together.

“The Tao that can be told, is not the Eternal Tao.”

“Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding.”

“If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.”

“The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Danny. “I am not doing this production.”

Sophie smiled and said, “You have a choice to make Danny. There is doing by doing, which is effective work; there is doing by not doing, which means avoiding mistakes; there is not doing by doing, which means correcting errors. There is also not doing by not doing, which is unemployment. Which do you prefer?”

Percival

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie didn’t want to return to work after the flood. A hundred people had died at the old quarry at an event that she had produced. It was doubly bad because as well as Lucerne Valley’s Chief Producer she was also its Crisis Manager.

How could this have happened on her watch?

She had asked herself that question a hundred times, and always came to the same conclusion – because she had been overruled by her CEO. Knowing this had caused her to have a nervous breakdown, but what could she do against the instant, modern, social media spin machine?

The Authority had put their weight behind her boss and Sophie was made out to be the villain. It was said that despite the Flood Alert, she had permitted the Gilgamesh multimedia show to continue. It was highly irresponsible to have five hundred people underground whilst there was active flood risk. Sophie’s denials were in vain, and she was suspended with immediate effect. The local paper’s headline was “Soph-ictitious!”

A month later the official story changed. Sophie was now portrayed as a hero. They said that never for a moment did she forget her duty as Crisis Manager. She had managed to manually override systems and save the lives of four hundred people. She was reinstated on a higher pay scale. The paper now read “Soph-antastic!”

Sophie wished that she’d never had the idea of using the quarry, now branded QARY, for multimedia productions. The Authority had invested heavily in the project, and this commercial juggernaut was now unstoppable. Production meetings had continued in her absence for the next scheduled production, the earliest version of the Grail quest, that of Percival. Most of the preparations were complete, but she had always been the hub of operations and they needed her on site. That explained her reinstatement.

Sophie asked to meet her CEO, who was, for some reason, wearing big sunglasses indoors. She must have been on the martinis last night. Sophie said, “The script is okay, but I need to change the set projections.” She was wary of this woman now and wanted to keep the meeting brief.

Her boss said, “Go on, I am listening.”

“We should establish a green theme throughout the show. From the forest where Percival is raised by his mother, far away from knightly culture, to his arrival at Camelot and defeat of the Green Knight and taking of his armour, to his meeting the Fisher King at a pool in the woods, the colour green is essential. Even when he witnesses the strange procession in the castle, the Grail gives off a greenish glow.”

Her boss took off her sunglasses. She had two shiners, both fresh and green.

Should Sophie ask her about them? She decided not to. This woman had screwed her over royally. Who cared about her bloody eyes.

Sophie continued, “And when the castle disappears, Percival finds himself again in the forest. When he gets a second chance to see the Grail, he asks the question, and…”

Sophie stopped suddenly. Of course, the question. Percival had been instructed at Camelot that it was wrong to talk too much, and not to ask personal questions. He was taught to be a man of culture rather than one of nature. So he hadn’t asked the question in his heart; he hadn’t asked the Fisher King about the cause of his pain, and the suffering that cursed his kingdom.

Was Sophie making the same mistake?

She asked her CEO, “What happened to your eyes? Are you okay?”

Her boss began to cry. She told Sophie that she had been beaten by her drunken husband. She said he did it “now and then”. This time he was annoyed by her screaming during nightmares. She had suffered from them since being told to lie about the hundred people dying in the flood. They hadn’t really. It was all a stunt to reduce demand for QARY productions. The Authority wanted to change it into a corporate venue. She was so sorry for making Sophie look like a villain, she’d had no choice.

Sophie was stunned. By asking the question, she had discovered the answer that she needed to hear. She hadn’t killed anyone.

Beowulf

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2012 by javedbabar

Osiris was a commercial success, though not a romantic one. Things ended badly for Isis, who lost her beloved husband Osiris, and for Sophie, whose love interest Ahmad disappeared. Maybe the shows at QARY were too real, thought Sophie, and affecting material reality. What a crazy thought.

As the next production Sophie selected Beowulf, which also had an underworld theme. To be precise it was an underwater cave, but that was near enough.

“I’ve seen monsters here,” said Albert, the quarry’s last manager before mining operations ceased. “There were days when you couldn’t bear to go in for fear of what lurked in the shadows. You tasted the dust, darkness made you see things, and rocks made you hear things. The quarry seemed alive to us and sometimes when we went too far, she punished us. Many good men were lost over the years, about one every season. They were our sacrifices to the mine. I’m glad you’ve brought the quarry back to life, but you better be careful with her.”

They gathered for a pre-production meeting. Sophie said, “Okay, we’ve pretty much decided on layout. We’ll make the first chamber Heorot, the mead hall, the second chamber Grendel’s mother’s lair, and the third chamber the Dragon’s cave.” Everyone nodded. “Instead of a linear narrative, this time we’re trying something less structured.” They nodded again. “Each chamber has a monster which can move between the stages, so raising the drama.”

This was their fourth production together, and the team had gelled. They had a good understanding of each other’s preferences, relative weaknesses and strengths.

Within four weeks the production was ready to go. The first three nights were sold out in advance. QARY had become a big money spinner for Lucerne.

The first chamber was stunning. Its bare rock walls, floors, ceiling and pillars were filled with projections. They seemed covered by rich tapestries and paintings, and hung with swords, shields and armour. The gems on the weapons glittered like stars.

Feasting Dane warriors were slaughtered by gruesome Grendel. He crushed their skulls and ribs and feasted on their brains and hearts. Brave Geats came from across the waters to help them; their King, Beowulf, killed the monster by ripping off his arm.

The second chamber used mood lighting only. It was the underwater lair of Grendel’s mother, who had continued to slaughter warriors as revenge for her son’s death. The epic battle between her and Beowulf caused splashes of red to multiply till they filled the whole chamber.

The third chamber also used mood lighting. After Beowulf’s victory in Denmark, he had returned to Geatland and ruled for fifty years. One day a dragon guarding a hoard of gold was awoken, and laid waste the land. Beowulf’s final heroic act was to rid his kingdom of this cruel dragon, and whilst doing so he was injured and died.

During the performance, groups of people hid in chambers and moved around. There was indeed no separation between mythic and historical, and real and imagined events. These people were fighting modern monsters – drugs, alcohol, glue, lust, greed, anger and many other addictions. The dark corners of QARY were the perfect place to indulge them all.

Osiris

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2012 by javedbabar

It was the second season of the old quarry’s projection project. The first season’s experiment had gone so well that The Authority had changed its zoning from community use to commercial operation and approved a $10 million investment. Sophie’s business plan stated the operation would break even in Year Five.

She now had one hundred digital projectors, fibre-optic cabling, dynamic event lighting and a ten-man production crew. The project also had a new name, QARY, and an associated logo with the tails of the Q and Y joining. It reminded Sophie of a Viking boat.

They could now stage more ambitious shows, such as the myths and legends she had dreamed of since childhood. Sophie had somehow known this would happen. She had fainted upon first entering the quarry, and from that moment onwards the real and imagined seemed intertwined.

A resident of Lucerne came to see her. Hello handsome, she thought.

“I am Ahmad, I come from Egypt,” he said. “Before the revolution I worked as an archaeologist. I would like to be involved in the QARY project, and as the first show of this season may I suggest Osiris?”

“I was thinking of Percival,” she said. “I have always liked the Grail stories.”

His eyes lit up. “Me too, but Osiris is God of the Underworld. He is a perfect fit for QARY.”

“That’s a good point. Do you want to join the production team?”

They spent the next week fleshing out the story. Many versions of the Osiris myth are scattered through the ages. He is God of the Dead, a merciful judge, an underworld agency granting the power of life, responsible for sprouting vegetation and the Nile’s fertile flood. Better stay on his good side, thought Sophie. We don’t want a repeat of the Lucerne Valley’s 2004 inundation.

Sophie and Ahmad collected texts, made recordings, and conducted negotiations to license images. The rest of the production team worked on structure and flow. It took a month to pull it all together. Sophie held her breath on the first night, and also Ahmad’s hand. They were a team now, both on and off set.

The crowd smiled as the good god Osiris travelled the world spreading maat, righteous order. They tried to warn him that he was about to be tricked by his evil brother Set, and shouted, “Don’t get into the chest!” They cried when the chest was sealed and thrown into the Nile, the watery mood enhanced by blue lighting. There were cheers when Isis found the coffin stuck in a tree in Byblos, and quiet during the corpse’s mummification, enhanced by overwhelming white light.

Osiris’s magical reanimation led to many  “Ah’s” and “Wow’s”. They grinned during Horus’s miraculous conception, and someone shouted, “That stiff is really stiff!”

Isis stored Osiris’s body in a swamp. The audience was horrified when Set found the body and chopped it into fourteen pieces, and red light poured down the walls. There were smiles again when his body parts were gathered and buried, and he became an underworld god.

The production was flawless. Sophie breathed out.

The second week, someone in the crowd became hysterical. His screams drowned out the commentary for a while. The next morning the cleaner found chunks of meat scattered. Bloody kids hunting again, he thought, leaving meat out for the wolves.

Sophie wondered where Ahmad had gone. Maybe he didn’t like the way the show had turned out. Or maybe he didn’t like how she was turning out. She wondered if he had managed to have that profit-share meeting with her CEO. Surely that would be a brutal encounter.

Old Masters

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was relieved that the It’s Mine! show was a success. Her first project at the old quarry could have gone wrong, with people turning their noses up at the local eyesore with a history of accidents, pollution, corruption, industrial action and financial trouble. Instead they welcomed its reopening as the return of an old friend, albeit a very artsy friend.

Rather than praise Sophie, her CEO said, “The show was good, but it didn’t bring any money into the village. My name was attached to the project. It would have been nice to have commercial success.”

“But the site was approved for community use only. It wasn’t meant to make a profit.” God, her CEO was a bitch. Why was she making a fuss for no reason?

“Well, we need to produce another show, this time to make money.”

Sophie began working on it right away. The last one had taken three months to arrange, and this one should be quicker.

The production process proved an uphill struggle though. She couldn’t get anybody interested in a second community event.

The notion of projecting images across the vast, bare spaces of an old quarry should excite people. It was hardly a run of the mill event. But the artists involved argued about the order of the work shown, copyright fees, and signing waivers.

The Director of Lucerne Arts council, Eric Yahoo, said, “We are artists, not used to success. Fame and adoration are difficult issues for people seeing themselves as outsiders. We are now seen as valuable members of the community, and what self-respecting artist wants that?”

Sophie called the art critic of the New City Sun. He said, “The Lucerne Set is now old news. The old quarry has been done before, and the public wants something new.”

Wasn’t an old thing a good thing? thought Sophie. Her grandma always said, “Old is gold”, but then again she did have self-interest.

But good things are timeless, like the world’s great stories that her grandma told her at bedtime. Myths like Osiris, Beowulf, Gilgamesh and Percival, classic novels like Ulysses, and ancient texts like Tao Te Ching and Bhagavad Gita. Yes they have all been “done before”, but you can do them again, and again, and again. What would the art critic say to those?

Such productions take time to arrange, and myths require scale. She would like to get digital projectors, each with an individual server, add high-end fibre-optic technology, and computer-controlled dynamic event lighting. The impressionistic evocations and intriguing relief effects would be enhanced by audio-punch and video-precision. That would all cost money. Right now she must work with what she had.

Eric Yahoo managed to source ten more slide projectors. One came with a carousel full of slides of Old Masters’ paintings.

Sophie sat with Albert, the old quarry’s manager, viewing the slides. They saw Leonardo’s virgins, Michelangelo’s nubile boys, Raphael’s coronations and weddings, Titian’s flaying and mauling, Bosch’s hell on earth, El Greco’s disrobing, Constable’s horses and carts, Turner’s mystical seascapes, and Blake’s heavenly visions.

Sophie and Albert looked at each other. He said, “Old is gold.”

The Old Masters show drew crowds daily, and most productions were sold out. The Old Masters were innovators, trying new colours, perspectives, textures and forms. They would have appreciated the latest technology. Their paintings’ multiple viewpoints, bright colours, sharp details, and superhuman scale made them seem hyper-real.

Local Artists

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Sophie was given a month off after fainting in the old quarry. Why this had happened, she couldn’t say. She fainted maybe once a year, usually following a trauma such as a blood test, tooth extraction, or session of heavy drinking. Never just like that though, and her heart stopping was scary to think about.

Maybe the old quarry’s manager, Albert, had overreacted. Maybe her heart’s beating and her breathing were fine, and his old miner’s ears just couldn’t hear. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to make a drama out of a crisis. It must really have happened.

Her dreams of every kind of art continued. Blue and gold paintings, violin solos, white-masked dancers, poetry, stories, dramas, sculptures, celebrations, parties, holy rituals.

Were these inspirations or delusions? She yearned to visit the old quarry, but was scared to. What if she fainted again?

During her month off, an answer came to her. The quarry was a place of pain, where Mother Earth had been butchered. Her body had, piece by piece, been ripped out and removed, and once the demand for rock was exhausted, the quarry was abandoned like an old crone.

Her vision had been one of endless life, pouring forth, unstoppable. What if this place of pain could become a place of healing? She continued working on her status report for the old quarry.

“Sophie, what a nice surprise,” said her CEO, seeing her back in the office.

“I have the report.”

“But you’ve only just got back. Don’t you need more time?”

Sophie said it was complete. She shared her vision of using the vast, bare walls, floors, ceilings, and pillars of the quarry as a projection area. Bringing the stone to life, like a miracle, and using it to show every kind of art.

“That sounds very interesting. Leave it with me. I will take a look.”

Sophie imagined that would be the last she would hear of the project, but a week later her CEO called her in again. “Good news, Sophie. Your plan has been approved, at least on a test basis. I had to put my name on it for the project to acquire traction, but we both know it’s yours really. As recognition of that you can manage the project.”

The quarry project was approved for community use only. Sophie contacted Eric Yahoo, Director of the Lucerne Arts Council, who asked for a week to fathom a plan. He responded with a fund-raising proposal including carefully costed lighting, logistics, security, production charges and vendors’ fees. The concept revolved around ten reconditioned slide projectors showing sixty images each per hour, filling the quarry with pictures.

Local artists offered their works freely, which were loosely fitted together into the It’s Mine! Festival, a humorous critique of materialistic existence. Their paintings, music, dance, poetry, stories, drama, sculpture, celebrations, parties and rituals were combined, creating an overwhelming spectacle.

A critic from the New City Sun christened these artists the Lucerne Set. He loved their clay figurines, urban tapestries, unmade beds, pickled watermelons, moose dung, monkey graffiti, blood heads, and twinned personae.

It was a diluted version of Sophie’s vision, and seeing it manifested made her cry. From this old quarry she had mined rich treasure.