Eternally I am your Yes

Zenita Komad’s Indian Labyrinth
Meinhard Rauchensteiner

The world of Greek gods looks like some patchwork family. Not particularly affectionate, not particularly happy. Not much of a model for the chaotic family relations that are being celebrated in these parts nowadays. One of the stories is about king Minos and his hybrid stepson, the Minotaur, about his half-sister Ariadne and her lover Dionysus who again was the brother of Minos. And it’s about Theseus, a ball of string, and a labyrinth.

The story itself is known, so well known it has carved itself deeply into the European collective memory, so there is no use recounting it here. No wonder that the figures and episodes of this myth have populated art for thousands of years. And even less of a wonder that Zenita Komad engages the subject in her most recent work. All the more so since strings have long been a subject of her works, transforming her sometimes classical panel paintings into something sculptural, installational.

Again and again, there are white or red cords spilling out of Komad’s works, connecting them, reaching out into space toward the viewer, and tying otherwise disparate parts up into a coherent story. But not just any story; for most of them are clearly recognizable as umbilical cords, strings that generate parenthood, genealogies, filiations, that are a testimony to life, to love. Just like Ariadne’s proverbial thread which kept Theseus alive and Ariadne in love – and which Zenita Komad particularly refers to in her piece entitled “Man and Woman”, in which the loops of a cord connecting two objects form the word “liebe” [“love”].

But it does not stay that simple. Parenthood is a complex matter, and so is love, let alone life. And so the labyrinth that Komad shows, room-filling, presents itself as one whose red thread is running everywhere. The wall themselves, the enclosures in their entirety are this thread. The saving orientation aid becomes a co-expansive factor that extends throughout all paths of the labyrinth. Just like author Jorge Luis Borges has the Minotaur say about his “house”, the labyrinth: “The house is the size of the world, better said, it is the world.” So there is no “outside” to take refuge to, no consolation. Sheer immanence.

What does this excessiveness, this proliferation lead to? First, perhaps, it make Ariadne’s thread, which once brought order to a menacing maze, become part of that maze, a tangle. The chaos of life is not remedied by ordering powers, by psychologisms and psychiatry. What purports to be help eventually turns out to be chaos doubled. This may offer little comfort at first, but on a closer look hopelessness transforms into a great feast, a yes. “I tell you: one must have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star,” Nietzsche has his Zarathustra say. And so the name of Ariadne’s grandson whose father she begot with Theseus is Orion. Orion who can still be found in the firmament today. This yes to chaos, this “yea and amen lay” elevates humans above base resentment, hatred, envy, but also above falling for false prophets. Hence the labyrinth that Komad/Dedalus have built is one that is surveyable, apprehensible as a whole. Its walls are so low that it can be apprehended in its totality, the labyrinth as well as the red thread that it has come to be congruent with. In the act of surveying, imprisonment is resolved in laughter. Komad/Daedalus have shown to Komad/Ariadne that what it takes is saying yes to life as a whole. Saying yes through a laugh. And again Nietzsche/Zarathustra: “This laughter’s crown, this rose-wreath crown: to you, my brothers, do I throw this crown! I have canonized laughter; you Higher Men, learn – to laugh!” So its no wonder that Zenita Komad’s labyrinth was not built on Crete, but in a land where the teaching of Zarathustra has unfolded in a special way, in India. Of the historical Zarathustra, however, Pliny the Elder recounts that he was the first human who was born laughing.