The architectonic structures of monuments such as Karnak Temple in Egypt and Stonehenge in England are ancient time measurement systems that, through links with the sun and sky, helped regulate human activity in cyclic correlation with a sacred Earth and Cosmos. These structures are the remains of ancient magical technology that in special moments in space-time, such as in the winter solstice sunrise, seem to realign people and cosmic order.
For millennia, on the same day that marks the solstice, the rays of the sun illuminate the heart of the sanctuary of the sun god, Amun Ra, in Karnak Temple and then progress to the temple gates, towards Hatshepsut’s temple in Luxor. Hatshepsut, the female Pharaoh, dedicated her temple to her celestial father Amun Ra. She believed herself to be the reincarnation of the goddess Hathor, to which she dedicated a chapel in her temple. Hathor was perceived as a solar goddess, the feminine aspect of Amun Ra, who wore the solar disc on her crown. On the day of the solstice, the rays of the rising sun fill the golden sanctum of Amun Ra in her temple.
The ancient architecture served astronomical, scientific and technological purposes as well as mythic-ritualistic, cultural and religious purposes. Unlike modern and contemporary people, ancient humans identified deeply with the archetypal, symbolic manifestations of their psyche and collective consciousness. As a result of their mindset, they sought to develop their technologies and build their monuments as manifestations and realisations of their highest moral aspirations.
From mid-1970s, the artists Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway sought to humanise technology and produce “‘situations of support’ that confirm the contemporary validity of ritual and myth, that revitalize symbols of human continuity so they possess an aliveness and vitality and relevance for us” (Gene Youngblood, 1986). Historically, Rabinowitz and Galloway are considered leading pioneers of telematic art and communication aesthetics.
Long before the implementation of the Internet as the World Wide Web in the 1990s, they envisioned and realised participatory artworks that brought together on screens remote people and geographical locations. They proposed to humanize technology by “supporting cultural continuity through “re-entry” of rituals and myths that have fallen out of the culture, been jettisoned and forgotten in the rush of purely technological progress”.
Rabinowitz and Galloway’s project Light Transition (1987) developed alongside a larger Solstice Observation project that was planned to broadcast the solar alignments and light projections at sacred sites and ancient stone observatories around the world. Today, such a project could be easily produced utilising our most basic technologies, such as digital cameras, and social media streaming platforms.
However, Rabinowitz and Galloway had to employ the means of cable satellite broadcast for their Light Transition project. It was a technologically complex operation to create a broadcast involving a composite picture, deriving from both the Atlantic and Pacific shorelines of the U.S. The one-day broadcast was made in a format of short Zen-like commercial breaks, showing the changes in light and atmosphere on the two shorelines, concluding with a simultaneous moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean and sunset into the Pacific Ocean.
For Galloway and Rabinowitz, Light Transition represents an ancient view of the world, seeing Earth as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Druids, Mayans and native North Americans might have perceived it as they measured celestial dynamics with their astronomical architectures. The technological apparatus assembled for the project thus becomes a kind of architecture that measures time, like Stonehenge or the temple at Karnak, an electronic version of chronological stratagems that have descended to us from dim antiquity (Gene Youngblood, 1986).
By using communication technology as an observational tool, Galloway and Rabinowitz hoped to rekindle the ancient tradition of observation that led to the invention of the calendar and celestial navigation. However, they were also determined to show the trajectory which has led humanity to pursue unending technological indulgence and excess.
In 1990 they produced Earth Day Global Link ’90, which was, in fact, the only interactive and global Earth Day event at that point in time. From their location at the Electronic Cafe International (ECI) in Santa Monica, California, they established multi-media links with artists, environmentalists and others from Moscow, Nicaragua, Berlin, and Japan and communicated through TelePerformances using video, telephone, audio, fax, and E-mail.
Galloway and Rabinowitz contended that to be able to address global problems, and find global solutions, we need to be able to communicate. Moreover, Rabinowitz made a statement which is becoming even more relevant now. She stated:
We must create at the same scale that we destroy.
As the rays of the sun illuminate the planet on the winter Solstice of 2021, we may want to reflect on a new cycle of great creativity that would eventually suppress the waves of destruction that flood the post-pandemic world.
The solstice is a periodical reminder that chaos and its shadows can be tempered and ordered through the cosmos. The cosmos is hidden in the archetypal patterns that communicate to the psyche through symbols, myths, poetry, art, science, and other creative and magical ways. One day, scientific technologies will integrate the shadows of chaos, and begin reflecting the wise visions of an ever-evolving cosmos, for the sake of a new Gaian civilization.