In 1320 Dante Alighieri publishes “The Divine Comedy”. This book is an epic poem in 3 parts, where he describes his journey through the 9 layers of hell, the 9 terraces of the mountain of the Purgatory and reach the 9 layers of the heavens.
Dante’s vision takes us back to the way people saw the universe in Europe’s late middle-ages.
The cosmology of the time the earth was not thought to be flat but round. The bottom of the earth was considered to be the holy city of Jerusalem. Europe, Asia and Ethiopia, which was all of Africa, were surrounded by a “Bitter Sea” which covered the entire southern hemisphere pointing up. Under Jerusalem was an enormous hollow space where were placed the 9 concentric rings of hell. On the other side of the world was the mountain of the purgatory leading to the 9 rings of the Heavens.
As an inspiration for my installations I study mythologies and religions from the past and the present and their attempts to create a model of the cosmos according to their beliefs and understanding of the natural world. Art in the past has been very articulate and specific about this work of mapping the inner and outer world.
These three dimensional maps of both mind and cosmos functioned as stages for individual and shared (spiritual) experiences. One of the last of such myths in the west was the Christian cosmology as described in Dante’s Inferno which created in the year 1299. This is the last pre-scientific European mythological cosmology.
Jerusalem was placed on the top of the world. Under it were placed 9 concentric layers of hell, the devil residing at the center. A tunnel then would lead to the other side of the world, at the foot of the mountain of the purgatory.
Also organized in 9 layers it would culminate in paradise on earth: The garden of Eden and the tree of eternal life, giving access to heaven. This model shows how this cosmology could take shape as an immersive installation.
Along with this work, I’m writing a modern version of Dante’s inferno. In my story, an archeologist is digging through the geological layers of the earth and tells
the entire history of civilizations and describes the evolution of life linking back 4 billion years. Even beyond life he digs to find out about the origin of the planet itself.
This modern inferno is set on a stage which is in accord with our modern understanding of the earth and the cosmos. It is using the image of the “Earth Section” as a model of this journey
where we leave the surface and climbing on a scaffolding structure can travel to the center of the earth to emerge on the other side of the planet.