Place for Wedding and Burials (2010)
A man and a child walk side by side down a gravel path - the crunching of the stones tickles the child’s feet, and his ears. They have just left town. Ahead in the distance is a stone structure that circles the sky. The man was there once before, for his father’s burial four years ago. The images still remain. The day is March 20, 2012. This particular day will see a wedding and a burial on the same day.
It is noon outside, and the sun is slowly working its way across the sky. This spring day, the vernal equinox, will see twelve hours of sunlight, and twelve hours of darkness. The man and child are there for a wedding, to celebrate the rituals of life. The performance is to begin in twenty minutes. A crow flies by; in its blood it also knows the significance of today.
Ahead is the place for weddings and burials. It is the stone manifestation of the earth’s will. The spiritual chamber, as part of the larger place site, is about connecting man/earth/cosmos. It emerges from the ground as the man and child continue their walk. The foot path, the length of 1500 paces, leading to the place for weddings and burials, started as an entirely gravel walkway slowly narrowing in width as it leads to the spiritual chamber. Today, similar to any other day of a wedding performance, a new stone is laid on the path. Each burial a stone is taken away.
The man and child meet up with the larger group fifty paces before the spiritual chamber. The group is beginning the setting of the stones. The setting of the stones is a ritual as old as the place for weddings and burials itself. The stone comes from the local quarry to the south. The tan piece of limestone is laid on the path next to the other ones. The man and child wait. The entire group begins to walk slowly, in silence, to the center of the spiritual chamber.
The man and child continue their progression, now on a path of laid stone. The pathway is lined with candles, which are not lit. The pathway is eight paces wide. They pass under the cusp of the spiritual chamber. The grey stone structure looms above the man and child’s head. It is made of hard stone. The spiritual chamber is lifted and isolated by stone columns which elevate a circular stone roof. The roof is made of four cantilevered pieces. At the center a large circular opening illuminates the sky. The floor is made of concrete. At the center of the spiritual chamber, directly under the opening, the floor is a steel grate, open to the stream that flows below. The man looks left at the bride, the child peers right towards the groom. The performance has begun.
The climax of the performance happens exactly at noon. For one minute bride and groom stand in silence as the sun strikes their heads in a halo of divine presence. The bride and groom are in sunlight, the audience is in shade. It is a moment of creation. They are here, it is now.
At the end of the axis, due west in the distance is a seven person tall stone obelisk pointing towards the heavens. The wedding ends at sunset. The sun is due west in the valley between the hills. The shadow from the obelisk stretches until it hits the exact center of the spiritual chamber. The shadow ebbs away as the sun sets below the mountains to the west. It is just.
After the ceremony the entire procession makes its way east back to town. The structure slowly buries itself back in the earth. the man and child smile, he at the vanishing sight of the place for weddings and burials, the child at the sight of town ahead, they both feel the power of earth and man.
Later that night the man and child return to the place for weddings and burials, this time for a burial ritual. The same piece of stone laid earlier is now removed from the path, and brought to the center of the place-site. The man looks through the column to the southeast, which is directly aligned with the sunrise on winter solstice. The child looks through the column to the southwest, which is directly aligned with sunset on winter solstice. At the center of the chamber the deceased body rests directly on a steel crate - below which lies only a stream that flows north to south. The deceased body’s last ‘view’ of this world is a stone circular aperture, and the stars and moonlight it frames. The body reenters the ether that it emerged from at birth - a journey to both the underworld below and the heavens above. The cycle continues.
The ritual begins - the stone is placed on the deceased body and the body is lit aflame. The bottom of the stone roof reflects the light from the fire below. It enters the eyes of the man. He remembers his father’s funeral much the same way. The deceased body is burnt directly on the screen; its ashes slowly disappear into the stream below. Family stand around in a circle and watch - they sing the forbidden hymn. The burning takes approximately twenty minutes. The man continues to hymn. The ashes slowly fall to the stream below, as does the child’s tears. It is midnight.
The procession makes its way back to the town down the same path they took a few hours earlier. The entire walk takes place in silence. The man and child look at each other. The entire path is illuminated by candlelight. The candles will stay lit for 24 hours, until the earth has made one full rotation on its axis. Isolated and alone on the steel grate, the single stone remains.
Location: near Platte City, KS, US