Dungeon Threads (Part 2)

Published on 2018-11-26

Late November greetings from a wet studio evening in Brooklyn. Today's post follows last month's noodling line into my research on labyrinths over the past half decade. Enjoy this second installment of Dungeon Threads <3 :

A handful of years ago I was doing a series of illustrations for the New York Times and started thinking back to my earliest days as an image-maker (those precarious prepubescent years).  At the time I approached this interest quite simply, often copying  and reassembling drawings from my collection of Nintendo Power magazines to embody the baggage of characters and landscapes I spent so much time inside as a game-addicted youngster. I was interested in finding a way to tell stories through a single image. I had no patience to hone the skill required to draw Samus' nutty spacesuit the same way each time.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Nintendo Power Magazine

Reflecting on this as an adult (now having the patience to draw the same spacesuit over and over again in a sequence) got me thinking about metonymy - the way image makers can point towards complex ideas and topics using a small fragment of that messy idea as a stand-in for the whole. In the images of Daedalus' labyrinth below, a circuitous piece of architecture not only describes itself as a structure housing senseless death.... it points towards a broader archetype that extends from a feeling of being lost to a symbol of systemic power governed by kings (to name just 2). There is so much here to make individuals feel fragile. 

 IMAGE CREDIT: New York Public Library Picture Collection

For one, it may point towards a landscape pitted with putrid  obscurities, inextricable like a nasty trap.  I've crawled, bashed, and otherwise conjured a path through many of these sorts of structures.  These spaces often exist outside of normal time in the most extreme abstractions of place.  

 IMAGE CREDIT: Archizoom Associati 

It may also embody exclusion zones:  spaces to make things disappear without  actually destroying them.  These places are built to enforce the high  status of that which they contain - something existing outside of life  or death. An exclusion zone is a tangible landscape cloaked in an abyss -  an uninviting outerspace on earth. It may shroud a minotour as easily as it may shroud an entire civilization of unwanted humans.

 IMAGE CREDIT: Office

Perhaps in its most abstracted form, the labyrinth loses its walls.  In this formlessness we discover something that is beyond spatial comprehension: an infinite hallway or claustrophobia under an open sky. 

IMAGE CREDIT: Will Insley

This single image is both unified and fragmented... a path and a pattern. You can get lost in the doubling back of its corridors then find a vantage above that spatial coil and watch it flatten into a harmless symbol. If 2018 has taught me anything about symbols, it is their lack of fixed meaning. I like that labyrinths let you get lost in them knowingly. Sometimes walking into their anxious tunnels are the best way to see a new path forward.

Most recently, the variety of inferences held within labyrinth forms have led me inward. Whether its an explicit foray into issues around mental health or more directly invoking the sheer horror of complexity we may feel when staring at a fold of flesh too long - There's so much to explore in the world of our own guts. More on this in the future!