© Morgan O'Hara, Ulysses, 2020 and Valori Numerici, 2021, exhibition view July 2022
ULYSSES, LIVE-TRANSMISSION-DRAWINGS, GONDOLIERI/A
exhibition July 15 - August 12, 2022
Morgan O'Hara — VALORI NUMERICI — ערכים מספריים — NUMERIC VALUES
This work began when Pierpaolo Pregnolato, founder and director of Damocle Edizioni, discovered and acquired a series of numbers which were handcarved from wood approximately 100 years ago. He invited me to create a letterpress work with the numbers. His idea was to perhaps incorporate Hebrew numerology into the project. To that end we enlisted the help of Hebrew scholar Guiseppe Balzano and we began. I met with Dottore Balzano over a year continually interrupted by COVID and he generously explained to me basics of Gamatria. Later my gallerists in Stuttgart - Brigitte and Danielle March - sent proofs to Amatsia Kashti, their Hebrew colleague and friend in the United Kingdom. His valuable contribution helped move the work towards resolution.
This work was done in Venice during COVID. The many delays and interruptions caused by lockdowns, red zones, and even COVID itself tempered the process. Two of the four of us survived the virus.
In my work I focus on life, not to determine meaning, but to reflect on potential significance by identifying concepts and life processes in a meditative progression. I make ideas visible. Here I use words and numbers as boats which go out onto the waters and respond to the movement of wind and waves and human agency in order to move. I enjoy the inclusiveness of ambiguity and Gematria is a playful oarsman. The reader is invited to step down into the boat, to cast off and follow the elements, focusing, rowing, drifting and enjoying movement, air, light, direction and the everchanging reflections.
Morgan O'Hara, Venice, Italy, July 2021
Gematria, a Hebrew alphanumeric code used to assign numeric value to a name, word or phrase is based on an assigned value for each individual letter. A single word can yield multiple values depending on its spelling. Probably used in biblical times and later adopted by other cultures, the system is still widely used in Jewish culture. Similar systems have been used in other languages and cultures: the Greeks isopsephy, and later, derived from or inspired by Hebrew gematria, Arabic abjad numerals, and English gematria.
A type of gematria system — Aru — was employed be the ancient Babylonian culture but, because their writing script was logographic, the numerical assignations they made were to whole words. The value of these words were assigned in an entirely arbitary manner and correspondences were made through tables. This practice was very different from the gematria systems used by Hebrew and Greek cultures, which used alphabetic writing scripts.
There is currently no academic consensus on whether Hebrew gematria or Greek isopsephy was used first. Gematria sums can involve single words, or a string of lengthy calculations.
For instance the nouns from Genesis 1:1 (....) that mean 'In the beginning, Elohim, the Heavens, the Earth' add up to 700 (using the biblical gematria cipher) to represent the seven days of creation.
Morgan O'Hara, Ulysses: Alfred Lord Tennyson & Morgan O'Hara, 2020
Brigitte March International Contemporary Art Stuttgart