Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Fire of Prometheus: Effigy of 10,000 Years


This series of photographs shows part of a project about Prometheus. For those of you who don't know the myth of Prometheus, here's a brief summary (for those of you who already know all this, just skip to the next paragraph):

Prometheus was a titan who helped create humans from clay, and then stole fire from the gods to give to humanity, pissing off Zeus so that he had Prometheus chained to a mountain for eternity while every day an eagle came to eat his liver, which would regrow every night because Prometheus was immortal. After 10,000 years, Zeus let Hercules free Prometheus in exchange for vital information.

So for the project we were urged to think about his experience as he was chained to the top of the mountain - what he thought about, what happened to his mind and body, with an emphasis on time. So I decided I wanted to try to visually show just how much 10,000 years really is. At first I thought I'd get 10,000 toothpicks and create a sculpture, but toothpicks are expensive. Matches, however, are cheaper and are also related to fire, the very thing Prometheus brought to us.

So I asked my teachers for permission for this, and they said they would only allow 10,000 matches into the building if they'd already been burned, and were therefore not a huge fire hazard So I went to two stores and bought out their stocks of matches, and had some interesting conversations with the staff at the registers. The next step, I planned, was to create a spiral of matches in my driveway, burn it and document the event.
However, I encountered some problems - one of which is that our driveway is made of dirt and covered in weeds, and wasn't very suitable. However, I was able to devise a smooth surface to build on using a shipping crate that our neighbors were planning to throw away and some leftover boards from a floor remodeling some years ago. I set up the boards on top of the crate and created a smooth work area. Then I spent about 4 or 5 hours sitting outside in the freezing cold slowly emptying 10,00 boxes of matches onto a very large spiral, and after I was all done (and my fingers were nearly frostbitten) my family came outside with cameras at the ready, and we lit it up. It was incredibly satisfying, and also quite the unique experience. I did capture a video of it, and once I get the time to edit and process it, I'll upload it and share it here.

This piece is called "Effigy of 10,000 Years" because of it representing Prometheus' 10,000 year sentence. Another idea behind it is that Prometheus might want to purge the memory of those years, and so would burn them in effigy in a sort of therapeutic ritual.

All images are copyright Genevieve Alberti, please do not redistribute without linking back here and giving credit, and do not distribute commercially without permission.

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