‘People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.’ — Ursula K. Le Guin
For centuries, dragon myths have abounded around the world. Regardless of where they appear, dragons always possess reptilian qualities, immense scale, and fearsome intelligence. The ancient Chinese revered dragons enough to place them atop their animal hierarchy, while others, like the Greeks, depicted giant serpentine creatures guarding gardens containing precious prizes.
In more recent mythology, dragons are presented as timeless fire-breathers who possess the world’s trove of primordial secrets. Their raw and wild ferocity represents ontological primacy that we humans have lost in a deviated derivè far removed from life itself.
To receive the dragon’s secrets one can not merely extinguish its flame — one must befriend the being. Doing so means overcoming human-conditioned shackles delimiting our inherent quantum possibilities. This process of reclaiming our animality is also that of attaining freedom.
William Mapan’s generative art series Dragons uses avatarism, i.e., the exploration of posthuman form, to traverse the latent space of becoming in a glorious quest for liberation. Each of the collection’s 512 iterations presents us with a dragon’s trace — we have a fleeting glimpse of its graceful flight along with a concise catalog of characteristics. From these details, we’re given to acknowledging the existence of Dragons while also connecting our lives with theirs.
How do a ‘silky’ dragon’s scales feel to the touch; does it fly smoothly through the air? A ‘very old’ dragon rarely appears; what confidentialities does it hold, and to what remote heights must one venture to reveal them?
Like Dragons, our lives are composed of many lines encoded in cosmic sheet music. Each moment plays a note, beats a wing, sings...which dragon are you?
Mapan calls these a “...grid of many lines forming a dragon crafted on paper.” But just as novels written on paper extend far beyond their bindings, so does the fiery warmth of Dragons’ breath blow past the glow of computer screens.