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Figure 39: Johann van der Schijff. Centre Piece, 1993.

[ Return to: Part 1 - 2.Scanning for a New Era ]

The space capsule with two large, organic-like antennas and massive rocket boosters, throws up an ambivalent image: at once technologically advanced and archaic. The capsule is presented propped up on a pile of rocks. This form of presentation is meant to suggest that the capsule had been recovered from the veld, and at some time formed the 'centre piece' of some religious order. [Figure 39]

The title refers not only to its appearance but also to its role in the conceptual cybernetic web of the body of work. It is the command centre from which information is sent. Because of the central role satellites play in modern information and communication networks, it can be applied metaphorically to divine instruction. Thus the main sources for this work are space exploration and the symbolism attached to the circle. [Figure 40]

Figure 40: The Space Scuttle. (Reuters 1988)

A TV monitor transmitting banal imagery of space shuttles taking-off and water rushing down ravines is integrated into one rocket booster. The sounds accompanying the imagery create the impression that some of the satellite's functions are still operating. Together with the fan blowing cold air out of the other booster, the sound track gives the work an eerie, brooding presence. [Figure 41]

Figure 41: Johann van der Schijff. Centre Piece, 1993.

Mild-steel sheet metal; enamel paint;
found mechanical parts;TV monitor;
floodlight; sandstone.
H: 1800 mm W: 3600 mm L: 5400 mm

The imagery of the antennas and boosters throws up a paradox. Although it draws from high-tech space hardware, the way in which it is constructed, is handmade.

The scoops of the rockets remind one of the fishing nets used in Africa, [Figure 42] while the antennas lean towards African sculpture as appropriated by Alberto Giacometti in his surrealist phase. [Figure 43]

Figure 42: An African fish trap. (Art Gallery Staff 1989: 70)

Figure 43: Alberto Giacometti. Man, 1929.
(Read 1987: 143)

According to Jung, the 'visionary rumour' that arose in the last years of World War II, of flying bodies that became known as 'flying saucers' or UFOs, can be explained as a projection of a psychic content of wholeness that has at all times been symbolised by the circle. The 'visionary rumour' is an attempt by the unconscious collective psyche to heal the split in our apocalyptic age by means of the symbol of the circle. The 'winged disk' is one of the most widespread of ancient symbols representing matter in a state of sublimation and transfiguration. The interaction implicit in dualism is also represented by the famous symbol of the Chinese Yang-Yin. [Figure 44]

Figure 44: Heaven. The Chinese symbol of heaven. The hole in the middle signifies the path to transcendence.
(Cirlot 1990: xvi)

The title of the sculpture derived from symbolism attached to moving from the circumference to the centre. According to Cirlot (1971: 40) such an action is 'equivalent to moving from the exterior to the interior, from form to contemplation, from multiplicity to unity, from space to spacelessness, from time to timelessness'. In all symbols expressive of the mystic centre the intention is to reveal and teach human beings to identify themselves with the supreme principle of the universe. Hindu doctrine declares that God resides in the centre. In diagrams of the cosmos, the central space is always reserved for the Creator. Among the Chinese, the infinite being is symbolised as a point of light with concentric circles spreading outwards from it.

Figure 45: Johann van der Schijff. Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 46: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 1, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 47: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 2, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 48: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 3, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 49: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 4, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 50: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 5, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 51: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 6, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 52: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 7, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 53: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 8, Centre Piece, 1993.

Figure 54: Johann van der Schijff. Drawing no. 9, Centre Piece, 1993.

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