Aladdina

2009

Aladdina

An esoteric translation of the fairy story Aladdin into the archetypal language of the mysterious Tarot.

This body of work consists mainly of ten large scale mixed media paintings, each representing a segment of the Aladdin story as a part of the stories archetypal path and symbolic structure. This type of exploration in structure is referred to as hermeneutics, here focusing on the symbolic aspects of the story. These works are an exploration of symbolic imagery, applied in a systematic manor and worked across each of the ten segments that the archetypal path the story Aladdin follows and corresponds to when translated into the symbolic language of the Tarot. I describe this exploration as two archetypal languages meeting in translation in an imaginary depiction of the sea of archetypes Jung describes as the collective unconscious, this juxtaposition of styles and the disruption of the picture plane considers a notion of altered narrative spaces.

Harriet’s retelling of Aladdin incorporated a female heroin, Alladdina which is the title of this exhibition.

 


Aladdina was Harriet’s final year MFA Exhibition shown as part of the 2009 Graduate Show at the University Of Ulster, York Street, Belfast. Here are some more photos from the gallery:

 

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Exploring Aladdin

It was the genie within the lamp that originally sparked my curiosity in the symbolic nature of the Aladdin story, I identified it with an understanding that we are connected to something bigger than ourselves something as magical as the magic in fairytales, call it your high gene or your higher self. In the original version Aladdin has unlimited wishes, more modern versions the gene grants three wishes which I found a bit odd.

The story of Aladdin and his magic lamp is one of the most famous of all the Arabian Nights stories, and was incorporated into the collection by Antoine Galland, the French translator who heard it from a Syrian storyteller.

The story revolves around Aladdin and his genie who transforms a poor boy into a man of riches and prosperity, which is a common rags-to-riches motif that runs throughout The Arabian Nights, Aladdin being perhaps one of the clearest examples of it.

This story is structurally complex, despite being short. It falls well into the common components of a story arc, whereas many of the other popular tales in The Arabian Nights are more episodic in nature. In Jungian psychology and story analysis Aladdin in essence is an inner drama of quest, integration; a ballet of archetypes.

The introduction spans the beginning section up until Aladdin begins to use the lamp. In the introduction, we learn of his poverty and meet the mysterious stranger claiming to be his uncle and promising him a wealthy future. The rising action begins as soon as Aladdin returns home from the cave; he and his mother grow rich thanks to the genie, their good fortune culminating in his marriage to the sultan’s daughter. The climax occurs when the magician steals the lamp and takes the princess and the palace to Africa, and the falling action occurs quickly after that, as Aladdin defeats the magician, the story reaches its resolution as they live happily ever after in prosperity.

In Jungian psychology fairy Stories are said to contain hidden wisdom of true human nature this structure is hidden within a story that seeks to appeal to a culture in which it’s written for. The variations are worldwide but the basic archetypal structure is what these stories share.

As an example the Charles Parralts Cinderella (the French variant that later was adapted into the Disney version.) The story is rewritten with then contemporary subtext, the golden slipper of the original became a glass one representing unbroken virtue. It’s interesting how fairy stories are retold across cultures in different representations, but understanding what it is that makes a Cinderella story a Cinderella story or an Aladdin story an Aladdin story is to understand the underplaying archetypal structure.

The symbolic archetypal structure that fairytales, sequence through symbols and characters either male or female representing parts of our individual psyche. To be of round conscious your psyche is considered a balance of male and female. The classic portrayal of holy figures and saints is an example of this, Jesus is often represented as a very feminine looking male with a halo signifying symbolically that he is of round consciousness, the lovers on the tarot deck and brother and sister, Hansel and Grettle in fairytales are all symbolic of an individual’s balanced consciousness.

The fairy story Aladdin like most of these stories held wisdom, lessons to help as at different stages of our lives often referred to as rites of passage. The story then functions as a way of mapping out the pathway of an individual’s psyche during these times of growth, a growth considered universal to us as a species. In many versions of Aladdin he is referred to as a diamond in the rough, a diamond is symbolic of the whole self. A diamond is a powerful refractor of light. This means it can gather light and shine it back with impressive intensity – but only when it is correctly cut. Aladdin has the inner quality, but he is “in the rough”- he needs to be cut. He needs to take steps in self integration to become a jewel.

Ideas within mysticism and early religions such as paganism and Gnostic Christianity echo an understanding of archetypes and symbol with various methods of working with it; the mysterious tarot is an example of this. The tarot takes on the form of an archetypal language of pictures characters and symbols (the major symbols can also be translated directly into the Jewish alphabet used by Quaballaists), arranged in various sequences seemingly randomly shuffled by the quarrent there are many different spreads for various types of readings depending on the type of knowledge that is seeked. Its most common usage is for understanding the state of any individual psyche in the instance the cards were shuffled. Perhaps Jung’s theory of synchronicity comes closest to giving us a quasi-scientific explanation. The word means meaningful coincidence’ a term used by Jung and eminent physicist Wolfgang Pauli. These two great minds collaborated in an attempt to define clusters of coincidences.

This body of work consists of ten large scale mixed media paintings, each representing a segment of the Aladdin story as a part of the stories archetypal path and symbolic structure. This type of exploration in structure is referred to as hermeneutics, here focusing on the symbolic aspects of the story and how these segments could correlate to the major arcane in the symbolic Tarot. Symbols are the language of the unconscious. They represent the quality of psychic energies in a way we can understand and interpret at a conscious level. These works are an exploration of this symbolic imagery, applied in a systematic manor and worked across each of the ten segments that the archetypal path the story Aladdin follows. I describe this exploration as two archetypal languages meeting in translation in an imaginary depiction of the sea of archetypes that Jung would have described as the collective unconscious, this juxtaposition of styles and the disruption of the picture plane considers a notion of altered narrative spaces.

This work leans towards the contemporary movement in art of ‘Pop Surrealism’, born from consumer culture much like pop art, goes further with elaborate juxtapositions of mass media and pop inspired imagery. Exploring the continued influence of surrealism, as it has been interpreted and expanded by artists who have come of age in an era defined by popular culture. By using people’s preconceptions of pop imagery, then re-configuring it to convey new surreal ideas. From among these new surreal ideas, I draw a notion present in my thoughts and application to these works about the conditioning cultural consciousness of the mass media.

I’m my retelling of Aladdin I focused on a female heroin Aladdina, perhaps to make my exploration of the story more personal from a female perspective. Where there were men I changes them to women for example it is a female who plays the villain Jafar and Aladdin’s mother becomes Aladdina’s dad.

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