Waldsterben: PBA, Patterned Body Anthropomorph

Artist: De Lane Bredvik

PBA: Patterned Body Anthropomorph is the description given by anthropologists to a specific type of petroglyph made in tribal societies between Colorado and California between 1000 to 2000 years ago. The petroglyphs show figures with geometric body shapes divided into patterned regions. These ritual patterns can be understood as cosmograms, patterns believed to contain all knowledge of all existence. The use of pattern to attract astral forces is a recurring theme in global mythologies. In Ute and other tribal cultures, the PBA cosmograms are thought to summon the Animal Master, a being who travels between the material and spirit worlds connected by a tree.

A tree connecting different worlds can also be found in Norse mythology: the World Tree “Yggdrasil”, or in Saxon mythology, “Irminsul.” Four stags live in the tree of life, Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór, representing different states of awareness, including death, sleep and unconsciousness. In Haitian Voodoo, Gran Bwa, or “Great Tree,” the Master of the Forests and Wilderness, similarly uses a sacred tree symbolized by a pole to perform psychopompic activities. A psychopomp is a spirit being or angel who guides souls between different worlds and levels of awareness and is a recurring figure in cosmograms. They belong to a universal akashic record, or visual expression of the fundamental forces found in all things. The universality of these themes reflects a common bound between societies around the world throughout history. It is expressed additionally by the coexistence of the PBA’s polysemic nature. Art, like myth, can possess concurrent multivalent meanings, integrating communities by creating a common experience that is accessible to a variety of comprehension.

My efforts to comprehend the devastating experience of Colorado’s wild fires draws me toward these ancient mythologies that must have held an explanation on some level for the native peoples who lived in balance with nature. My installation invites these ancient akashic polysemous psychopomps to guide us toward a new harmony.