Everything is landscape in Panta rei: the river, the mountains, the sky, the body. Nature is always flowing, and we are part of that cosmic eternity, together with birds, river algae or those small, lightweight stones.
Everything flows – Panta rei – is the concept of existence introduced by Heraclitus in the 6th century BCE.
A flowing existence, subject to the laws that govern the never-ending cycles of birth and death, the constant transition from darkness to light, a world not created by the gods.
The flowing river is constant change, transitory identity, instability, that which never remains the same – or, as the melancholic philosopher put it, “no man ever steps in the same river twice”.
That flow is our life, and the wounds it inflicts on the soul are carved into our skin, in the rocks, in the ripples on water. They allude to the past of other inhabited landscapes, of other bodies that lost their wings, of swiftly walking on water.
The scars on the skin are the traces of ferns on the stone, fossils where time is stored – something that, as mortal beings, we are able to perceive.
For the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, fossils stand as a metaphor for the traces the passage of time leaves on things. A geological time, “a deep time”, as described by Nicholas Mirzoeff in How to See the World, compared to which biological life is but a brief instant in the flowing of a river. Fossils, like photographs, are “recorders of time”.
By reading palms we can see the veins in the stone, or the spots and marks on the skin, as constellations; the cracks in the ground as female genitalia; the body hair as algae swaying under water.
Birds start flying and the universe unfolds – lightning, symbolising fire as the origin of life, becomes earth and water, travelling across Lucía Morate’s cosmogony, acting as a bridge between the organic and the mineral world.
According to myth, we were born as beings of clay, moulded by gods that gave shape to earth, water and blood before things had a name.
What we see is a world emerging from the primeval magma. In the beginning, rocks and skins concealed the same mysteries. Time and water gradually created the shapes that we now see as integral parts of our bodies.
Carmen Dalmau. November 2020