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Rivers of Communication

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Rivers of Communication

[The Grand Canal Court mural in New York, produced jointly with pupils at the local Chelsea Vocationa High School]

The River, which has been a theme in my work throughout the 1990s, is a metaphor for the way in which we appreciate the world around us, a symbol for our environment. The rivers are a part of the great water cycle on our planet, and they posses a highly figurative properties. The sea, clouds and rain are all visually abstract, but when water flows over the ground, nature creates mystically beautiful patters. Patterns of this kind can be found everywhere - in flashes of lightning, the root system of plants, a deer's antlers, or our own system of blood vessels. I believe these patters are the fundamental alphabet from which we can read the language of nature.

Art would seem to be the most durable and most permanent means on communication available to us.

Communication has always been essential for our survival, but where it used to take place between individuals it is now dependent on vast networks involving tousands of people. We are becoming more and more reliant on sophisticated communication systems in order to obtain and transmit information about our environment.. This opens up immense possibilities, of course, but it also entails new risks. The consequences of our errors are no longer merely felt loccally but can have a global impact. How can we be cerain that our modern scientific language describes the reality around us as it really is? Can we safely assume that nothing essential is lost in the process of communicating information? Is spite of our wonderful technologican inventions, we cannot be certain of understanding the secrets of nature, let alone life itself. Science would seem to have found a key to the many enigmas of our life, and it it is successful the opportunities created will be enormous, but the risks are also very great.

Our world has been shaped by our understanding of time, perhaps to a greater extent than we realise, because our modern society is apt to look on time as a non-renewable natural resource. "Time is money" we say, and we have a constant feeling that we are running out of both. We are anxious about the future: How can we stay young? Will our children find their place in the world? What will happen after death? These are all fears that date back to prehistoric times. The farmers of some 12,000 years ago invented the first linear calendars, which were based on measurements of the solar cycle, and yet our scientists are still engaged in a constant battle against time. Our physicists are intent on combling all natural laws onto one vonsistent theory, but they vannot achieve this without a new understanding of time.

Rivers were ancient metaphors for time. Crossing a river, whether it was the Ganges in India or Tuonella in Finnish myhtology, implies passage from one world to another, from our present understanding to new understanding. The river is also a symbol of communication, or the flow of information. Like the veins in our body, the branches carrying knowledge converge progrissively to a for a great river - the eternally living stream of our genes, which unites the past with the future. As water flows through a narrow strait, or a galaxy plunges into a black hole in the universte, SNA, the carrier of our essential genetic information, flows in a spiral manner: this is one of the greatest narratives that we possess. The funnel-like forms in this work symbolizes the arc of time, referring to the possibility for travelling between the past and the future. They also symbolize beginning and end of time. The organic fragment that lies between the two is composed of genes (DNA) in the form of a river. The pattern represents the course of the River Nile at Khartoum, at the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile. It is here that our first ancestors lived, the source from which the eternal stream of human genes flows. Our message to coming generations is that the fundamental questions concerning human life have to be asked over and over again, from one generation to the next. For us this is knowledge; for us this is ar