Divinations
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Ideas, warnings, and prosaic information were impressed into clay tablets some 3000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Divinations is an installation by OortCloudX and begins with our versions of terra cotta 'pages'. Clay tablets led us to their earliest repositories, and in an elegant material loop, these libraries themselves were also molded from clay.

The most significant cuneiforms (scripted clay tablets) are ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ - the first sweeping narrative poem, which can be interpreted not only as a hero’s quest, but as the first cautionary tale about the environmental and immortality.

At one edge is a Catherine Wheel, typically representative of Christian cruelty, here to spin the melodrama of Prince’s most famed song, in cuneiform script.

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Mound of animal entrails, terra cotta

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Animal entrails, in particular a sheep's liver, was the principle divination instrument used in Mesopotamian practice. Divination was likely rooted in power and survival, and perhaps an empirical practice connecting an embryonic science of medicine (pathology) with the divine. For the installation Divinations, our representation of entrails signifies the intent to prophesy, which is to speculate on consequential questions on which the future depends...knowing that 'reading the future' is a capricious act.

Below, hollow terra cotta extrusions are set over a paper floorplan of the first known library, established by the Sumerians in Uruk. This suggested a network of tunnels, the idea to prefigure a journey through the unconscious, perhaps in the anxious mind of King Gilgamesh.

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The most significant cuneiforms (scripted clay tablets) are ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ - the first sweeping narrative poem, which can be interpreted not only as a hero’s quest, but as the first cautionary tale about the environmental and immortality.

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A larger mass than the ancient convention of a sheep’s liver, these guts are modelled from diagrams of horse viscera.                      

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Animal viscera   165 cm l. x 110 cm w. x 36 cm h.

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Gilgamesh's shooting mitt, accompanied by Babylonian bricks.

Our revised Epic of Gilgamesh is a ragged and oversized book with our summary of the poem, where we offer some interpretations, such as picturing the monster Humbaba as the primal Paleolithic hunter-gatherer, but also an ecologist…the resource guardian of cedar forests. The book presents ideas for a future instalment of Gilgamesh’s journey, to Mars, plus his dream of a purple rain of meteors laced with sleep potion.  Below is a thumbnail view of all the pages, with a number of close-ups following.

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Divinations

 

OortCloudX     (John Roloff + Neil Forrest)

 

2022

terra cotta, stoneware, cedar lumber, printed paper, cloth, fittings, book

6 m l. x 4 m w. x 3 m h.    or    30’ l. x 18’ w. x 8’ h.

© 2022 by OortCloudX

exhibited at NCECA, Sacramento, 2022

Photography by John Roloff, details by Neil Forrest