The Robot God and the Underworld Gate

Robot God

“With Open Arms We Welcomes That Which Would Destroy Us.” Camino de la Placita, Taos, September 2019

Earlier this month, M. and I were in Taos, New Mexico, for what I think was the fifth annual PASEO outdoor art festival. The interesting thing about PASEO is that it happens mostly at night, in a town with a late-medieval street plan that was built for ox carts and is still kind of sparing with streetlights. You spend your time walking in semi-darkness from one pop-up installation to another.

Some installations sound better on the page than they are experienced in person, but here are a couple that worked for me.

At least one year, equinoctial rainstorms lashed the night, but this year the festival was moved earlier in the month, and the weather was good for an Underworld-flavored Pagan-ish art experience.

Above and below:

With Open Arms We Welcomed That Which Would Destroy Us by Christian Ristow of Taos is a sculpture of a seated robot deity. From a distance, it is beautiful and seductive, yet on closer inspection it reveals its true nature. It is not evil; it’s a robot. It has its own directives. And like any god, we created it and gave it its power.

Walking up Civic Plaza (which is actually more of a street and not the plaza), we passed under this flaming arch.

Numinous Eye Arch, with the Robot God in the distance.

Its creator, Oakland, Calif., artist Ryon Gesink, writes,

The Numinous Eye Arch sculpture is a large steel archway with a looming giant spotlight eye at its apex. It gazes impassively in mysterious stoic surveillance, with a dozen [propane-fueled] torches along its length creating a dome of golden firelight. Some 18 years ago I began to feel a strong urge to create a sort of gateway or portal for people to pass through, beyond which one enters an unfamiliar hallucinatory world and goes on to encounter dangers and challenges emerging from one’s own subconscious. Could be a Gate to Hell or a Gate to Heaven, depending…

Past that and around the corner, more leaping flames, but those were the outdoor fires heating the patio at the Martyrs Steakhouse,1)There is a reason for that name. It is too long to go into here. which we passed, only to re-enter PASEO-space when we encountered a troupe of girl dancers, bedecked in rave-ish electroluminescent hoops and bands.

Taos Un/Connected by Amber Vasquez and Taos Youth Ballet in Taosis a roaming dance performance piece exploring the unique and ever-changing qualities of human relationships. From comfortable friendship or the awkwardness of new love to the isolating “connectedness” that social media can create. Dancers will both speak and dance as they travel in a train of movement.

OK, we’re in artspeak-territory here, but you just let it be and drift with the crowd through the semi-lit alleys and plaza, following the dancers until they finish under the glare of the monumental statue of Padre Martinez2)Northern New Mexico’s one-man Renaissance, and he had only the period from 1821-1846 in which to make his mark. in the main plaza.

If I might venture into UPG territory, moments at PASEO, out on the dark streets, do indeed have an Underworld feel to them. Ryon Gesink must have plugged into that energy. I have visited that place in dreams a time or so, checking on recently deceased family members. The crowds shuffle along, and it is so hard to see, except when there is an occasional brightly lit scene, and those are very rare.3)Or you get flat fluorescent lighting on the way in, which is almost as bad.

I will probably go back. Taos, after all, is where I officially became a Pagan, and it left its mark.

Notes   [ + ]

1. There is a reason for that name. It is too long to go into here.
2. Northern New Mexico’s one-man Renaissance, and he had only the period from 1821-1846 in which to make his mark.
3. Or you get flat fluorescent lighting on the way in, which is almost as bad.