Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Many faces of Buddhism

We have a festival of Buddhist culture happening at the moment, a film festival at the Barbican is just starting, and I have been to a seminar on contemporary artists influenced by Buddhism. and part of a day of Buddhist dances.
The V&A have been hosting some of the events and opening a new gallery of Buddhist sculpture, sponsored by the Robert H. N. Ho family foundation that broadly supports Chinese arts and culture.
The seminar on Buddhism and contemporary art was introduced by Jacquelynn Baas, who has spent many years researching Buddhism's influence on artists both contemporary and in the past. She has produced two books on the theme Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art and Smile of the Buddha. Jacquelynn Baas writes " The appeal of Buddhism for artists is that, like art, Buddhism challenges thinking as central to knowing. What both the creation and the perception of art share with Buddhist meditation practice is that art allows us to forget ourselves and thus realize our self"
Lin Hwai-min founder and director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in Taiwan, spoke about his work and showed films of some of his dancers performing works. His description of their growing understanding and practice of Buddhism expressed through the medium of dance was extremely moving.

Kimsooja born in Korea, and studying and working in the States, talked about her performance art piece,A Needle Woman, that she took to a number of cities world wide and showed video clips from it. She also talked about her Bottari Truck work and using the Cloth bundle as a symbol in her work.

Sanford Biggers, from Los Angles, talked and showed films of his multi-disciplinary art, that included contemporary sand mandalas, dance pieces, and a singing bowl work made in Japan.

Meredith Monk, a composer, singer and creator of music theatre and pioneer of the extended vocal technique, showed work including exerts from Songs of Ascension. She also performed a short piece herself and her vocals sent shivers down my spine.

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