Papillon Geometry, Religion and Raves

These beautiful triakis tetrahedrons, octahedrons, hexagonal pyramids and other wonderfully pure shapes are covered in collected butterfly wings. The artist is Paris/Berlin based Gaëlle Boucand and the works are on display in the Dynasty exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo.

The collection is called Merkaba and is a reference to ancient Jewish mysticism that has been taken up in new age movements. The stellar tetrahedron (below) is a common representation of Mer (light) Ka (spirit) Ba (body) as the spirit/body surrounded by counter-rotating fields of light.

The series is related to Boucand's Partis pour Croatan, a series of nine videos exploring raver culture, literally, Going to Croatia. Accompanying the video series is a quote:

« This seems to be at issue for our contemporary tribes. They don’t care about the goal to reach, about the economical, political or social project to achieve. They prefer « entering » the pleasure of being together, « entering » the intensity of the present, « entering » the pleasure of this world as it is.»

Michel Maffesoli in « The time of the tribes: the decline of individualism in mass society », La Table Ronde, 2000.

Merkaba offers new age practises a similar idea of spiritual transportation. The Hebrew word, meaning chariot, stems from the verb to ride. It is a promise of new realities and modes of experience. The rave is an interesting social phenomenon designed to bubble pure physical release but whose sentiments are similarly religious. I wonder about our attention to physicality as a culture and whether the spiritual seekers, now imbued with a respect for science rather than religion, find a more pure experience in a seratonin high than in spiritual ecstasy. And if so, dare we damn this culture, the product of hundreds of years of enlightened worshipping of science and mind? In saying this, I think of the fits of tongues and tremors in evangelical churches, more so poignant when the chariot is a 10 year old child at one of the famed Jesus Camps. It seems more earth-bound and less false to take a tablet whose chemical makeup will change your own, though religious ecstasy will change similar chemical structures in your brain. The difference is belief and perhaps I am more comfortable with knowing scientifically what I am 'knowing' spiritually and physically.

video still from Jesus Camp

Recently, Australian artist Angelica Mesiti won the 58th Blake Prize for Spiritual and Religious Art with her work Rapture, depicting close-up, slowed-down ravers from under a festival stage. The work is silent and incredibly beautiful and more so, fascinating because the rapture in these ravers is very, very real. I love Gaëlle Boucand's geometric butterflies, whose flying lives are a fleeting 48 hours and whose wings are preserved forever as spiritual chariots. New age crystals, digitally preserved ecstasy, and religious raptures of the chemical and evangelical kind, have never seemed so perfect.

video still from Rapture

{References/Links -

Jesus Camp (2006) [documentary]
Rapture (Silent Anthem) (2009) [video] Angelica Mesiti