We have just added Urÿonstelaii by Pablo Helguera to the ICI Library. Helguera contributed to our Searching for Sebald publication and the limited artist project associated with that book. His latest book recounts a tale about a mysterious sect of Dutch mystics who arrived to an island in the New World in 1660 with the objective to create a new society. Their governing principle revolved around the uninterrupted performance of a single dramatic work in seven tableaux vivants. Invoking alchemical imagery and hermetic thought, their goal was to arrive to a higher state of being by collectively embodying the symbolic representation of all of human and divine knowledge. Their experiment, which would last a century, would test the human boundaries of time, physical endurance, and the collective commitment toward an idea.

Uryonstelaii is a project consisting of two complementary components: a book published by Jorge Pinto Books,New York, and a one-time only series of performed prologue tours delivered by historical re-enactors as part of Helguera’s performance for The Sixth Borough, an exhibition at Governors Island in the summer of 2010 curated by Manon Slome and Julian Navarro for No Longer Empty.

Lise Patt, the director of the Institute of Cultural Inquiry, had the honor of reading the draft of the book and wrote this brief commentary (reprinted on the back cover): “Like a ‘lamb in wolf’s clothing,’ Pablo Helguera uses the exoteric mechanisms of historical erudition to lure us to his magical island of the Ourobourians. But right about the time we lose our footing on the land’s slippery shores—when we begin to wonder if the artist has gleaned an esoteric tradition for more than just source material for his island’s symbols and nomenclature, when we start to navigate his land with the non-verbal hunches of the alchemists’ score, and call into question the artifices we employ to gather the world around us—we realize Helguera has really taken us on a journey to another land altogether, the most forbidden of places–the self.”

Read more about this project at Pablo Helguera’s website.

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