Sacred Geometry and Infinite Code
Exhibition link: Pattern XI-∞
Being the basic element of visual art, pattern also goes beyond the scope of visual arts. Many famous experiments such as how sound waves of different frequencies alter the vibration patterns of sand or water endeavor to reveal the essential function of pattern – a visual record of the occurrence and development of life energy. Bi Rongrong’s most recent solo exhibition at the A Thousand Plateaus Art Space was entitled Pattern XI-∞. The symbol “∞”, in a sense, indicates both evolution and going back to the origin; or in other words, the stream, intersection and integration of consciousness. If you manage to look at the exhibition from the perspective that goes beyond arts, probably you will be able to see it as a journey that would lead you to trace back to and decode source consciousness. And to some extent, Pattern XVII – A Piece of Stone Wall – Painting 2 could be seen as both the prelude and the center of the story.
On the square-shaped canvas, several identical yellow flowers with six petals burst into bloom in an organically interconnected manner. Moreover, they are not willing to stay quietly inside the canvas. Instead, they want to grow wild as if they were genuine plants. And, with the consent of the artist, they manage to expand their presence by crawling their way onto the surrounding walls and floor. The flower-shaped yellow-and-white graffiti on the walls as well as the carpet with same patterns on the floor, despite their different texture, collectively create a half-close and half-open visual space. Some obscure sewing threads are looming within the “space”, wandering through the hallucinatingly bright-colored field. Why does the story start from the flowers? It’s because the artist possesses no pre-set assumptions about their origin. She bumped into these “very oriental” ornamental patterns on various architectures when she travelled in Europe and the Middle East and was deeply touched. Afterwards, she integrated them into her practice in a highly intuitive manner. To her, the pattern was far more than just being “ornamental”. It derived from the “orient” that was at the very depth of European cultural and geographical perspective. It had a long history, so long that it almost symbolized the sacred geometry of Eurasian civilization – “Flower of Life”. “Flower of Life” was firstly found in the Temple of Osiris in Abydos, one of the most important archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, which dated its history back to six-thousand years ago. And according to some other historical recordings, the emergence of the pattern could be further dated back to over ten-thousand years ago. Constituted of several evenly-distributed and overlapping circles, the crossed edges formed shapes of petals. The six petals were symmetrical, with their tips forming a hexagon. Throughout the history, mathematicians, philosophers, architects and artists became aware of the perfect proportion represented in the pattern. The “Flower of Life” was deemed as the eyes of Ra, the ancient Egyptian deity of the sun; and apart from ancient Egypt, its appearance was also found in architectures in Phoenicia, Assyria, ancient India, the Middle East and medieval Europe. It’s worth mentioning that Bi Rongrong chooses to cover a large area of this work with the dazzling golden yellow. In ancient Egypt, the role of Ra was quite similar to the Solar Plexus Chakra in Hinduism. They were both represented in golden yellow, and were believed to be in charge of power, form, vision, fire and the core area of life. The synchronicity in terms of time and space was accented thanks to the appearance of “Flower of Life”. Bi Rongrong once took a picture of a label she saw at a museum in Berlin since it featured a restored map with the pattern of “Flower of Life”. But as the texts were in German, the artist failed to get any information about the site shown in the restored map. Later we translated the texts on the label: German archaeologist Walter Andrae and his team directed the excavation of the ancient Assyrian capital of Assur in early 20th century. During the process, a palace built during the Parthian period with numerous patterns of “Flower of Life” was found. Coincidently, at the day I translated the texts, I also looked into information about a piece of antique carpet. And in a picture from the British Museum, I noticed a piece of construction debris of BC 700 found in ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. It was covered with patterns of the “Flower of Life” and in the caption it was called “stone carpet”. It’s clear that during the period of ancient Mesopotamia, people saw ornamental patterns on the surface of architecture as a kind of fabric carpet. “Sacred geometry” was needed to be imprinted on virtually all dimensions of our dwellings. In other words, it became a kind of spatial weaving of the energy field. Similarly, Bi Rongrong’s work integrates painting, fabric, carpet, architectural space (i.e. the façade, floor tiles, doors and windows) and even digital screens together, endeavoring to re-create the source space and time embedded in her mind where sacred geometry has left a strong imprint.
The “Flower of Life” bloomed in ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia, and made its way further to other regions and religious around the world, including Turkey’s Ephesus, Israel’s Galilee and Masada, medieval Italy, the Grand Mosque of Córdoba in Spain, the Golden Temple in the city of Amritsar and the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of India, and even the Forbidden City in China. Leonardo Da Vinci also looked into the mathematical structure of the “Flower of Life”. He made many drawings and eventually discovered the form of Fibonacci Sequence and isomorphic proportion of Vitruvian Man. Moreover, Da Vinci also drew some geometric images deriving from the “Flower of Life”, including the “seed of life” (which consisted of seven identical and overlapping circles and the arcs of the seven circles constituted a “Flower of Life” in the middle of the pattern), “egg of life”, “tree of life”, “fruit of life” and the Metatron’s Cube. The Metatron’s Cube, in particular, could be represented in the form of stellate tetrahedron, hexahedron, octahedron, dodecahedron or icosahedron. These five geometric shapes, collectively, were also known as “Plato’s Polyhedra”. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the shape of Merkaba, an alternative form of the “Flower of Life”, was exactly the Metatron’s Cube. The extremely rich and profound information and implications contained within it have been re-discovered and re-valued by contemporary western new-century theories and combined with modern knowledge within the fields of cell, gene and interstellar study. Furthermore, new interpretation has been imbued, which has greatly extended its original implication. The newly-emerging meaning produced by the newly-combined language and new technologies, like the cyberspace created during the computerized process of weaving carpet as shown in the two-channel video Patter XI – Brickbat of Laforet – Video 1, represents a brand new coding language of classic weaving methods. After all, human civilization is, in nature, a kind of coding system. Art and mathematical algorithm, in this regard, accomplish the same task within the system. In the above-mentioned video, each stich technique of weaving is visually re-processed into some mysterious visual signs and color blocks. In this way, the weaving process behind the patterns is graphicalized again in the form of an alternative kind of pattern. As written earlier, the core of pattern is in fact a visual record of the occurence and development of the form of life energy. Likewise, in Pattern XV – Carpet with Floral Lattice – Painting 2, the artist pixelates the botanic patterns on Persian rugs. For instance, she manages to abstract some typical patterns found on carpets from central Asia, such as the image of pomegranate, enabling viewers to access the halo of energy emitted from traditional oriental patterns from a more geometric and cyber perspective. And in Pattern XXI – Untitled – Collage 1, linens and blended fabrics decorated with ancient floral and geometric patterns are rolled and collaged together, with fluorescent green stitching lines along the rim. The fluorescent green lines here embody the coordinate lines of the artist’s individualized spiritual language. This green color and the computer-processed colors shown in the two-channel video share something in common: they both give out a kind of “brightly fluorescent” texture and the fluorescent luster is then applied onto the hanging carpets and fabrics collaged by those ancient oriental patterns. The artist attempts to use the fine and fluorescent modern “suture” to explore, discover, stitch, collage and build a meta-space that transcends time and space within this exhibition. The meta-space is neither mythological, archaeological, nor contemporary. It features crystal structure that will perpetually grow internally. Like a spore or the fractal element of plant, the meta-space is the most fundamental model that can accommodate the potential of infinite growth.
Compared with her previous works, a great number of plant patterns are featured in this exhibition. Apart from the “Flower of Life”, there are also the floral scrolls in the Window series and the honeysuckles in the Laforet’s Bricks series. From 7000 BC to 1000 BC, in areas such as the ancient Egypt, the Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and east Mediterranean, migration and cultural sharing of different tribes led to close connections in the art forms created in these areas. In the meantime, mythology, art history and geography, collectively, made contributions to further enrich the migration history of the “family”. Take the patterns of floral scrolls and honeysuckles in the exhibition for instance. They share something in common with the patterns of palm (which features the shape of petals of honeysuckles and the structure of date palm), date palm and grape. According to some researchers of patterns, date palm patterns in particular, share the same origin with the “Flower of Life” in terms of geometric composition. Geographically speaking, “Flower of Life” is the geometric abstraction of the vibration of source consciousness; however, it also vividly and intuitively corresponds to real plants such as lilies, chrysanthemums and Egyptian water lilies. The life of plants, in nature, includes repetition, fractal, mathematical structure, abstraction and sacredness; but in the meantime, it is also fleshly, tactile, distinctive, vividly alive and has an ultimate end to reach. For instance, the stop motion animation Pattern XII – Window – Video 1features the process of a lump of fabric with patterns of floral scrolls managing to liberate itself from the state of entanglement. Here comes the part that we will end the story with things that go beyond all the external criteria and references. Patterns are liberated from the previous definition of merely being two-dimensional ornamental elements. Moreover, they even manage to get back to history and then escape from it again. They manage to break through the state of disarray and unrecognition and to make their way into our eyes and the overlapping area between our perception and the source in an ideally free manner. Like the adventures and encounters that have inspired the artist to start this journey of art, sacred geometry not only contains source code in its image, but when and where we see it and how to weave it into its inner integrity is also a part of the infinite code. And what the artist does is to represent the process of coding in the most intuitive way.
Pattern XI-∞: Bi Rongrong Solo Exhibition
A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, Chengdu
June 29 – August 21, 2019
方形油画布上，黄色六瓣花朵呈共联的复制形态展开，它们甚至不愿意规矩地待在画框内，如同认为自己是真正的植物一般，借由艺术家的决策，继续扩大着自己的体型与覆盖面积，它们延展到画作周围的墙体、地面之上，黄白花朵形的墙绘涂鸦和地毯以不同的材料肌理竖立起一个半围合的视觉房间，一些真假莫辨的缝纫线时而隐晦时而显露，游走在这个明晃致幻的场域里。为何故事要从这朵花进入，恰恰是因为艺术家对它的来源没有任何事先的概念，只是因为在游历欧洲和中东期间几次撞见建筑物上有这种她认为“极富东方色彩”的装饰，继而被深深打动，这是一次全然投身于直觉的创作。这一纹样并非普通的装饰图案，它的确来自于欧洲文化地理视角上最源头的那个“东方”，而且它的确非常古老，是几乎涵盖了之后整个欧亚文明的一种重要的神圣几何（Sacred Geometry）——“生命之花”（Flower of Life）。生命之花最早被发现于古埃及阿拜多斯遗址的奥西里斯神庙之中，距今已有六千多年历史，但据一些史料记载，该图样的出现至少可追溯到公元前一万多年。它是一种由多个均匀分布并重叠的圆组成，其交叉的边缘会形成花瓣的形状，但均为六瓣对称，尖端围成六边形，历代数学家、哲学家、建筑师和艺术家都知道这一图样形式的完美比例。生命之花在古埃及被视为太阳神“拉”的眼睛，不但在古埃及，腓尼基、亚述、印度、亚洲、中东和中世纪的建筑艺术中也到处都有生命之花的影子，值得一提的是，毕蓉蓉在这件作品中使用了大面积的令人晕眩的金黄色，古埃及的拉的性质十分接近于印度教中太阳神经丛脉轮，两者都是金黄色，都掌管力量、形式、视觉、火以及生命的核心区域。时空上的共时性因生命之花的显现而增强，毕蓉蓉拍摄过一张柏林博物馆内一处展签的照片，照片里的遗址复原图上有生命之花的纹样，但这张展签是德文书写的，当时艺术家无从得知这座遗址具体的信息。后来我们翻译了它的内容：德国考古学者W•安德烈和他考古队在20世纪初发掘的亚述最古老的阿苏尔遗址，遗址中有一处帕提亚时期建造的宫殿，院门上就饰有大量的生命之花的纹样。巧合的是，当天我正在另一处查阅某张古董地毯的资料，在一张大英博物馆的照片中发现了一块公元前七世纪的亚述尼尼微古城的建筑残片，上面布满了同样的生命之花装饰，图释中还称之为“石毯”（stone carpet），可见两河流域时期人们在对待地毯织物和空间建筑的装饰理念是完全一致的，神圣几何被需要赋予人栖居之处的所有维度上，这是一种能量场的空间织造术，而毕蓉蓉也将绘画、织物、地毯、建筑空间（立面、地砖与门窗）、甚至是屏幕等媒介材料编织在一起，试图营造出那个以神圣几何的方式强烈印迹在她内在经验中的源头时空。
生命之花从古埃及和两河流域为中心朝四周丰盛地蔓生而开，土耳其的以弗所、以色列的加加利和马萨达的犹太教会、中世纪的意大利、西班牙科尔多瓦大清真寺、印度的阿姆利则金庙、阿旃陀佛教石窟群，甚至是中国的紫禁城，到处都有生命之花图样的出现，它几乎贯穿了所有不同宗教和地区。列奥纳多·达·芬奇也曾研究过生命之花的数理结构，他画过许多相关的手稿，并在其中发现了斐波那契函数的形态，以及与维特鲁威模型同构的比例。达芬奇还绘制了生命之花的派生几何图像，比如生命种子（由七个圆形均匀环叠组成，边线内部形成的图案就是一朵生命之花的单体形象）、生命蛋、生命树、生命果实以及麦太昶立方体。麦太昶立方体可以是星形四面体、六面体、八面体、十二面体或二十面体，这五种几何形状也被统称为“ 柏拉图多面体”，古埃及神话体系中另一个生命之花的派生物梅尔卡巴的形状就是麦太昶立方体，其形态所蕴含的丰富信息被当代西方的新世纪学说重新拾起，并与细胞、基因与星际领域的知识相结合，加以新的释义扩展——这种新语言与新技术增殖出的意义空间，犹如此次展览上的《纹样 XI——Laforet的砖片——视频1》的双屏录像中电脑编织地毯过程所营造出的赛博空间，一种对于古典编织法的全新编码语言呈现——人类的文明无非就是一种编码术，艺术或数学算法在这一层面上完成的是同一项工作。在这件录像中，每一种机织的针法被再度视觉处理成神秘的视觉符号与色块带，于是，图样背后的编织的运作过程被再次纹样图示化了，一切如同开篇所提，纹样的内核其实是生命能量发生过程的可视化投影记录。同样的，在《纹样XV——花格地毯——绘画2》中，艺术家将波斯地毯上的植物花纹进行粗略的像素化处理，诸如对石榴这种典型的、具体的中亚地毯纹样的抽象化，使得观者以更为、几何的、赛博的视角去进入传统东方纹样的能量之晕中。而《纹样XXI——未命名——拼贴1》中，古老的花卉或几何纹样的亚麻布与混纺布被卷曲着拼贴在一起，周边以荧光绿缝线衬底——荧光绿色的缝线此处是艺术家独特个人精神语言的坐标线，这一色泽与双屏录象中的电脑色展现出某种一致的“明快荧亮”的时代质地，这样的荧光色泽又被用于由那些东方古老纹样拼贴而成的挂毯与垂吊的织物之上。艺术家在这场展览中正试图用自己这根纤细荧光的现代缝线，游荡、捡拾、编织、涂抹、缝合、拼贴并建造起这样一个超时空的元空间，它既非属神或考古的，又非冷凝在当下的，元空间是一个内在永恒处于生长态的晶体结构，它类似于一个孢子或是植物的分型元素，它是可容纳无限生长性的最简约模型。