‘O’ is an interactive exploration of the cyclical rhythms of ritual and rebirth, and a physical demonstration of the power of intention and art to drive social change. A 10 meter tall Nepali prayer wheel stands in the center, flanked by a skeletal ouroboros, representing the ancient motif of the snake eating its tail in eternal revolutions of death and rebirth.
Designed by artists from Kathmandu, Nepal, the installation is a spiritual machine which converts kinetic prayers into dynamic sound and light elements. Through the circular rotation of the prayer wheel, participants can collectively create energy out of pure intention and perceive its effect on the world.
In both the form and content of ‘O’, in the materials and techniques used, and every step of the piece’s existence, O is an embodiment of cyclical sustainability. From every vantage point, the piece turns metaphor into tangible reality.
‘O’ simultaneously embraces the traditions of the past, and the imagination needed for the cycle to continue into the future. Metaphysical possibility and practical problem-solving permeate the design, the construction process, and its economic & ecological footprints.
The project represents a rebirth of community, pushing up green shoots of opportunity in the ashes of destruction. In 2015, an earthquake devastated Nepal, killing thousands and destroying over 600,000 structures in the capitol city of Kathmandu. Disaster relief efforts led to the formation of Disaster Hack, a not-for-profit group formed to explore ways to use art and technology to aid disaster recovery. The result? A project called Art Bike Relief.
By redirecting the overflow of prosperity from the annual Burning Man arts event in Nevada, Art Bike Relief partnered with Kathmandu-based institutions and local earthquake survivors to incubate a locally-run cooperative, Ujyālō. That experiment in collective, community-based entrepreneurship has borne fruit, creating steady incomes and opportunity that aids the rebirth of Kathmandu. O is an artifact of this web of community, and serves to connect Kathmandu with the rest of the world through art. When we are seen, we are not forgotten.
Even the choice of materials is pregnant with significance. The prayer wheel’s paper exterior is made from newspaper articles about the earthquake and its aftermath, damaged religious & cultural texts and other artifacts, and thousands of prayers from artistic backers.