Dimensions: 5m wide - 4m high
This philosophical device explores the relationship between the material body and the soul. There have been many arguments as to whether, the body and soul are one or separate. Descartes with his strong religious beliefs and convictions but ever the brilliant and curious mind, stated that the body and soul are completely separate. The spirit or soul residing within the Pineal gland buried deep within the brain. Descartes would attend the anatomical dissection halls in Leiden Holland, curious to see the knife exposing this mysterious organ. He was always too late of course, the elusive spirit having already left its earthly bodily abode at the moment of death, flying upwards towards the light, and the divine, leaving poor Descartes and all the other curious observers disappointed. Rembrandt looking for inspiration, was also a regular visitor to the same dissection halls at the same time as Descartes.
Today much more is known about the Pineal gland of course and its production of melatonin, but it always had, and still does have a sense of mystery and the metaphysical. The French writer Georges Bataille had the notion that it was the pineal eye, that could see a lot more than our narrow western rational culture would allow. The gland is also connected with the Hindu concept of the third eye or the Ajna chakra. Strange also to note that the pineal gland only begins to function in darkness, when our eyes are not exposed to light.
The poet and mystic William Blake on the other hand, believed simply that the body and soul are one, that all is energy. We should simply open our eyes and see everything as it really is „How do you know that ev,ry bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos,d by your senses five?“ Energy is Eternal Delight.
As Alexander Pope felicitously put it, man/woman is a being darkly wise and rudely great, a child of nature who refuses to thrive on a formula, a creature whose mind is fit to inhabit two worlds and is dwarfed and distorted if it is confined to one.
I have built this huge philosophical Machine, ultimately pleasing both Descartes and Blake. The two water tanks though separate, are connected by a central beam which keeps the two in contact and balance. Cartesian duality body and soul, communes with Archimedes the ancient engineer and sage, who is conducting the movement and balance of the two oceans.
Water is pumped from one tank to the other, when one tank is filled the process is slowly reversed, and so it goes on. According to Descartes we are nothing but machines, with our air ventilators and blood pumps, mechanical movement and reasoning brains, the alluring divine beyond us and always out of our reach.
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
The soul that rises with us, our life,s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar."
Ode: Intimations of Immoratality (1807)