Hannes Lárusson
Ubu Roi meets Humpty Dumpty (in Iceland)
13. 05. 2006 - 18. 06. 2006
Hub: the central opening of a wheel to which spokes are attached and through which an axle passes.
Hannes Larusson’s sculpture Hub is a large 1200 kilogram block of stone from which project 11 horizontal steel bars, each 22 mm thick, each bent upwards to form a double right angle axis. These bars form the handles that allow 11 participants to lift and turn the heavy stone.
When Hub was exhibited in 2005 at FUGL in Reykjavik, a video loop projection of the lifting and turning of the stone was displayed along with the motionless sculpture. The empty steel bars looked less like handles and more like cranks or feet, signage for turning and movement. With this sculptural stasis one experienced the loss of the social, one alone rather than 11 strong. Hub was grounded like a piece of abandoned playground equipment.
The stone itself is Icelandic basalt . This is the same type of faceted rock that Richard Serra used in Afangar (1990), a sculpture on Viðey island in Reykjavik harbor and that Joseph Beuys used in his 7000 Oaks (1982) at Documenta 7. The odd five or six sided form of basalt columns derive not from actual crystalline structure but from the cooling of molten volcanic rock, like the hexagonally prismatic cracks that typically form in drying mud. As the cooling process is a process of ever increasing stillness, so Hub is grounded, the once rotational social sculpture stalled into a lone sign, as the once fluid volcanic stone cooled into a basalt prism.

Consider the 11 steel bars and the 11 persons that lifted the stone. 11 is a number of incompleteness, one beyond ten yet one short of twelve. It is an odd and unusual number, neither decimal nor sexagesimal, neither as human and rational as 10 (fingers on a hand) nor as cosmological as 12 (months of the year). By contrast 11 is an odd and fluid number, chaotic and unbalanced, restlessly encouraging of motion.

Hub recalls The Sign, a large hexagonal quartz crystal ceremoniously unveiled at the Darmstadt artists colony in 1902 as an emblem of the coming “new age”. (Peter Behrens based his original 1908 hexagonal trademark for the German electrical firm of AEG on The Sign ) Hub also recalls The Birth of Psyche (1915-1918), a relief sculpture by the Icelandic nationalist and symbolist artist Einar Jonsson (1874–1954), displayed in his studio/museum in Reykjavik. Psyche, the Ancient Greek personification of the individual soul, is a reclining nude torso at the center of the panel. The Ancient Greek elements: earth, air, fire and water, each approach her on a broken axis. From the bottom left, the figure of “earth” is a sculptor, carving Psyche's back. He sits on basalt columns, bent at a right angle over his hammer and chisel. The composition is in the form of a swastika or fylfot .

Hub is an 11-armed stone and steel fylfot, a three-dimensional hendekaskelion. Historically the fylfot symbol occurs nearly worldwide: in Greater India and Buddhist Asia, as well as in Ancient Greece, Medieval and earlier Scandinavia, and Pre-Columbian America. Its exploitation as the emblem of German National Socialism is infamous. Among other names the fylfot has been called the tetraskelion, the swastika, the Medusa head, the solar wheel and the Þórshamar, but in Iceland it is more conventionally termed a hakakross (hooked cross). In Central Europe it has been known as The Black Spider and indeed Hub resembles nothing so much as a menacing great spider. As Hub is heavy with stone and steel it is also weighted down and limited with the ambivalent myth and history of the fylfot, as both beneficent solar wheel and maleficent political spider.

The influential book Hamlet's Mill proposes that world mythology is actually an ancient technical language describing astronomical events that occurred in prehistory. Hamlet's Mill documents a common theme running through world mythology, that of a mill which turns on a shaft. In these myths, a major event occurs and the mill is destroyed. This causes a great ruler or a god to be overturned and replaced. For instance, Finno-Ugrian mythology records that the Sampo was a magical artifact that brought good fortune, a mill that made flour, salt, and gold out of thin air. Hamlet’s Mill proposes that the mythic “mill” is a metaphorical axis mundi with the hub representing the Earth turning under the heavens.
Consider as a relatively new yet already mythic “mill”, Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International (1920), a now lost 6 meter wooden model for a 400 meter tower. Of course it was never built and given its precarious engineering it is unlikely that it could have been built . Tatlin attempted to bring the motions of the solar system down to earth and embody them in the architectural body of the state. With its great diagonal spine, caducean spiral ramps and semi-circular arches it had the form of a striding figure, like a colossal version of Futurist Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913). The Monument was to have been a steel skeleton containing individual glass buildings: in vertical sequence, a cylinder, an isosceles tetrahedron, a cube and a cone that would rotate once a year, once a month, once a day, once an hour and contain the various meeting halls of the Comintern. In the original model a small boy was concealed in the base and turned a crank to animate the internal organs of this proposed body politic.
Eleven people volunteered to lift and turn Hub in a clockwise circle by means of its iron handles. But the group could barely complete one revolution without dropping the very heavy stone. After three attempts one circuit was completed. In the 7 second video loop the movements of the participants have been sped up. Bundled in parkas, they move with jerky motions, carrying and rotating the great weight through the snow. They shuffle like the oppressed workers in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927).

There are three heavy stones on a shore in Iceland that according to folklore were lifted in competition to determine one’s appropriate place (one’s oar) in a fishing boat. A sandstone block weighing 143 kilograms and dating to the sixth c. BCE was found at Olympia in Greece. It bears the inscription, “Bybon, son of Pholos, lifted this over his head”. Yet a person can only lift a limited amount of weight. When that threshold is reached one must find assistance in the form of some sort of lifting device. No doubt the original lifting device was simply another person and one may even speculate that it was this co-operation or dominance that formed a nascent society.

Turn on both horizontal and vertical axes, each set at a right angle to the other. Consider the waking axis with the body held vertically but moving horizontally. Consider the dreaming axis with the sleeping body lying horizontally and the mind moving vertically. This is the broken axis between profane wakefulness and the sacred panopticon of dream. Hannes Larusson’s sculptural axis grinds on all of this. Hub is a dream of a weightless stone and an awakening to a 7 second society of 11 persons, repeatedly struggling to lift and revolve both a real and a mythic weight of stone and steel.

The diameter of the sculpture including the steel bars is approximately 290cm.

Basalt is a gray-black volcanic rock formed where tectonic plates move apart. In Iceland a mid-oceanic ridge is exposed above sea level, therefore ninety percent of all rock in Iceland is a form of basalt.

“They are basalt columns that one can find in the craters of extinct volcanoes, where they become a prismatic, quasi-crystalline shape through a particular cooling process….” Joseph Beuys in Johannes Stüttgen, Beschreibung eines Kunstwerkes, Düsseldorf, 1982

“We were walking over those massive, dark-gray rocks which the cooling process had moulded into hexagonal prisms,” Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1874.

There has been much overly speculative numerology based on the number 11 ever since the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York on September 11.

Frederick Schwartz, “Commodity Signs: Peter Behrens, The AEG, and the Trademark,” Journal of Design History, 1996.

“...what most of all decided the artist to use this (“swastica”) symbol was its likeness to a certain form of the star nebula, which it could represent and thus suggest that solar systems obey the same laws as human beings.” Gudm. Finnboigason in Einer Jonsson, Myndir, Reykjavik: Kaupmannahofn: 1925 P. 76

The word fylfot is likely compounded of Old Norse fiël, many, and fotr, foot, the many-footed figure. Also see, Count Goblet d’Alviella, The Migration of Symbols, New York: University Books, 1956 (1894).

The solar wheel is cognate with the solar cross, a cross inside a circle. Consider the four-spoked wheels of the Nordic Bronze Age Trundholm Sun Chariot (15th c. BCE), a bronze wheeled statue of a horse pulling the sun.
Hertha Von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana, Hamlet's Mill, An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and Its Transmission Through Myth, Boston, Mass: Gambit, 1969

Tatlin’s model has been rebuilt many times since 1920 with widely varying degrees of accuracy. However there is a new (2006) attempt to complete the building of the full size monument, from actual steel girders and cable. It is intended that it will be fabricated in sections at different locations around the world until the entire tower is built. See, http://www.tatlinstowerandtheworld.net/tt/start.htm
At the Muslim shrine of Shivapur, India there is a 70kg rock that is supposedly levitated yearly with 11 index fingers of 11 right hands.
With 11 rowers Hub is like an unbalanced boat, always rowing in circles.

Consider that it was perhaps not so much Ancient Egypt that built the pyramids, as it was the pyramids that built Ancient Egypt. That is, it was the technical and above all the organizational skills required to lift stone, to build the pyramids, occurring as they do at the near beginning of Ancient Egyptian history that laid the foundation for the social and political structure of Ancient Egypt.
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