An Elephant's Trunk

 

a cross-cultural multimedia installation on the religious and the profane

 

Idea, concept, paintings, production and coordination by Cora de Lang,

in cooperation with the photographers

- Mariolino Castellazzo, Argentina

- Karsten Thielker, Germany

- S. Paul, India

- Olumuyiwa Olamide Osifuye, Nigeria

- José Martínez Veréa, Mexico

 

Technical support by José Martínez Veréa and

Pilar Vazquez de Anda, Mexico

 

This international media project, which draws its origins from the work of five photographers from four continents, approaches the web-like connotations of the Religious and the Profane in the countries of Argentina, Germany, Nigeria, India and Mexico through an artistic compilation, employing many media on different bases: photography on paper and cloth, on stone and sand, on praying wheels and wooden boards – over painted by the artist, linked and separated through media in four exhibition rooms. Spirals suggesting the evolution of mankind, praying flags and wheels, a huge Madonna, grass with religious symbols and – eventually – the original photographs on paper, are all linked in a spirit of peace in spite of the differences, revealing the common substrate of man’s longing for an eternal quest.

Unity in Diversity

 

«An elephant's trunk» is an allegation to the Indian parabola of the five blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Since they could not see the animal in its totality, they described the parts they touched. When speaking out what they felt, they all took for granted, that their experience would reflect the entire truth. This multimedia installation proposes to the visitor to perceive reality as a composition of many truths, which in turn may only reveal the complete picture. Diversity is beauty and richness. Its individual aspects, however, often appear contradictory, and unperceivable within the complex reality. The famous Indian allegory beautifully captures the spirit of Korah's installation.

 

Her crosscultural multimedia project virtually reveals the many truths of an endlessly diverse reality. However persuasive modern media and industrial complexes are promoting identical copies as a symbol of progress, spreading them through sophisticated production and distribution channels, they are bound to fail. Why? Because each moment in time and space is unique for each individual, is nontransferable and non repeatable, and therefore often ungraspable, mysterious in its very nature; but often common, meaningless, insignificant and worldly at the same time. Our whole life appears, as Korah demonstrates with «An elephant's trunk», in a way comparable to a magnetic field, with the religious and the profane as its poles. The artistic poetry she has developed to capture this motion and suspension in human existence, reminds us of the «magical realism» we know from the literature of Gabriel Garcia Marquéz. Her life is a long pilgrimage through some of the world's cultural hotspots: immersing herself fully, refreshing and constantly regenerating herself through them. From each, she has resurfaced, extracting her own essence. With this multimedia installation, she finally concocts her own «solution»: an unexpected blend of down-to-earth yet spiritual artifacts, all revealing their singular irrelevance yet importance, provoking us to see our world with new eyes, or rather a new world with our eyes...

 

Thomas Imboden, CrossCulture

 

Introduction by the Artist

 

This project provokes the viewers to discover the «common in the alien», to look at distant and different «others», in order to find themselves. Around the world, taxis exhibit their profane altars: symbols, talismans, fetishes. In India for instance they display statues of gods, surrounded by incense sticks; in Arabia, Koran verses adorn their interior, and in the Christian world it is the cross, often accompanied by an adored sportsman or singer idol. In Africa a fetish, such as a voodoo puppet, takes their place, and in Mexico it is the Virgin, together with masks, witchcraft utensils, or popular symbols of the death cult. You will find altars everywhere: in corners of homes, in offices, in workshops and in marketplaces, on streets and squares – wherever humans leave traces of their eternal quest. The photographs of José Martínez Veréa have powerfully sharpened my memories of life and work in the four continents, to which fate has carried me: Argentina, Germany, India, Nigeria, Mexico, and now Sri Lanka. While observing and absorbing these contrasting cultural environments, it occurred to me that I should look beyond their «make-ups», lift their masks, uncover their secrets, and discover their unifying traits. Thus, an idea grew inside me: to collect photographs of those profane altars from all «my» countries, and to allow a confluence of images, which would eventually proliferate beyond the sheer picturesque or exotic flair, allowing me to intuitively shift my focus beyond the quantity of the diverse, towards a synthesis of unity, of a common humane identity. I spun a thread through all these surprises of apparent differences, which are in their essence similarities, and hence I carried them from the domain of «the far-away» or «alien» to that of the «close» and «intimate». I started to establish a connection between these images by modifying them with my own painting, thereby alienating them from their context and simultaneously joining them together artistically. I went further by applying them with a variety of techniques to various media. This developed into a multimedia installation, when I added sounds, movements and finally a «space» surrounding the objects. Five photographers from four continents mirror the world, not necessarily pretending to deliver «the truth» through their work, but to register phenomena beyond superficial and obvious patterns, such as a stone, a cloth, a texture or a room that appears familiar to us, but in reality remains incognito.  What these photographers have in common is their perception of the world as the «raw material», which cannot be simply mirrored, but should be reflected with an indirect allusion, again to another reality, a world which becomes even more real in the mirror, through the conceptual axes inherent in photography.  My intervention, creating a new point of departure with brush and colors, in this chain of copies and of copying, further transforms the photographers' mirrors into a new «reality».

 

Cora de Lang, Colombo, Sri Lanka 2006                   

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