Majo Balko
May 7, 2017 · 5 min read

For several years I was fascinated by the collaborative religious ritual of mandala building and the visual beauty of mandalas. For those who do not know, mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in eastern religions, mainly in Hinduism and Buddhism. Mandalas mostly show the universe and its geometrical balance or harmony. Images are being created from colored sand, rice flour or other loose material. Their production requires great care and patience. Mandala is usually created on the occasion of some festival or ceremony and its form is governed by the spirit and meaning of the occasion. The creators express themselves with geometrical images and symbols understandable to the insiders and show their vision of the world, forces of nature, the cycle of life, astrological signs, deities and their innermost religion. At the end ceremony or rite, for which it was created, mandala is publicly swept and thrown into the river or sprayed into the wind.

To better imagine how these ceremonies look like, take a look at these video clips (I would highly recommend to watch the full films as well):

Documentary film Samsara (2012) directed by Ron Fricke

Or this one:

Documentary film Wheel of Time by German director Werner Herzog

The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.

If you are interested to know more about the various geometric shapes and images or patterns — you should read about Yantras.

Despite its cosmic meanings a yantra is a reality lived. Because of the relationship that exists in the Tantras between the outer world (the macrocosm) and man’s inner world (the microcosm), every symbol in a yantra is ambivalently resonant in inner–outer synthesis, and is associated with the subtle body and aspects of human consciousness.

Unique mandalas with structural similarities

Another “thing” that fascinates me (and scares me at the same time) is the big amount of digital data, that we all produce everyday. According to this article, here are some stunning facts and stats about Instagram:

2. More than 75% of those users are outside the U.S.

3. More than 30 billion photos have been shared

4. Instagram users generate 3.5 billion likes per day

5. More than 80 million photos are uploaded per day

80 million photos per day — yes, that’s a lot of information and we are all part of this digital visual jungle — producing images from our daily lives with our digital devices and uploading them to social media platforms as Instagram. Our generation is also part of the emerging phenomenon — the selfie culture. According to Linda Hudson’s (view her complete TED talk):

“Our Cell phones became our Self phones.”

and the main message of a selfie is:

“I am here. This is me. Please look at me.”

We — modern humans love to create these photos of ourselves and I believe these visual information is a form of digital representations of our physical bodies in certain space and time. The photos we leave behind us on social media serves as visual diaries and help us commemorate our moments on different events. Cloud archives are definitely replacing old photo albums.

Pope Francis has his selfie picture taken inside St. Peter’s Basilica with youths

All those visual information are basically made out of pixels and are being archived in data centers all over the world. As visual artist I see great similarity between those digital pixels and physical sand (used for mandala creation).

Visual comparison of physical sand and digital noise
Recording from the real-time generative process of IndalaApp

All these observations and thoughts lead to creation of an art project INDALA App — a software, that visualizes public photos in the shape of a unique mandala. The INDALA is filled with digital public content taken from Instagram (certain hashtag#) and the created collaborative artwork represents a timeless-spaceless imprint, a unique digital trace of a conscious or unconscious co-creative process of all the collaborators.

I would like to end up this article with a quote from Tim Berners-Lee

“Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves. “

Generative collaborative artwork INDALA #Selfie, 2017
IndalaApp on DesignMarch Festival, Reykjavik 2017

Thank you for your attention and time.

I am currently deciding what should be the direction of the project. So I would appreciate any relevant ideas, comments or thoughts.

Also please contact me if you :
1. are interested to make your own indala from certain # and make a HQ print out of it.
2. are organizing a tech event/conference and you would like to have IndalaApp to generate collaborative indalas from real-time public photos.
3. are a curator preparing exhibition about #digital #art #data

Also you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram or here on Medium.

Majo Balko

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Full-time curious optimist, ecologist, creative generalist, freelance multidisciplinary designer @ www.maioam.com www.majobalko.com