Daniel Buren’s Metaphysical Creation: Talking Art In Naples

Symbolic Meanings At The Madre Museum, Napoli

Naples is a city of opposites. At first glance, the ancient ‘Neapolis’ appears to be gritty, chaotic, and for some, a little unsettling. But when you get close enough to tickle her underbelly, she is attractive, charming and friendly.

Daniel Buren exhibition, Made Museum, Napoli, Italy

It seems apt that the enigmatic Italian port should be chosen for Daniel Buren’s latest masterpiece, “Come Un Gioco da Bambini Lavoro in Situ.” The exhibition reflects duality and explains how to create a new you.

The exhibition is a mind-boggling experience – one that delights and inspires, or leaves patrons bamboozled. For the handful of groups that wandered in and out whilst I was there, it was clearly the latter.

To really appreciate Buren’s artwork, you need to understand the meaning of metaphysical symbolism – the keys to life’s secrets of creation!

Metaphysical city

The grandiose design, a collaboration between Buren and architect Patrick Bouchain, is the first of a series scheduled to be hosted in Napoli’s Madre Museum in 2015 and 2016.

Featuring more than 100 modules of geometric shapes and spectrum of colours, the mesmerising format was inspired by the work of the 19th Century German educationalist, Friedrich Wilhelm August Frobel, the man credited with setting the standard for the modern education system.

Colourful towers represent the human body and mind

The mishmash of colour and hypnotic shapes is described as a “metaphysical city,” designed to “heighten the cognitive potential of play in relation to language.”

The language though is spoken by a surreptitious tongue that originated in ancient mystery schools thousands of years ago. To protect their secrets from the uninitiated, practitioners of hermetic alchemy used symbols and numbers to explain the special relationship man has with the Universe.

Buren clearly understands the esoteric meanings of these symbols. It is not the first time the French artist has used his knowledge to inspire his work. This bold yet enchanting circle and square symbolism in Luxembourg is a prime example.

Geometric shapes

Buren’s latest exhibit features geometric shapes; squares, circles, triangles, coloured arches, and cylindrical pillars, stacked one on top of the other to create metaphysical towers.

When viewed in its entirety, you can easily see the ensemble is symmetrical. If you were to stand in the centre of the room and fold the two opposing sides into equal proportions, they fit perfectly. This is an expression of duality.


The ancients were well aware of duality; everything that exists has a polar opposite. In Buren’s showcase, the artist uses the concept of processing a negative of photograph into a colour image – one half of the room is completely white, the other bursting with colour.


What this means in life terms is that the imprint you leave on your sub-conscious mind through thoughts, emotions and actions manifests into reality. It is what eastern philosophy calls karma.

The same idea is repeated in the form of the twin pillars at the heart of the exhibition. The pillars represent Boaz and Jachin, the names given to the pillars at the entrance of King Solomon’s Temple in the Bible.

Boaz and Jachin, the duality of man

Christians and low-ranking Freemason’s are told the towers simply mean strength and stability. Whilst this is partly true, their deeper meaning defines the duality of nature. The challenge for mankind is to bring the opposing dualities into balance.

Connecting with spirit

The artistic structure is essentially explaining how man connects with spirit. All the key numbers and shapes are present to do this. There are eight towers. Eight is the sacred number representing a higher state of consciousness.

The foundation stone for each of the towers are cubic blocks, a metaphysical symbol representing the earth and the physical aspects of man’s animal nature. Essentially this reflects our base consciousness.

The next level is a circle in the square, a tip of the cap to Leonardo’s di Vinci’s famous diagram, Vitruvian Man. The circle represents the spirit world and when ensconced in a square recognises the divinity in man.

Furthermore, the circle reflects the little-known 528hz vibration, which forms a perfect circle of sound and was known by the ancient Egyptians as the Frequency of Creation. Today 528Hx is referred to as the ‘love vibration.’

Buren also codes the love vibration into his sculpture using sacred numbers. The hypnotic black and white stripes within the circles represent the light and dark dualities of human nature and measure 8.7cm wide.

When added together, eight and seven equal 15. In gematria, an ancient mathematical tool, 15 is six (1+5). The 528 frequency also adds up to 15 (5+2+8).

kaleidoscopic optical illusion


The black and white stripes produce the effect of a chromatic kaleidoscope. The opposing colours create an optical illusion and project a sensation of looking into a mirror. You only notice this when someone is stood on the other side of the tower.

Looking into a mirror and seeing somebody else’s face would be a peculiar and surreal experience. When I realised what this was, a burst of delight popped from my lungs. It is the eastern philosophy of oneness; we are all connected.

The cylindrical column on the next level is another eastern philosophy of the middle pillar and third eye symbolism. The middle pillar is your string of seven energy centres, or chakras.

With your chakras balanced and open, you have better health and more vitality. They also enable you to open the third eye chakra, believed to be the pineal gland which sits in the centre of the brain and is thought to be the mind’s eye which allows us to visualise.

In the theory of law of attraction, it is believed that if you visualise yourself in a position you want to be in, you increase your chances of manifesting your desires – essentially imprinting the image on your subconscious – hence Buren’s decision to reflect the process of developing a negative into a colour photo.

The white half of the room represents your subconscious


The triangle atop the middle pillar also represents manifestation. You find this triangle above the entrance way of Christian churches. Sometimes, like on the Great Seal of the United States one dollar bill, you also find the “all-seeing eye,” in the centre of the triangle.

This represents the third eye chakra, the pineal gland which the French philosopher Rene Descartes described as “the principal seat of the soul.” When developed you are the architect of your own creations.

“Come Un Gioco da Bambini Lavoro in Situ” will run until August 2015. Dates for following exhibitions have yet to be confirmed.

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