Insignia Caeli: Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

(Incidents of Mirror Deployment in the Yucatan)

Insignia Caeli is a piece that takes place in the Yucatan region of Mexico, where we were captured by the condition of the cenote. Cenotes are circular sinkholes that appear throughout the Yucatan peninsula. These voids were formed during the collapse of weaker layers of limestone that make up the peninsula as water levels in the Caribbean Sea dropped. Water poured into the openings and carved circular forms by spiraling through the fissures in the ground. On occasion, the waters contained within the cenotes today are physically connected back to the sea. The possibility of walking through the jungle and coming across a circular pool of sky or sea displaced into the terrain was particularly interesting in a place where ancient peoples constructed temples that sought to mingle with the sky, to make contact with the sun, to touch the divine.

We were struck by a notion of drawing the sky into the land, into the sea. Displacing the sky into the terrain. Inverting the temple. Flooding the sky.

The operations of mirroring, displacement, and reflection spoke to this desire to invert and expose this enigma of the Yucatan. The Mayan ordering of time and the cycle of the heavens suggested an approach of Celestial Cycles, cosmic alignments, the passage of sun and moon across the sky – these references structured the organization of intervention in this terrain.

Simultaneously, we were struck by the juxtaposition of the imagery of the reflective cenotes within our own Western traditions. The sun and its orbit as the knowable and the known collapsed into the land, the fecund, the formless and the irrational. To inscribe and overlay upon the body of the ground at the edge of the sea, the elements and mark of the heavens. To occupy the nascent saline pools where life begins with the space of the sky. To invade the depths of the shadow with a point of light. To impregnate the earthly with the divine.

With reference to the work of Robert Smithson in his Incidents of Mirror Displacement in the Yucatan (1969), we utilized four circular mirrors, 18” in diameter and deployed within tidal pools located on the North and South points of Soliman Bay in the province of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Nine separate deployments occurred over a two-week period at different times of day and during varying weather conditions. We photographically recorded the effects and presence of the mirrors as they reflected, displaced and refracted their surroundings, occupying and transforming the edge between earth, sea and sky.

We produced 630 100 ASA 35mm colour transparencies, 140 35mm 200 ASA Scala B&W transparencies and 420 35mm B&W 100 ASA B&W negatives. The most resonant images from this series are available as Giclée prints.  


RVTR Geoffrey Thün, Kathy Velikov