I was there in the desert to gather video footage for a video that would showcase my friend Bill Witherspoon’s art work. When he called me in May
and said he wanted me to go to the Oregon Desert, I was very excited. He said it would be an adventure and talked about camping for weeks. He did say three of his artist friends would be there to help, but I didn’t realize what they would be doing. Bill, I knew, had gone to the desert many times to paint landscapes and skies, and I thought that was what he and his friends would be doing on this trip. What I found out once there was that he and his friends would be creating a giant design, not painting.
There are many incredible pieces to the gigantic puzzle that was before us. A lot of it had to do with how this quarter of a mile square design was created, and why it was being made. For sure, the entire design had to be marked by using a light number one pencil before applying a black Sharpie to it. The light pencil could be erased, but the Sharpie would be permanent and could not be removed.
The most incredible part of doing the construction was that at no time during the creation of the design could any of us see the whole design from the ground level. At most, you could see a city block size view of the lines just marked or carved. The crew would study the blueprints and review geometric formulas Bill had calculated before every new element of the creation was marked.
This beautiful, yet complicated, design had to be exact. Bill had read ancient Indian sanskrits from thousands of years ago that gave specific instructions regarding the steps necessary to create the design regardless of its size. If at any time the creation was not being correctly made, lines of its form would not coincide with added lines, and it could not be completed.
Every day was much like the day before except that the design was getting larger and larger. The crew worked in pairs and then together at times and were constantly on the move. This was an extraordinary project on any level, created by hand and under extreme conditions. Although I was there and helped from time to time, I had no idea how they were making it to perfection.
Early in the marking of the design, the crew marked the outermost circles of it. This had to be completed before the marking of the triangles and pedals inside of it. The outer circles were actually four equal circles about 6 feet apart and would be three miles in length from their start to finish; its diameter would be a quarter of a mile across. The crew of four, each tied together with wires and marking poles connected to the center pole, started their work to make the circle. I set up my camera at the start point to record their work. As they went from left to right, moving further and further away to a point which was a quarter of a mile from me, they looked like black specks across the dry lake bed. More than two hours later they returned to the end mark exactly on line from where they had started.
To rent or purchase the film go to: vimeo.com/ondemand/sriyantra