Did Art create Religion?
The logistics of the ritual dismantling the sculpture have been preoccupied me when waking on many mornings over the last 5 months.
Of course the jigsaw pieces will come at the last moment.
Well, my thinking is becoming clearer, with just 4 days until the first of the preview days. My excuse is that I have been preoccupied with how to make it, making it, how to ship it, shipping it, and assembling it (which is going well, thanks for asking).
I know what I'm going to do: dismantle, hand out to the auidence, then fill the flutes. Just like I have in the past, just on a huge scale 10 times larger than the Dublin Biennale. But in what way, and how will we handle a huge crowd? Particularly as the curatorial team are concerned that the crowd will just become a mob and pull down the sculpture.
Should I make a speech at the start, or just quietly start doing it?
In order to create a social ritual, I need to know the social and physical context that I am assembling and presenting the work. When I discuss social, I don't just include the viewing public, as the audience. I mean my peers and the people who help me assemble and present the work.
These are what I'm going to call the "frame makers"; curatorial and marketing staff. The curators are important as gate keepers, in that they have selected myself and the other couple of hundred artists exhibiting from thousands of other available artists. They "write the program" for the preview and Opening evenings visual entertainment. Then there is the marketeers, who decide who and how many they would like to invite. With the small size of the rooms and building here in Venice, and the potentially huge audience (yesterday I counted 100 people walked past the Palazzo Bembo in less than 2 minutes, so imagine this x 8 hours, x 7 days, x 6 months), the GAA Foundation staff estimates of 300,000 visitors over all their venues, is not unreasonable.
So, who to target for the preview and Opening? Now I look at ideas of organisations, as opposed individuals. The principal objective is for the organisation to survive, to further it's objectives, to provide secure employment for staff so that they concentrate on making this happen. The objective has to be bigger than one individual, something we can all believe in and want to happen.
This is were I degress, and unpack what I was thinking was I woke up this morning. When we moved from a hunter/gather to a farming society, we created surpluses to feed, shelter and cloth ourself. This also created a surplus of time, which we filled up with religious and recreational activities. We socialised and interacted in larger and larger groups. (In these days, it's now called the internet and social media.) To reduced friction and conflict, some sort of shared values had to be developed that guided individual and group interaction and action. Consideration of others, empathy, generosity to one's group members, and to others, became the core rules. A belief in a higher purpose, gods, god, an ideal society (heaven) became a unifying belief. These seem to be remarkable consistent across different societies and times.
These briefs may have motivated people to build Newgrange over 5200 years ago. This was about 500 years before Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, which also appeared to be, according to more recent thinking, voluntary built over many year.
Estimates for Maeshowe is one of the largest tombs in Orkney, Scotland, range from 39,000 man-hours to 100,000 hours to create it.
A recording of their debates would be useful now!
Aside: I estimate that I and my helpers spent about 1,900 hours making, packing and assembling this sculpture.
So in this context my concern was nothing compared what they went through. But it does give me an appreciation of the social complexity that may be created from prolonged collaborative activity. In some way, societies do not create these large works, rather, the creation of these large works actually would have created society, and our beliefs.
And does this give insight into the art making process? I think so, in that by creating anything physically, it grounds the discussions, and makes transparent, at least to the participants, their values and beliefs.
It may actually create communal beliefs, even religious beliefs.