Sol Bailey Barker, a contemporary artist, seamlessly blends ancient wisdom with advanced technology to delve into the underlying patterns that mold human experiences, consciousness, and emotions. In this captivating interview, he reveals the connection between his artistic pursuits and "Ancient Futurism"—a philosophy of life and knowledge centered on reinterpreting the practices, mythologies, and traditions of indigenous cultures within present-day contexts while augmenting their potential through contemporary technology. With his artistry, Sol Bailey Barker seeks to decipher the intricacies of the cosmos and inspire a more compassionate world mediated by empathy and care.
N: Hi Sol, how are you doing and what inspires you lately?
S: I am doing great thank you, hope you are too!
I have been particular inspired by the connection between ancient mythology and developing physics its an interesting one to me because it highlights the human fascination with understanding the fundamental nature of the universe. Throughout history, people have used myths and stories to explain natural phenomena and to create a sense of order and meaning in the world.
Similarly, physicists and scientists today use theoretical frameworks and mathematical models to describe the behaviour of matter and energy and to gain a deeper understanding of the universe.
In Norse mythology, the three Norns are goddesses who weave the threads of destiny and determine the fates of all beings in the cosmos. They are often depicted as spinning the web of the Wyrd, which represents the interconnectedness of all things in the universe.
Similarly, quantum gravity proposes that space-time is not a fixed background, but a dynamic entity that is affected by the quantum fluctuations of matter and energy. This concept can be seen as analogous to the web of the Wyrd, where every event and phenomenon is interconnected and affects the fabric of space-time.
Just as the Norns weave the threads of destiny, quantum gravity suggests that the universe is woven together by the complex interplay of quantum fields, which determine the behaviour of matter and energy on both small and large scales. The study of quantum gravity seeks to understand the fundamental nature of these quantum fields and how they interact with each other, much like the Norns understand the threads of fate and how they are intertwined.
However, just as the Wyrd is often seen as unpredictable and unknowable, quantum gravity remains a theoretical framework that is yet to be fully understood. It presents many challenges and requires new theories and approaches to describe the behaviour of gravity on small scales, such as those found in black holes or during the Big Bang.
In this sense, the Norns and the web of the Wyrd can be seen as metaphors for the complexity and interconnectedness of the universe, which require deep understanding and insight to unravel. Quantum gravity is one attempt to do so, but there are many more threads to weave and mysteries to uncover.
N: You have used the term "Ancient Futurism" to refer to your work. Can you expand a little bit on that ?
S: Ancient futurism is a concept that seeks to merge the ancient indigenous knowledge and practices with modern technology and innovation to create a sustainable future. It recognises the value and wisdom of the traditional practices and ways of living that have been passed down through generations.
The concept of ancient futurism is rooted in the belief that the knowledge and wisdom of the past can be used to address modern-day problems, particularly those related to environmental sustainability, social justice, and community development. By drawing on ancient practices and values, we can create a future that is in harmony with nature, respects cultural diversity, and promotes well-being.
Ancient futurism is not just about preserving ancient knowledge and practices; it is also about adapting and transforming them to meet the needs of the present and future. This involves incorporating modern technologies, science, and innovation too create sustainable solutions that are relevant and effective.
N: You like to explore how fundamentally universal archetypes and mythologies inform the collective unconscious. Is conveying a message of "shared humanity" important to you ?
S: Each human being is unique, unprecedented, unrepeatable. But the notion of the 'shared humanity' acknowledges the fact that we are all in this together, bound together by a common thread of experience and emotion. "These words from Ursula Le Guin capture the essence of the idea that we are all part of a larger whole, connected by our shared experiences as human beings. The archetypes and mythologies that inform our collective unconscious are a testament to this shared humanity, serving as a universal language that transcends boundaries of culture, language, and time.
Through archetypes and mythologies, we can gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental patterns that shape our experiences and emotions. From the hero's journey to the mother goddess, these archetypes speak to something deep and primal within us, reminding us that we are all part of a larger tapestry of human experience.
In recognising our shared humanity, we can move towards a more compassionate and just world. By understanding that we are all part of the same human family, we can work towards a society that values empathy, understanding, and cooperation, rather than division and conflict.
As Ursula Le Guin once wrote, "We live in a world where the great stories of humanity cross all borders, and the profoundest human values are shared by people all over the globe. We may speak different languages, but we share the same dreams." Let us embrace this shared humanity, and work towards a brighter future for all.
N: Are there any specific traditions, mythologies or ancient wisdoms that you believe are particularly relevant for addressing the issues that we face in the world of today?
S: The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Sumerian epic poem that dates back to the third millennium BCE. It is considered one of the earliest works of literature in human history and provides valuable insights into the culture and beliefs of the ancient Mesopotamian civilisation. One of the important themes in the epic is the impact of human actions on the environment, particularly deforestation and climate change.
In the epic, Gilgamesh and his companion, Enkidu, embark on a journey to the Cedar Forest to defeat the demon Humbaba and cut down the sacred cedar trees. The forest was believed to be protected by the gods, and the act of cutting down the trees was considered a sacrilege. However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu proceeded with their mission, and as a result, the gods punished them with various calamities, including famine, drought, and disease.
This story is significant because it represents one of the earliest recorded instances of human-induced deforestation and the associated negative consequences. It highlights the importance of the environment and the interdependence of humans and nature.
It also serves as a cautionary tale about the potential consequences of exploiting natural resources without regard for the long-term effects.
N: I must say, your "Handbag of The Gods" project was quite fabulous. Can we expect more Mesopotamian fashion moments from you ?
S: Thank you, that's very kind. I will describe the concept for those who don’t know.
In Mesopotamia, legends of a heroic figure known as Adapa, Dagon or Oannes, who brought civilisation to humanity, are recorded. This mythical being is depicted in various forms, such as a fish-tailed man, an eagle-headed man or a winged man, and is always seen carrying a bag in one hand. The deity was believed to have emerged from the waters of the Persian Gulf and brought with him the knowledge of writing, art, and science, and is considered the founder of civilisation. The written record of this legend is at least 4,500 years old, but its origins are unknown. It is worth noting that the ancient site of Gobekli Tepe, which is also located in the Mesopotamian region, is 12 thousand years old and features depictions of handbags.
Similarly, in other parts of the world, such as the Olmec site of La Venta in Mexico, one of the earliest representations of Quetzalcoatl depicts him carrying a handbag of the gods and fulfilling the role of a bringer of knowledge.
At the site of Tula, an important regional centre in Mexico that reached its height as the capital of the Toltec Empire, massive statues can be found, and once again, the mysterious handbag is present. Additionally, the handbag appears in cultures such as the Dogon in West Africa, Aboriginal Australia, Sumba Indonesia, California Cosco district, Incan Peru, Colombia, and Bosnia, to name a few.
I am happy to inform you that I am indeed continuing my research into the handbags of the gods, and I am excited to announce that I have plans to create more fashion moments inspired by this rich history. I have made a more functional version of the Handbags of the gods from saddle leather.
N: Thank you Sol, it was a pleasure to have such an insightful conversation with you. Just one last question, what is next for you?
S: On May the 18th I have a show opening in Chelsea NY at Tuleste Factory NYCxDesign Week 2023: ‘Harmonious Proportions’. My installation MEGALITHIC DINING is inspired by the ancient standing stones of Britain that hold within them a power and a mystery that is both timeless and haunting. Their monolithic proportions and epic impressions on the landscape are a testament to the enduring spirit of our ancestors, who sought to connect with the cosmos and understand the mysteries of the universe. Around Stonehenge there were many wood henge’s we have only found the patterns where the trunks met the ground and can only speculate on their form. I created these sculptures to pay homage to these ancient lost wood henges and to echo the imagined forms of these lost monuments.
I am currently working on a series of large 2 meter tall bronzes as an evolution of my sentience of nature series. I have also been asked to build a temple. It will be a monumental wood structure with the roof held up by massive totemic black sculptural pillars aligning to the solstices and equinox so I am currently working on developing designs for that.