Outram titled the drawing for the Shaper Ceiling
"The Birth of Consciousness."
It encodes a cosmological myth.
At first glance, it seems that the flower in its center must hold the
key to its meaning. Look however, directly
east of the flower to find the small black
spot. The spot is nothing.
However, nothing has a dual-that which
is not nothing. You will find it opposite
nothing, to the west. Once nothing notices
its dual, they begin a random conversation,
which you can see running between them.
This conversation leads to self-awareness,
begetting consciousness-the flower in
The flower is the primal energy event; akin
to the "Big Bang." Around it, the
universe forms, creating both space and
time. As matter coalesces into the twin
planets (seemingly made of cinder block
to show their solidity), it forms both day
and night. You can see that the energy
event, or sun, is carried from day to night
in a boat made of papyrus reeds; it is
falling apart, probably due to its ancient
The endless nature of this ritual is signified in
the figure of infinity that surrounds the two planets-that
of the snake consuming its own tail.
(This infinity is a continuing motif in the
decoration; it occurs on the
floor of Martel Hall and in the groundcover
that surrounds the building.)
This entire depiction of these ideas is
carried in the center of the
You can see the raft's outline, with its structure of
logs that surrounds creation. The raft rides
on the blue ocean, beyond which lies
chaos. The corners of the raft carry
crystalline mountains, which condense the
sea-vapors evaporated by the sun to form
the rivers flowing out to the corners.
Like many artists, Outram has produced
multiple explanations for this work. In
particular, the curious reader might consult
his 'Outline of an Iconography" and
"The Log of the Navigator."
To produce the ceiling, Outram drew the it
on a single A1 sheet of paper. The
drawing was photographed to produce an
eight inch by ten inch color positive, which
was scanned at 1200 dpi. This produced a
file of roughly 750 megabytes of data. The
image was enlarged, using Live Pictures
software, into 232 panels, each two by
eight feet in size. These were printed onto
vinyl using a 12 dpi Scanachrome printer.
The vinyl was then wrapped around curved
acoustical tile and bolted to a standard
ceiling frame. Installation on site took just two