Pure Pleasure, 2009
The installation created by Rebecca DiDomenico is made of 32 umbrellas and is arranged in the shape of a sphere. Each umbrella represents one aspect of pleasure, from the obvious chocolate to unique interpretations such as mica and butterflies wings. Together they form an icosahedron, ala Buckminster Fuller, and are suspended from the ceiling like a giant multi-faceted gem.
On a recent trip to Borneo, Rebecca was traveling from the interior of Borneo to the coast and just happened to pass through the town of Semporna, where they were celebrating the Regaatta Lepa, a festival honoring the tradition of boat building. Each boat was decorated with flags, banners, flowers and umbrellas that were tied to the masts and embellished with multicolored ribbons in ornate designs. They stood out against the blue sky. She returned home with amazing photographs and the irresistible urge to make her own umbrellas.
Consequently, when BMOCA approached Rebecca about the Pure Pleasure Exhibit, her first thought was umbrellas! She began making umbrellas to represent many different aspects of pleasure, from purely decorative, to abstract, poetic and spiritual.
The umbrella sphere Rebecca has created opens the human spirit to the many sensual manifestations of pleasure joined together, each part contributing equally to the whole. She thinks of her umbrella sphere as “a symbol of the magnanimous nature of the giving spirit: in this case, a representation of all the different explosions of pleasure, from the individual, personal forms, to the more universal experience of pleasure. “
The Only Real Umbrella Around
On a recent trip, traveling from the interior of Borneo to the coast, I happened upon the fishing village of Semporna, during the Regaatta Lepa, a festival which celebrates boat building. Each boat was lavishly decorated with multicolored flags, flowers and umbrellas tied to the masts. I returned home with the irresistible urge to make my own umbrellas.
In Latin, umbrella means, “little shade” and parasol means “for the sun”. The umbrella, invented over four thousand years ago, was originally designed to provide shade and only later as protection from the rain. Slang terms for the umbrella: gamp, brolley and bumbershoot, imbue it with personality. As a simple shape, the umbrella can evoke a spoked wheel, a lotus blossom, a rounded hilltop, a mushroom, a woman’s breast, and many other objects. Although the umbrella has its beginnings as a useful object, it later became a way to honor the Gods; a canopy held up over a deity providing the reverence of symbolic protection. When an umbrella is painted above the head of a deity, it is usually depicted without an axel pole, enabling it to float miraculously in the sky.
In considering the phenomenology of an umbrella, deeper meanings emerge. While an umbrella is a temporary shelter, a portable home, a collapsible tent that you fold and carry with you, it is also a kind of personal architecture that creates it’s own unique world. When you open an umbrella in the rain, a sacred space of intimacy is created underneath. Rain transforms an umbrella into your own personal percussion instrument. When you invite someone to share your umbrella, the encounter and the ensuing conversation becomes transformed by the architecture of an umbrella, the personal space that arises when you open an umbrella. In this way, an umbrella is an instrument of hospitality.
By inviting a fellow human or animal being, as the case may be, to share your shelter, an opportunity for intimacy is introduced. After all, for human beings to survive, we literally need to be protected from the elements, as well as respectful of their impact. When the elements are taking over on the outside, the inside can produce the greatest sense of intimacy because a profound type of peace and tenderness occur when you are enveloped in a place that provides protection from the intensity of the outside world, a safe space amidst the storms raging all around you. Then, a curious gentleness, a tenderness is created by the very nature of being united in a shared cause, the cause of facing together whatever obstacles or difficulties may arise.
One of my favorite storybooks, as a child, was My Red Umbrella, by Robert Bright, in which a little girl decides to bring her umbrella on a walk because “you never can tell”. She ends up providing shelter from the rain for many animals on her journey home. Each time she invites another animal underneath, her umbrella expands fantastically until finally she has accommodated all the animals of the forest. This book is a perfect illustration of true receptive feminine nature: the more she opens her umbrella up to give of herself to others, the more there is available to give. In the same way, the umbrella sphere I have created opens the human spirit to the many manifestations of pleasure, each part contributing equally to the whole. The resulting umbrella sphere is a symbol of the magnanimous nature of the giving spirit: in this case, a representation of all the different explosions of pleasure, from the individual, personal forms, to the more universal experience of pleasure, from chocolate to condoms, from butterfly wings to maps.
When you toggle between the objective form of the umbrella and the magical space it creates, the personal architecture produces a form of intimacy that takes you back to the first basic shelters created by human beings.
I limited my choices since 32 is the magic number to construct a perfect isohedron of umbrellas, ala Buckminster Fuller. The result is many different permutations of pleasure in exuberant co-existence.