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Mythopoetic Environment The 15 Cross-cultural Archetypes Interactive Design Theatre Design

   
 
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T H E   M Y T H O P O E T I C     E N V I R O N M E N T

The twelve contiguous sets comprising the World Memory Theatre are rich in multi-cultural color and texture, immersing the visitor in an eclectic environment of regional architecture and folk motifs. Display areas are defined by a variety of traditional arches, alcoves, niches, platforms and other design elements that together will give clear physical continuity to our walk-through ‘theater-in-the-round’.

Placed along walls or clearstanding, the cabinets, painted chests, decorative shelf-units and carved tables also serve to display immovable artifacts. These furnishings may be from Portugal or Persia, from Sri Lanka or Saudi Arabia, from the Malabar Coast or Morocco.

Traditional folkstyles will include wooden and tiled wainscoting from many regions, decorative cornices, fluted pillars, leaf-corbels and floral festoons; a cupola, a moon-window, a shoji screen or a fusuma. Original graphics consist of photographs, woodcuts, origami, watercolors, illuminated panels and miniatures.
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Widely sourced architectural elements and folk motifs, rich in texture and color, include wood and tiled wainscoting, fluted pillars, decorative cornices, leaf corbels, floral festoons, coffered ceilings and cupolas. Wall graphics consist of paintings, photographs, woodcuts, watercolors, fusumas, illuminated panels and miniatures. Following is a partial description of graphics, sculpture, masks, totems, icons, ritual objects, musical instruments, textiles, carpets and pottery and suggests the flow and juxtaposition of the art as it might be configured:

Sri Yantramandala from India, on small platforms, we see a Barong mask from Bali, a Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe and a Hopi kachina doll from Arizona. Hanging above a carved Kashmiri rosewood cabinet is a Quechua tapestry from the Bolivian Andes. On the cabinet we see a Russian icon of the Madonna and Child from Vladimir lit by a pair of Anatolian onyx candelabra from Bergama, Turkey.

In an alcove near these, on a platform skirted by a decorated N'debele low clay wall from Botswana, is a ceremonial pointing-stick from the Solomon Islands and a woven leather quiver with its hunting bow from the Congo. Close by along this wall is a pair of Chinese ceramic horses from Suzhou on either side of a Mahakala thangka from Tibet, seen in its illuminated niche. On this same wall a coffered wood doubledoor from Rajasthan opens onto a flowering English garden.

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A terra-cotta Aztec calendar from Mexico is seen above a painting of the great Australian monolith Uluru (Ayer's Rock). Alongside these, in it's own alcove, is a bronze dancing Shiva Nataraj from Tanjore. On the same wall, through an open 'moon-door', we see a traditional Chinese garden with a pavilion and small pond. To each side of the door is an inlaid mother-of-pearl Moorish chest from the Phillipines, on one is a stone sculpture of the Mayan Chacmool and on the other a Dogon fertility statue from Mali. Nearby is a framed Inuit lithograph from Labrador. Beneath this, on either side of a painted Finnish wedding chest, we see an Indian sitar and a colorful wicker-covered rain-stick from the Amazon. On the wedding chest is a Pan flute. A Thai standing golden Buddha from Ayuthya is on a platform near to these. To one side of the platform is an engraved Syrian brass tray from Aleppo, and on it a Judaic menorah from Safed, Israel.

On the other side we see an hexagonal Yemeni painted arabesque table and on it a Hindu temple conch from Kanchipuram, South India. Beyond these, a sliding shoji opens onto a traditional Japanese garden with a small waterfall.

Above the center of a Gothic stone arch is the foliate head of a Green Man. Looking through the arch, we see a tribal rug from Baluchistan covering a platform with Tuareg leather cushions from the Algerian Sahara spread on it. Above the platform we look through two Venetian stone arch windows onto a marble fountain at the center of a small Safavid-style Persian garden. On a carved olive-wood table beneath the window is a Uygur brass ewer from Chinese Turkestan, a Moroccan ceramic tagine from Fez and a pair of Andalusian pewter bridal goblets.

In addition to the major art pieces, the participant may also view the extensive collection of small and curious artifacts from many cultures; these might include a Japanese netsuke, an engraved Malay areca nut-cutter, or a pair of Chinese cloisonné Bao Ding balls, and each of these will link to a story. They are viewed by selecting and opening any of the traditional chests of drawers and decorated cupboards spread throughout the room. Moving across Persian, Afghan or Turkish carpets, around cabinetry and through arches, viewing and selecting artifacts, a dramatic visual poem continually unfolds as color and form, texture and density, light and shadow, create the ideal story-telling environment of both harmony and mystery.

 
 

Quote Lynda Sexson



F O L K   A R T   S E L E C T I O N

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B O R O B U D U R 

This introduction to Borobodur was written by Peter Oldfield for the UNESCO World Heritage Web Site. It is an example of a cross-culturally referenced archetype, and it is also an archaic form of memory theater.

The world’s largest Buddhist monument, in Central Java, mysteriously abandoned nearly a thousand years ago, offered a symbolic story-image of the Cosmic Mountain rising out of a Primordial Sea. Such stories have occurred again and again in many cultural settings, invariably representing the creation itself and also the relationship of human existence to it. These two fundamental ideas have figured in much of human history, be it as the Ziggurat (Pinnacle) of Sumerian Ur, or as the ritual adaptation of Mount Fuji in the Shinto tradition of Japan; as the mythopoetic Mount Meru of today’s India, or as the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, known as ‘China’s Navel’, and also as the Incan city of Cuzco in Peru, known as ‘the Navel of the World.’ In each of these, the same distinct function of the creative ‘Center of the World’ is implied.
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Borobudur is a gigantic stupa or reliquary in the form of a sacred mandala. It is therefore a symbol of unity and wholeness. The graphic form of the mandala served as a visual device for focusing the attention. Using a traditional symbology, it denoted metaphysical ideas and illustrated spiritual teachings. The stupa was laid out according to the traditional Buddhist canon of sacred proportions. As a mandala it symbolized the Axis Mundi in the form of a ‘world pillar,’ risen from the Waters of Chaos.

Conceived as an open-air 'illustrated text', it is a complex, multi-tiered structure in three architectural sections: the square base, the hemispheric inverted bowl and the crowning spire. These denoted the three grand divisions of the universe: the material world, the subtle world of thought forms, and the ‘causal’ world of cosmic or spiritual order.

The form of the reliquary was seen to unite magnitude and simplicity, while reflecting the fundamental conditions of human existence, that is to say, birth and death. This theme of mortality is, of course, common to the entire humanity, touching our deepest roots and our universal sense of ‘the human predicament'.
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It was the custom to walk around the monument, going from one level to the next, along the broad ambulatory galleries displaying sculptured tableaux from the Jataka, the stories of the Buddha’s former lives, together with many details of life in ancient Java. The pilgrims would arrive at last at the foot of the central spire, perhaps now prepared for an epiphany of the spirit.

This same circumambulatory approach to the center is to be found in the spiritual culture of many peoples: it was seen in the annual ceremonial dance practiced by the Aztecs around an axial sacred tree, the Xocotl, and the subsequent challenge for the young men to climb it. Another ‘indirect’ approach is found in the Christian maze, in Chartres Cathedral, with its slow movement from the visible outer to the invisible center, the Cosmic City, or ‘Jerusalem.’ A similar practice is seen in the periodic gathering of thousands of worshipers joining in prayerful movement around the Holy Ka’aba at Mecca. A pre-Christian ‘rite of spring’ can be seen to this day in villages throughout the British Isles at the annual dance around the Maypole.

As long as human communities have gathered together thoughtfully, for celebration or in reverence, symbolic rites similar to these have survived worldwide, in many forms.
   
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Jean Houston Quote

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