Labyrinths are spaces to get lost in. Human inventions of geometry for the purpose of contemplation, meditation, and ascension. Their long history demonstrates that the simple premise of getting lost is a foil for a vast range of spatial contemplations and material outcomes. The most common labyrinth is the unicursal type, drawn as a single line or path towards a destination. While the elaboration of these patterns vary, the result is always based on a geometric and procedural logic that is infinitely variable. The labyrinth is the original algorithm.
THE ORIGINAL ALGORITHM
Beyond its procedural foundation, its persistence over millennia and across cultures points to a deep connection between algorithmic thought and human ritual. The same labyrinth, the same method of drawing, can be found across a vast range of cultures, geographies, and timeframes. The Minotaur locked in Daedalus’ maze from Greek mythology, the Man in the Maze origin story of the native Tohono O’odham people, the 12th century labyrinth in the Chartres cathedral all use the unicursal labyrinth to tell a story.
A COLLECTIVE OUTLET FOR GETTING LOST
These historical labyrinths show that underscoring the bare rationality of drawing, of turning corners and making loops, is something quite profound. Traveling through a unicursal labyrinth is a contemplative act and often a stepping-stone to the allegorical, spiritual, and irrational realms. It is not solved in the same way as a typical maze where there is a game, or a directive. Instead, it is a meditative sequence and lacks the generic purpose of the maze. In the unicursal labyrinth, the human mind finds both a shared space of purpose and a collective outlet for getting lost.
This Labyrinth project explores the visual representation of historical evidence. Together, the outputs form an archive of possible pasts and futures of the Labyrinth; archeological carvings and large earthworks from a fictional civilization. To conceptually ground the various visual outputs, labyrinths are represented through four types of historical documentation:
- The high contrast black and white photograph
- The saturated earth tones of old aerial photographs
- The false-color terrain of LANDSAT 6 (remote sensing satellite)
- The key blue of LANDSAT 8 (remote sensing satellite)
Every project at Aranda\Lasch looks to the material histories of the generative medium to create new work. Inspired by the deep and rich histories of craft and traditional culture, Aranda\Lasch looks to create works that reconnect new digital technologies with time-honored methods of making.
Another culture, another time, same algorithm…
Our studio is committed to learning from the past. We focus on the generative histories behind cultural production, the kind of making that constructs lasting traditions, edifices, artifacts of heritage that help form meaningful bonds in people. We live in an age dominated by algorithms and yet under their spread we have witnessed the algorithm’s descent into frivolity, inequity and bias. But history has lessons for this moment; how algorithmic thought creates spaces of ritual, connects people to cultural practices, fosters tradition, and transcends materialism. Our field of expertise is the teaching, writing and practice of design as the interplay between rule-based systems and human culture. Through this project we salute the labyrinth builders of the past, the geometers of bygone eras who got caught, like us, in its net.