Body into Sky (2014-2016)
a series of dance installations, durational performance, dance for film, and an archival body of research reflecting one persons search for their place within nature and the cosmos.
Body into Sky
Conceived and Performed by Maré Hieronimus
with Collaborating Video Artist Brian Harris
and Collaborating Sound Artist Cory Neale
"I can see your eyes shining; with open mouth, you glitter in an array of colors, and your body touches the sky". Bhagavad Gita 11.24
Body into Sky is the umbrella for a series of solo dance projects investigating the nature and manifestation of the five elements in body, sound, light, space and environment. Culminating in multiple events, performances and projects as dance art, durational performance, installation, dance on camera, photography, and an archival body of research through the project's ongoing documentation, this series of works is meant to be a minimalist meditation of the presence of these elemental forces within self and life, and a love song to the body, nature, and the cosmos.
Drawing upon the Vedic premise that the world is made up of only five elements or substances (earth, water, fire, air, ether) that manifest from most light and subtle to most dense, I am exploring the nature and the qualities of these elements both individually, in relationship to one another, within the environment, through time and history, and within myself.
This Five-Element Theory not only has roots in ancient Indian or Vedic culture, forming the foundation of Yoga and Ayurveda, but can also be seen cross culturally from the Taoist teachings of ancient China, to the philosophers of Ancient Greece, all the way to the investigations of Medieval Alchemists in Europe. Though theories may vary, and not all philosophies speak of the same composition of elements, there is incredible commonality that resonates through history and time in these universal bodies of knowledge. All speak directly to the nature and process of transformation, and the relationship of the human being to the cosmos.
In my research, I am beginning at the root of these cosmologies, which is the Vedic Philosophy of Ancient India. This cosmology, culminating in Samkhya Philosophy, describes a particular way in which the cosmos came into being, manifesting from the lightest of light into the densest of dense. From a Vedic perspective, the key element of the Akash, translated as space, ether, or sky, is the mother of all elements, and forms the basis for all other substances. Each substance is a multiplication of the last element, all the way up to the densest element of earth. So in truth, the five-element theory of the Vedic Samkhya cosmology describes a multiplication of one single element, tapping directly into Einstein’s proposed unified field theory, in which “all forces would have a common origin, and would be related by mathematical symmetries”. (Encyclopedia Britannica).
In ancient Vedic thought, that substance, known as the Akash, relates to the primal sound whose vibrations determine the patterns and symmetries of the cosmos itself, that reveal themselves, like Einstein’s unified field theory, through mathematical or geometric realities.
Though these explorations have scientific, philosophical, cosmological and universal correlations, they can also be experienced as intimate realities that are deeply personal. We experience the elements in everyday life as the soil that we plant in, the water that we drink, the fire that keeps us warm and gives us light, the air that we breathe, and the space in which we exist. The elements give us life and sustenance, and each human being has developed their own relationship to these forces and substances of nature. The elements can take on an almost mythical presence within our lives, and give rise to archetypal beings and deities that form the foundation(s) of the world’s great mythologies and religions. In many cultures the elements, the weather and nature serve as omens and oracles, giving clues to the mystery of time, the direction of the future, as well as holding secrets of the past. In the form of the weather, the elements can work with us, or against us, determining the outcome and prosperity of a lifetime, a generation, and beyond. We experience the power and ferocity of these elemental forces as nature through the devastating effects of earthquakes, tidal waves, forest fires, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that can, in an instant, shift the course of life. It is the elements surrounding us that create and envelope the narrative and story of both day-to-day life, as well as the sweep of a human beings lifetime as a whole.
The special and innate qualities of each element can also be experienced as non-material realities within a person’s body, movement, character, and psyche. In India, the healing science of Ayurveda is based upon the reading and balancing of the five elements within the body-mind-psyche-spirit. In Taoism, ancient practices of Qigong and Tai Chi work directly or indirectly with contacting and harnessing the forces of the five elements. In European traditions, the process of refining these elements within oneself is called Alchemy, and dates back to Greco-Roman or Hellenistic Egypt. In Victorian Europe, Tarot cards became the reading of the play of the elements within one’s life. The elements act within us, through us, and around us, creating the tapestry of time and space that we exist within, and the metaphorical fabric of our life stories and mythological narratives.
Through the various and diverse forms of Body into Sky, I will be investigating the meaning and presence of these elements within my own body, surroundings, relationships, art making, and life. Culminating in multiple events, in both indoor and outdoor, proscenium as well as non-traditional environments, this series of works is meant to be a minimalist meditation and exploration of the presence of these forces within self and life, and an ongoing repository of fieldwork of one’s place within nature and the cosmos.
site photos for Body into Sky dance for film by Maré Hieronimus, red dress photos by Kurt Lindsey