So you’ve seen Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man – the naked guy in a circle with his arms and legs spread at a couple different angles – and you’ve read Dan Brown’s novel and you know that the human body follows the ‘golden ratio’ of 1.618 (Phi – the same ratio that pervades nature). If you haven’t, this means, for example, that if you divide the length of your upper arm into the length of your lower arm and hand you get 1.618. Divide your upper body into your lower body – 1.618. Everything on your face is in this same proportion. Indeed, the ratio of 1.618 is found throughout the basic human body.
Vitruvius was an ancient Roman engineer who recognized the proportions of the human body and suggested that architecture would be more appealing and pleasing if it followed these human proportions. Leonardo’s drawing was an attempt to demonstrate Vitruvius’ principles.
In Vessel by Rachel Garrard at Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert (curated by Mitra Khorasheh), Garrard uses her own bodily proportions to create geometric, cruciform structures often contrasted with gentle and swirling abstract backgrounds. Did you know that almost every Catholic Church is also ‘cruciform’? Also the cruciform shape is, obviously, an abstract form of the human body.
So when Garrard calls her body ‘a vessel’ I think there are parallels to church architecture. You enter a church and amazing things happen. The body of Christ is (theoretically) present in the Eucharist, a ritual is performed and spiritual union with the Trinity is accomplished. Within this proscribed structure of the human architecture amazing things can also occur. So the body as vessel implies that there is an interface between outer and inner reality – but, I think she is also asking to what extent our inner reality can reorder and perfect itself. Is our inner world just a response to stimulation (as science would have us believe) or is there an inherent factor or capacity within us to determine our own responses to stimuli and to what extent can that capacity be used?
For instance, I’m looking at an image of Garrard’s Blue III on the floor in front of me, and it looks like a robot floating in a sensory deprivation tank. I think this is what Garrard is shooting for. When you plunge within the architecture, then you can do the inner spiritual presto-changeo that lifts you above all the nonsense. You become capable of real love, real forgiveness, real joy. (I hope to hell I get there some day.) Garrard seems to be saying that we need to recognize both the divorce between the outer and inner worlds and the possible union of the architecture with the amazing changes possible within the architecture.
When I saw the show the images themselves just struck me deep down inside as meaningful. I would invite you to drop by as well and check out this amazing show. Garrard is also doing periodic performances, so please check with the gallery’s web site for when those will occur.