On the Trail of Humanity, 2015
Excerpt from “Outdoor Art: Extraordinary Sculpture Parks and Art in Nature”
On the Trail of Humanity
Time and Space, Cappadocia, Turkey
Like ancient route markers eight basalt steles stand on the brow of a hill high up above the rugged landscape of Cappadocia in central Anatolia: these Sentinels are one of thirteen monumental installations created by the Australian artist Andrew Rogers (b 1947) between 2007 and 2011 in this lonely, high valley that extends from Avanos to Nevsehir. “Time and Space” is the name he has given to this art landscape which covers a distance of 2.5 kilometres. It is recognised as the largest Land Art park in the world and is also part of Rogers’ global project Rhythm of Life, which he started in 1998 and has already seen him leave impressive marks on the landscapes of all the continents: stone-built structures, archetypal symbols of the civilisations in those regions, which he has placed in very different topographies – from the Gobi Desert in China to the Atacama Desert in Chile to the Chyulu Mountains in Kenya. So far Rogers has installed art works in fourteen countries around the world. It is his answer – as an artist – to globalisation and the march of technology, which are blurring political and cultural boundaries and thus threatening the identities of different cultures. As he himself says, “We define our existences from the interplay of space and time. Nowadays we live in a world where technology is constantly advancing but people are staying where they were. That is why the old values from the past are so important for us today. Our roots are in ancient civilisations and cultures whose legacy we still carry around with us today. That is why I want to connect the old and the new.”
The sculptures at Time and Space can be divided chronologically into two groups During the first phase (2007-09) Rogers used stone walls to create pictures, which he has called geoglyphs, thereby alluding to the Nazca Lines in the foothills of the Andes in Peru: huge images that were scraped into the surface of the ground (by means of sharpened wooden sticks) around 800 BC. Archaeologists have interpreted these images as the remains of a prehistoric civilisation that was rich in mythologies and rituals. They could be sacred sites along pilgrim routes. Rogers also deliberately places his own marks in untouched landscapes, in order to connect with prehistoric civilisations that regarded the Earth as the primal goddess, as Mother Earth, the creator of everything that is alive. Unlike the artists who made the Nazca Lines, Rogers does not carve his symbolic motifs into the ground but constructs them from hip-high stone walls: a large horse, which gave Cappadocia its name; a millstone, which represents the material basis of life in the village; the mythological figure of a siren as a symbol of temptation; a palm as a tree of life; and a double-bodied lion as a metaphor for strength. All of these motifs are universal archetypes that can be understood the world over. Like a personal tag, Rogers also includes his own sign, Rhythms of Life, which is present at all of his projects: a dynamic structure that represents the arbitrary nature of human life. Each of these images, rendered as sculptures, covers an area of up to 100 by 100 metres. As a result they can only be seen in full from raised viewpoints – such as the amphitheatre in Cappadocia, which was carved out of a rock face at the end of a path. “But the best place to see them from is a hotair balloon,” says Rogers.
This is also true of the six installations created during the second phase (2009-11), which Rogers prefers to call “structures”: vertical basalt steles, with the tallest measuring fifteen metres. Sometimes they are in rows, sometimes in groups, as gateways and colonnades in an imaginary, ancient temple complex. Archaic-looking remains of lost civilisations are structured according to formulas that are still valid today – the golden section and the Fibonacci sequence. It is important to the smart Australian with the cowboy hat that people interact with his works of art “I want people to touch the walls, to run around in among them, to climb on them. Our sense of touch can teach us a lot about the way our bodies relate to space and objects.” Unlike the first exponents of Land Art Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson, Rogers takes it for granted that he will document the entire process and the finished works by means of videos, photographs and even satellite images. But above all he wants the locals to identify with his projects and with the unusual sculptures, in their region. He has often reiterated his belief “that history and our cultural legacy are essential to us as human beings.” This is why the social, collaborative aspect of Time and Space was crucial to Rogers. And that was also why he chose Cappadocia as the site for his work, since this area has always marked the juncture between Asia and Europe. As long ago as 4000 BC people were already creating habitable caves in the white stone of this volcanic landscape. Later on the Assyrians, the Hittites, the Mongols and the Persians, Greeks, Romans and the people of the Ottoman Empire all left their marks on the landscape. Entire underground towns and monasteries show the level of threat that was posed by ever-new invaders. “That is why I always start by going to the village elders and asking them what is important to them, what they want to have preserved for posterity. I want them to think about these things, to remember. Memory is the most important thing of all” The response from the villagers was wonderful “They were immediately on board and told me about the symbols that mattered most to them,” he recalls with enthusiasm. Having reviewed their suggestions Rogers then sought out relevant historical, mythological or archaeological remains in their culture, often with the help of anthropologists or archaeologists. That was how he found a 6,000-year-old rock drawing of a horse in Nevsehir Museum. This shows the important role of horses in that area, which is also reflected in the name Cappadocia. The original Old Persian name was “Katpatuka”, which means “land of beautiful horses”.
Now it was time to realise the concept. Men and women, old people and young people, whole extended families volunteered to help, keen to be part of this immense project. Two leading Turkish businesses covered a large part of the costs. The multitudes of helpers collected tons of boulders that were passed from hand to hand along endless human chains. On their arrival at the site the boulders and rocks were measured and finally used to create walls using the traditional dry-stone technique, which requires no mortar. Finally the women in their brightly coloured dresses danced as the men watched and everyone celebrated a work of art that they had all had a hand in creating – something that has no other function other than to radiate beauty and to prompt those who see it to contemplate human existence.
Andrew Rogers is often asked if his installations – which are entirely without protection – are ever damaged in any way “No!” he replies emphatically, “the locals are so proud of these works that they take care of them. They reposition stones if they fall out and they keep the whole area clean.” Rogers is happy about the appreciation people show for these works, but he is also happy in the knowledge that over the years nature will reclaim what he has appropriated in the name of art. The gradual reincorporation of his works into the natural landscape is an intentional component of his art. All the construction materials – the boulders and the basalt steles – were found in that area or carved out of the rocks there. Stones are Rogers’ materials, regardless of where he is in the world: “They attest to the present day, to our existences now. They connect me with the Earth and yet they are also part of the Earth. They are the components that trigger our ideas” – ideas that Rogers enriches with concepts such as liberty, justice, integrity, truth, respect peace, quiet hope, optimism, history, tolerance and beauty – values and principles that are embodied in his art as hope for future generations These concepts are chiselled in Turkish and English into columns recalling a ruin of an ancient temple in A Day on Earth – reminders of the past that point the way into the future.
Silvia Langen is an art historian, writer, and collector. She lives in Munich, Germany.