by Patrick Healy
The cave in which captive onlookers watch images projected from behind them on a wall, by puppeteers who carry puppets along a parapet, from which shadows are cast by an anterior fire, is a primary platonic story (mythos). Because they are chained prisoners, only able to look directly in front, they cannot realize the deception: the shadows are not the puppets. One prisoner escapes and is blinded by the sunlight above ground. The blinded escapee slowly recovers sight and confirms the nature of the previous flickering, delusional shadow-play, and the new reality of truth and light. The deepest reality of the new visible is that it is inexpressible. The newly emancipated prisoner is compelled to return and enlighten the others of the discovery of the truth of Forms, and the illusions of the phenomenal world in which they are held and incarcerated.
We might ask today: can it be shown: the real? Such a question directly informs the work of Mario Botta, the recent recipient of the Ratzinger prize, with Pope Francis remarking during the award ceremony, that sacred buildings were necessary to combat “dehumanizing urbanism”. Botta has dedicated himself to creating sacred space whilst acknowledging architecture as a community act; insisting, however, that the autonomous patrimony of architecture still derives from forces, forms, function, the rational inheritance, and the irrational subjectivity of the architect’s vision.
With Botta the push back against the ‘disenchanted world’ (Max Weber) and the ‘loss of aura’ (Walter Benjamin) takes place through an insistence on the ethical and not aesthetic dimension in the conception of a sacred space. His idea of a dialectical play between territory, and the artificial project, also points to a culture/nature dichotomy. The truth of volumes -given in lucid geometry, the Platonic solids of the Timaeus- and voids that open the experience of the sublime.
There is a reality of luminous play that marries exterior and interior, surface and depth: the external light, and internal distribution, is the key to the organization of space. It requires great humility to learn how to enact the tradition without descent into pastiche, and how fundamental forms can marshal deep experiences in layers: where the press of building communicates earth and world, and tenders shelter and reverence for the world, wresting from the dark earth its great force and grace of giving, through culture: cultivation. As in the Vedas, the sacred will seek to sing in stone and water, in sun and land, in food and drink, in animal and man. Ritual finds the means and expression for a theology built in stone, or diverse materials, the Vedic hymns chant the resonance of all that exists.
These documentaries and films search for the new cultural consonance, as dwelling, sacredness, the numinous atmosphere of what is wholly other, the subtle attuning of territory and objects, the relation of culture and nature, the power of transformation through earthly love to reach the very invisible and unsayable which prompts all wonder and is philosophy not as a point in the past but an an awesome Urspring, literally a leap out of origin, a release of the essential.
Mario Botta. The Space Beyond
Friday Oct 11, 21:00
Saturday Oct 12, 19:00