Per Laberints. Arkville Maze
Centuries ago, the flâneur (French for stroller, saunterer or lounger) made aimless, but mindful, journeys through the city. Moving represented a philosophical act, a ‘re-creation’ served best by the things stumbled upon when the path was unclear and unpredicted.
Long before the modern city, people built mazes and labyrinths to give the mind and the feet a path to wander. Sometimes representing a pilgrimage further afield, the original labyrinth put internal reflection and religious feeling in motion. Today, mystics continue to walk the paths of labyrinths and mazes with a spiritual objective.
The labyrinth, characterised by a unicursal or single path, is the original meandering form. Gothic cathedrals abound with examples of labyrinths, as do the faces of Cretan coins. The early histories of people in North and South America, India and Australia, among others, incorporate instances of labyrinths into their religious and cultural expression.
The maze, a labyrinth with choice, is a newer invention, first designed in the 15th century. By including unknowns—wrong turns leading to traps or double backs—the maze extends the labyrinth’s life metaphor, where the path is circuitous, challenging, unpredictable, but at some point, terminated.
From now until the beginning of January, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) hosts Per Laberints (Through Labyrinths), an exhibition of the historical, philosophical, religious and contemporary concepts and representations of mazes and labyrinths. The show includes artifacts, art works, texts and interactive spaces. Of particular note, the centre has transformed the Pati de les Dones courtyard into an interactive labyrinth. Formed by the shadows cast by a suspended structure, the labyrinth adapts in response to the position of the sun—a smart idea that reveres the philosophical underpinnings of the labyrinth as a life leitmotif.
Inside, a single path labyrinth guides visitors through a portion of the exhibition. The show also includes one, where walls rise above eye-level and corridors lead to disorienting dead-ends (and, at one point, a maze of mirrors).
Throughout August, the centre also presents Lost, Lost, Lost, a free, curated series of films with a labyrinthine theme. Each film moves through unseen labyrinths—imagined worlds, unexpected transformations, meandering life paths—where the labyrinth is a feeling or state of mind, rather than a place.
As a side note, you can walk a maze in the open air at Horta’s Parc del Laberint. The maze is a 19th century classic, bordered by cypress trees and decorated with statues. Open from 10 until dusk, you’ll certainly have enough time to get yourself in and, eventually, out. If you need a bit of help, send a friend to the little plaza that overlooks the maze. Or, take this chance to submit to the unknown.
Until January 9th, 2011