Guy Livingston




Den Haag



The challenge of creating a stable artwork which would have significance (and tangibility) hundreds or even thousands of years into the future, led me to think (sometimes lying awake at night with a full moon) many increasingly dark thoughts.

SUBMISSION: The Ash Is Your Mirror

Hay tanta soledad en ese oro.
La luna de las noches no es la luna
que vio el primer Adán. Los largos siglos de la vigilia humana la han colmado
de antiguo llanto. Mírala. Es tu espejo.

There is so much loneliness in that gold.
The moon of every night is not the moon
That the first Adam saw. The centuries
Of human wakefulness have left it brimming
With ancient tears. Look at it. It is your mirror.

—Jorge Luis Borges translated by Robert Mezey

Humanity has always put faith and hope in the moon, and the moon has returned that faith with light and steady predictability. Our positive and imaginative vision, shared by our ancestors, places the moon on a higher ethical and elevated plane. Taking this a step further, we strive to present ourselves in the best possible light with our travels to the moon, as with our explorations of the cosmos. As a musician, I’m fascinated by the famous golden records which are rapidly flying away from us into unexplored space. The contents of the records were chosen with great care, and show some of humanities greatest cultural achievements. But what of the darker side of life on our planet? Of course we don’t want to share that with potential neighbors in the cosmos. Humanity’s history is also one of rape, violence, aggression, destruction, and as Borges says, ancient tears.<br><br>
So I’m intending to write a text about the worst accomplishments of man – wars and cruelty. This is hardly our civilization’s greatest work. Yet it is unquestionably significant.<br><br>
I might write the text on a large sheet of paper, in a spiral, outside, at night in the moonlight. And then burn it. The circular physicality of the paper, the periodic nature of the spiral writing, the light in the night, and the dusty grey ash of the burnt tears all reference the moon and its steady relationship to our lives.

One could easily interpret this ritual of destroying a depiction, as a shamanistic or religious rite. A kind of cleansing. The destruction of destruction, as it were. But in no way will my actions as an artist efface the violence of our planet. I can only call attention to our mistakes, and remind people that others, from other planets, and other galaxies, not to mention our future descendants, and their children – others may look back at our artistic brilliance, and dismiss it for the destruction we have caused. Worse, our destruction may eliminate all traces of our artistic heritage. And all that will be left is those two golden records, streaming aimlessly into outer space.

The ash is our mirror.