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Walsall Art Gallery – David Rowan: Pacha Kuti Ten


I went to see David Rowan’s exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall and tried to take a few photographs of the exhibits in his Pachakuti ten exhibition. This picture might give you an idea of the mood of the exhibition, but besides capturing the picture, I also captured a reflection of some of the other exhibits too. You can download a PDF that has low resolution images of all the pictures, but to really appreciate them, go and see the exhibition.

The exhibition on the fourth floor of the gallery is fascinating, but so too is the inspiration behind it; pachakuti. The pictures themselves are of underground spaces; tunnels, rivers and bunkers that are hidden beneath Birmingham and the Black Country. The exhibition is very atmospheric and attracted the interest of some of the gallery staff who wondered where the photographs were taken.

I was curious about the pachakuti ten title for the exhibition. The name pachakuti refers to an Inca apocalyptic legend, a cyclical time of change that translates as, “a time when the world will turn upside down.” While I am sceptical about apocalyptic prophesies, I was intrigued enough to research pachakuti more.

Pachakuti or pachacuti refers to Inca legends and to the genesis of the Inca race. These legends were passed down from one generation to the next by word of mouth.

So although a lot has been written, facts get distorted in the telling of the story. I had to see which stories were most plausible. The story of Inca creation, when the Inca’s were created by their God, Virachoca Pachayachachi, seemed like a typical religious story of creation. The Inca people were given a precept that wasn’t just about right and wrong. It wasn’t just laws that said thou shalt not kill or thou shalt not steal, it also gave them a responsibility to mother earth and a social responsibility. It was this latter part that was interesting, because adherence to the precept was on pain of death. The Incas were said to have lived in darkness; but to have emerged into the sunlight. It seems likely this symbolises their early existence in caves. They later took the sun as the symbol of their God, so the emergence into the light was an important event.

The ‘sacred text’ tells of the destruction of the Incas by flood; this was the first pachacuti. This was said to be the tears of their God. There always seems to be the possibility of a true event having happened and that these stories are not just myth. The Inca’s lived at Cuzco, a city in the Andes. This Peruvian city is in a valley close to Lake Titicaca. Did the lake flood? It seems likely, because floods are common there.

Lake Titicaca; a huge lake, 190 km long and 80 km wide seems dependant for it’s stability on the climate. It has inflows from 27 rivers, but only one outflow. Only 10% of the water that flows into the lake flows out at Rio Desaguadero, the other 90% is removed by evapotranspiration caused by strong winds and intense sunlight at that high altitude. Did climate change interfere with the balance of the lake and cause a flood? It’s a strong possibility that a change in climate could have been a consequence of volcanic ash. Earthquakes aren’t unheard of either, in that part of the world.

The present pachacuti is said to have started in 1987 and to be a period of change, after an interval of 500 years since the last pachacuti. It seems a strange coincidence that climate change is one of our concerns when that was probably the cause of the first pachacuti. Is there a lesson to be learnt? Is there a precept that we shouldn’t ignore. Do we have a responsibility to mother earth and a social responsibility? Governments around the world are taking measures to combat global warming and climate change. They are also attempting to encourage CSR (corporate social responsibility) and sustainability. In the UK there are concerns about ethics in politics, in the media and in business. The pachacuti is said to be the death of a way of thinking to allow for the birth of a new way of thinking.

The Incas emerged from the dark caves and into the light. Does that symbolise enlightenment? Is that what we should be seeking to save our civilisation? We are fascinated by our more primitive past; can we learn lessons from it as we are evolve and transform our world? Are there lessons to be learnt from the past? Should we recognise this present day pachacuti and look for enlightenment?

There is a balcony outside of the Pachakuti ten exhibition with a contrasting and perhaps inspiring view overlooking the waterfront, which is worth experiencing.

On Saturday 8 June, 2pm,you can join David Rowan for an informal tour of his exhibition.  Phone the gallery to book your free place in advance by calling 01922 654400.

5 responses

  1. Shame it’s so far, Mike, sounds an interesting exhibit.

    5, June 2013 at 1:39 pm

    • Hi Myfanwy,

      You can click the link to the PDF and see all the pictures. It’s not the same as in the gallery though, especially being able to go out on the balcony and look over the waterfront and the town. I think I have attracted a little interest in the exhibition though. 🙂

      5, June 2013 at 2:02 pm

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