Heaven Turned on Its Side by Meridel Rubenstein

Issue 49

Rubenstein’s newest work, Heaven Turned on Its Side (2007– ), looks at ecological processes across time that either reinforce or destroy the notion of Eden. It focuses on intersections of nature and culture in relation to ecological and social imbalance.

Composed of three parts, Heaven Turned on Its Side is not presented as a timeline but as a natural cycle of life, death and rebirth where human beings and nature are deeply connected and exist in true symbiosis. The three parts are Photosynthesis, The Volcano Cycle, and Eden in Iraq. The first part Photo-Synthesis includes images of trees and people exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the seasons, in a post-Edenic and threatened relationship. The Volcano Cycle explores deep time with images of volcanoes from Indonesia’s Ring of Fire that evoke earth, climate change and human co-evolution. The third part, Eden in Iraq, is set in the marshes of Southern Iraq, a site said to be near the original Eden. It also features new Adam and Eve in the new Eden that aims to transform relics of war and destruction into art. Here Meridel is co-designing an artwork that is a wastewater garden/memorial site.

Heaven Turned on Its Side is an invitation to meditate on the mysterious cycle of life. The photo-making and the renderings proceed from Meridel’s spiritual research. As she explains: “I had some older images of clouds and scanned one to use. I drew a circle and then tried changing the interior space into a negative image. Instantly heaven and earth conjoined. Then I made my first mandala/cloud circle extended image." Meridel composes some of her photographs as mandalas, which means “circle” in Sanskrit. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas are used by adepts for focusing attention, as a spiritual teaching tool, and an aid to meditation.

Heaven Turned on Its Side is a meaningful body of work that brings together some essential values of science, ecology, religion, and spirituality in order to find the true balance between human beings and nature. Her mandalas take us from oxygen molecules to the biosphere to the heavens. As it was in Eden, our lives and happiness depends on a perfect, yet fragile symbiosis with our natural environment. -- Patricia Levasseur de la Motte

Excerpt from Essay by Patricia Levasseur de la Motte, France/Singapore Assistant Curator for Photography and New Media at the Singapore Art Museum (2007-11). She is presently an Independent Curator, working on The Philanthropic Museum, an on-line database project dedicated to photography and new media art.

Meridel Rubenstein currently splits her time living and working in New Mexico and Singapore.
To view more of Ms. Rubenstein's work, please visit her website.

  Winter Cloud (Ocean of the Atmosphere) 

Winter Cloud (Ocean of the Atmosphere) 

  Winter Solstice 

Winter Solstice 

  Spring Equinox 

Spring Equinox 

  Summer Solstice 

Summer Solstice 

  Fall Seasonal 

Fall Seasonal 

  Respiration 

Respiration 

  Leaf Grid  

Leaf Grid  

  Mt. Bromo Erupting from Above, E. Java, Indonesia, 2011 

Mt. Bromo Erupting from Above, E. Java, Indonesia, 2011 

  Volcanic Ash from Mt. Toba in Sumatra found in Malaysia, 74,000 years old 

Volcanic Ash from Mt. Toba in Sumatra found in Malaysia, 74,000 years old 

  Mt. Bromo Erupting at Night, E. Java, Indonesia, 2011 

Mt. Bromo Erupting at Night, E. Java, Indonesia, 2011 

  Mt. Merapi in Moonlight 2010, near Jogyakarta, Indonesia 

Mt. Merapi in Moonlight 2010, near Jogyakarta, Indonesia 

  Mt. Bromo Erupting Spring Equinox 2011 

Mt. Bromo Erupting Spring Equinox 2011 

  Kawah Ijen Crater Lake, E. Java Indonesia 2010 (sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid) 

Kawah Ijen Crater Lake, E. Java Indonesia 2010 (sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid) 

  Mt. Bromo, Lelani at Dawn 

Mt. Bromo, Lelani at Dawn 

  Ehmad in the Marshes, S. Iraq 

Ehmad in the Marshes, S. Iraq 

  Hassan Jery Looking for Eve at the Shatt Al Arab 

Hassan Jery Looking for Eve at the Shatt Al Arab 

  Shatt Al Arab at Al Querna (Where The Tigres meets The Euphrates and enter the Persian Gulf) 

Shatt Al Arab at Al Querna (Where The Tigres meets The Euphrates and enter the Persian Gulf) 

  S. Iraq Marshes 

S. Iraq Marshes 

  Study for Monuments Past and Present 

Study for Monuments Past and Present 

  Adam and Eve in South Iraq Marshes

Adam and Eve in South Iraq Marshes