Spanda is a 9 story high sculpture by Australian born artist Christian de Vietri. It is located at Elizabeth Quay in Perth,Western Australia. Unveiled in January 2016, it is now the world’s largest freestanding structure made of carbon fiber. Itwas designed by de Vietri using 3D modeling software and fabricated with CNC milling and vacuum resin infused carbonfiber. The artwork, inspired by the artist’s experience of the teachings and practices of Śaiva Tantra, celebrates union ofthe individual with the universal.
Formally, the artwork could be described as a series of six white nested arches that are exactly the same shape but varyincrementally in their size. The thickness of each arch tapers as it rises from the ground, reaching its thinnest point at theapex. The smallest arch frames the human body, and the largest arch reaches 9 stories high. When the artwork iscompleted by the viewer’s presence, the shape and its repetitions suggest the contours of a moving energetic fieldsurrounding the human body, creating the impression of an infinite vibration inwards and outwards.
In September 2014, The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority released an open call for proposals for an artist to createa signature artwork for the Elizabeth Quay development on the Swan River in Perth Australia. In March 2015, Christian deVietri was awarded the commission to create Spanda.
The title of the work, Spanda, is a Sanskrit word meaning “divine vibration”. This term is used to describe howconsciousness moves in waves of contraction and expansion. Spanda is the subtle creative pulse of the universe as itmanifests into the dynamism of living form. Spanda can be translated as throb or pulse, or to mean vibration, movement,or motion, referring to waves of activity issuing forth from an unseen source. It might be described as an impulse or desireto create and enjoy, likened to an eternal spring, joyfully over-flowing and always full.
Mark Dyczkowski, in his book “The Doctrine of Vibration”, describes spanda as follows:
“The mainstay of the Doctrine of Vibration is the contemplative experience the awakened yogi has of his true nature as theuniversal perceiving and acting consciousness. Every activity in the universe, as well as every perception, notion,sensation or emotion in the microcosm ebbs and flows as part of the universal rhythm of the one reality, which is Siva, theone God Who is the pure conscious agent and perceiver. According to the Doctrine of Vibration, man can realise his truenature to be Śiva by experiencing spanda, the dynamic, recurrent and creative activity of the absolute.”
The sculpture is intended to be both a formal embodiment of this ‘spanda’ principle, and a tool, or means, to experience it.
The artist’s intention was to create an icon that would transform the cityscape and the identity of Perth, in effect openingits “heart”.
The imagined contour of a human auric energy field was a starting point for the sculpture’s design. The exponentialrepetition of this form creates a pattern of self-similarity, which is intended to trigger the viewer’s own inner experience of“the whole being contained within all the parts”, the recognition of themselves as individual expressions of the universal,intimately interconnected and one with their total environment. In the words of William Blake “To see a World in a Grain ofSand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour”.
Spanda was conceived and situated by the artist to function optimally with the color, shape, use and aspirations of theElizabeth Quay development project, which had already been designed by ARM Architecture and was being created intandem with the sculpture production.
The sculpture is large, but not heavy, the gaps between each arch still allowing people to walk through and see thesculpture and the city from any angle. The sculpture has a strong sense of presence, yet no building nor vantage point isobscured, and every person, from every position on the Quay is able to appreciate the harmony between sculpture andsite. The sculpture is designed and aligned with site so the curvature of the form contrasts with gridded square buildings behind it.
The arch-like quality of the form is mysteriously functionless as it is neither an entrance nor an exit, but rather standsalone at the water’s edge declaring its own liminal space for the viewer to merge with. The location, smooth lines, anddurability of the form are conducive and complimentary to the many events that occur in and around the Quay, and thesculpture has activated the site in many surprising ways already. Yoga and fitness groups regularly practice under thearches and recently a pop-up “Dîner-en-Blanc” was organized around the sculpture. There seems to be a constant streamof people taking photos with the sculpture and interacting with it.
“Open, radiant, inclusive. These are qualities I wished the sculpture to embody. Spanda is a kind of womb space for thecity, where exalted experience and expanded states of being are born. Gazing along the outer contours of Spanda leadsthe eye inevitably to the sky and beyond. When people visit the site I see the sculpture enables them move beyondthemselves, into a state of awe and wonder, if they attune to the aesthetic and spatial vibration of the form. When we getlost in our minds, worried, anxious, we get contracted, we feel small, we reduce our capacity to see and experience theworld fully and we cannot host others in our presence. Art has the capacity to move us out of this state, to expand us, toreturn us to our basic state of contentedness and connectedness, which, in modern society, with all our stress anddistraction, can be unusually hard to maintain. Spanda can be a refuge that allows people to recognize the simple andever-present beauty of who they at their core. The implied infinite ripples of Spanda invite each individual to encompassmore and more of what they perceive and experience themselves to be. Spanda represents and facilitates this journey ofrecognition, from limitation to ultimate freedom.”
The sculpture was fabricated by the Brisbane based company ShapeShift over a period of 9 months. Shapeshift were ableto engineer the sculpture in such a way that maintained the seamlessness and elegance of the form while deliveringextraordinary rigidity of the spans, even 30 metres off the ground. The arches were made in sections that were then joinedon site. Moulds for each element were CNC milled and then formed in carbon fiber. The sculpture is coated in a highlydurable gloss white finish. The installation of the work took 10 ten days, the final arch being crane-lifted into place on the22nd of January 2016.
The official opening of Elizabeth Quay occurred on January 29th 2016, attended by over 30,000 people.