shambhala sun covering art
Post #407 • November 11, 2004, 11:01 AM • 24 Comments
The Shambhala Sun has been doing a prodigious job lately covering art. Last month Joseph McElroy wrote about "The Invisible Thread" at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island. This month's issue has the theme of "Art That Wakes You Up," and features a beautiful spread on Tibetan painting, a heavily illustrated article by Robert Del Tredici about his long series of photographs of Chogyam Trungpa, and an extensive interview with Bill Viola, who had this to say:
The first [life-changing experience] came when we were at the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo to see an exhibition of art objects from a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. While we were standing before a row of life-sized bodhisattva figures, reading the relevant facts and descriptions, a little old lady walked right past us and moved down the row, stopping to bow in silent prayer at each figure, placing a silk scarf over their outstretched hands. I was dumbstruck. This was an art museum! When the guards didnt react, I was stunned. At that moment, the living practice, the living art in these works, shone through, and I felt like someone who for years had been admiring the outer form of a computer without ever turning it on.
I would say that the sum total of what we learned in Japan revolved around the idea of practice. That's how all the Buddhists we were meeting described what they did in everyday life. The focus was on refining one's actions, not expounding a theory. Of course, this was also what I did as an artist, as in the phrase "artistic practice," and after living in Japan I realized that the two uses of the word seemed closer together than ever before. I had a hard time seing this at first because in this age of academic art, when art training has moved out of the working community and into the insulated world of the university, becoming more theoretical in the process, the term practice no longer carries the same whole-life meaning. When I became exposed to art in a traditional context in Japan, I began to see traditional art forms not as stale artifacts from the past, but as active components of the present moment.