Labyrinths are present in virtually every civilization and culture in the world. From Egyptians to Romans, going through the Greeks, among Catholics, from Scandinavia to the vast plains of Peru, from Indian tribes to the foothills of Tibet, to China, India, New Caledonia, they are everywhere. So many symbolic approaches and so many meanings.
Without dwelling on their many meanings, concrete or abstract, I would simply like to say first a few words about the myth that is certainly the most familiar to us: the Greek myth.
There are only three characters coming out alive from the labyrinth, Daedalus, his son Icarus and Theseus. Do they have merit? Daedalus, who is the architect of the labyrinth, finds a stratagem, he flees the place, with Icarus, making wings with wax. Where some see an elevation, others see flight, cheating, which ends tragically for the son. So, not really merit for them…
Theseus on his side, has at least the greatness of killing the Minotaur, but he retraces his steps thanks to the breadcrumb trail, so he does not find either the exit (as far as there is one, the Greek myth is not very clear about this).
So, I do not see much grandeur in the Greek myth. But then, why these geometries, these architectures are so fascinating, so captivating, so powerful ? This is probably because they tell us about us, our soul, our intimacy, our wandering.
In some cultures, the labyrinth is a path to God, to the woman and her fertility, to a nourishing abundance, to healing, but always to an objectified path.
The labyrinths that I present have an entrance and an exit, with a path and a unique solution. Whoever ventures into it, symbolically with the aid of a ball, or only through the gaze and concentration, embarks on a journey within himself. As Sartre said, he will have to “invent his way”. He will make mistakes, he will err, he will doubt, he will go through the same corridors several times without finding the solution, he will be lost.
On a far-off trip, I was told that when the aborigines of Australia are so far from their village that they do not know where it is exactly anymore, they do not say “We are lost” but “The village is lost “. A complete reversal of perspective and philosophy, where what counts is not so much what we are going for, in our case, the exit, but rather to be in perfect harmony, and if possible happy, peaceful, serene to where we are at a particular time.
This echoes with what Camus describes in the myth of Sisyphus. In the absurdity of the world and of his condition as a man, Sisyphus accepts the latter, and thereby finds happiness. And to affirm: “We must imagine Sisyphus happy”. Live this world without much hope while not being desperate. This is the meaning of existence in the labyrinth, and by extension in our lives, since they are labyrinthine.
Let’s look at my creation from another angle, from above. Starting from the edges, one can follow interior walls that form like tree branches. Some are small and short, others are almost endless and of great complication. They hold almost by nothing and are therefore extremely fragile. This is what we are: Here, short, simple and solid, and there, sinuous, complex and terribly vulnerable.
Yet sensual and subtle aluminum lace, my labyrinths are however only two sets of walls that complement and assemble each other, like a kind of yin and yang, like the two hemispheres of the same brain, like the body of two lovers in perfect love osmosis. Dualities therefore: Our dark sides and our bright sides. Our strengths and our weaknesses. Our joys and our melancholies. All the complexities of our minds are embodied. Nice perspective also to find a dazzling Eros, here almost human, replacing a fatal Minotaur, monstrous and wild.
What our illustrious Ancients ignored is that there are techniques to safely get out of all the labyrinths, as complex and vast as they are. Revealing these techniques would remove all the salt of discovery and exploration here and would allow to visit only one part of this closed, monotonous, almost robotic and binary space. Symbolically it would be as if one would repress half of his individuality.
In the labyrinth, one can also run headlong, without thinking, flee, like all those people who are perpetually in action, not to be overwhelmed by the doubts and existential questions that the human condition imposes on us. But these leaks will be in vain, since, wherever they go, they will always end up facing themselves, in the same dead ends, at the bottom of the same “culs-de-sac”.
Our lives are mazes: we must face our loneliness, which is in fact a triple solitude: the impossibility of accurately expressing the complexity of our emotions, the impossibility of doing so at the speed at which we feel them and the impossibility of communicate the whole of our thoughts to a loved one. These are the real walls of the labyrinth. Condemned that we are to be only very partial to others, and others to be very partial for us.
I also see the entrance of the labyrinth as that of our birth … Because it is mean to cheat, because life is often absurd, because we sometimes go astray, because we are both simple and complex fragile and strong, dark and luminous, sad and joyful, cowardly and brave, lonely too, we must accept the maze on the first day of our lives. By perceiving the complexity, the difficulty, the immensity and the beauty of the labyrinth, we learn, we evolve, we grow.
And when we approach the exit, when we approach death then, when Thanatos rode, after all these wanderings and all these learnings, perhaps we will understand the value of what has been achieved. As Seneca says, “what you did with your life will appear when you lose this life.”
For all these reasons, the labyrinth is therefore an allegory of the existence, an allegory of all our lives.