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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

the missing piece

while browsing through my past posts, i realized that i never got around to talking about my latest museum+yoga experience. the last time i combined art, culture, and yoga was back in january of this year when i visited the durga: avenging goddess, nurturing mother exhibit at the norton simon museum in pasadena and followed that with an ashtanga yoga class at the yoga house a few miles down the street.

this time, i didn't have to travel as far to get to the fowler museum on the UCLA campus. and better yet, i didn't have to leave the premises to get to the yoga class; we all met on the museum rooftop for the sunset yoga class with joan moran.

the scheduled series of yoga classes (four thursday evenings in july) were a promotional tie-in with the featured exhibit at the fowler, the missing peace: artists consider the dalai lama.

according to the exhibit website,

The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama is a multi-media art exhibition that brings together over 75 well-respected artists, representing more than 25 countries. With the full life of the Dalai Lama as inspiration, the intention for this project is to shift the world's attention towards peace.

Through the artist's work, we also hope to broaden appreciation for the Dalai Lama and the principles he embodies. The project and exhibition title is an evocative play on words - peace will always be elusive, or missing, in our world, but the Dalai Lama consistently shows that dedicating oneself to peace is anything but pointless. The word 'portrait' is used very loosely. Artists will be free to explore the full life of the Dalai Lama; each 'portrait' will be the result of personal interpretation.

The artists, both established and emerging, were selected because their work addresses themes that are embodied by the Dalai Lama, such as compassion, peace, unity of all things, impermanence, spirituality, belief systems, community, people in exile, non-violence, happiness, and tolerance. Many of the artists will be creating new work for the exhibition in a wide variety of media, including photography, painting, textiles, animation, sculpture, video, and installation works.

We hope that this exhibition will inspire us to reflect on who we are as human beings, our relationship to others, and our place in the world.

many artists had submitted works that depicted what the dalai lama meant to them. there were photographs, paintings, sketches, sculpture, multimedia displays, even actual items that had belonged to the dalai lama himself. but the one display that caught my eye, the one that held me transfixed for the longest period of time, was the collection of charts and text by california-based artists newton and helen harrison titled "tibet is the high ground."

basically, i'm a sucker for maps. witness the platial map i have at the top of this page. i find maps extremely mesmerizing because not only can i find what i'm specifically looking for, but i can see where it is in relation to everything around it. i study the roads, the landforms, the business districts, the residential communities. i imagine what i could do if i ever got the chance to visit the area, and if i've been there before, i look for the little nooks and crannies that i have yet to discover.

so when the harrisons' exhibit mentioned that tibet is the source of seven of the major rivers in asia -- indus, ganges, brahmaputra, salween, mekong, yangtze, and huang he -- i realized that i really didn't know much about the so-called "roof of the world". i stopped in my tracks, wanting to learn as much as i could from the "high ground" exhibit, frequently referring to the large map of tibet on the wall to get the lay of the land (pun intended).

according to an article published june 11th in the new york times, the project documents various ecological disasters that have occurred at major rivers that claim the himalayas as their source. the artists' intent is "to raise awareness in the countries downriver, and to form a political entity that will force China to open an environmental dialogue." they lament the million square miles of newly-made desert in tibet and the billions of dollars in timber profits that have flowed into china and have been supporters of the dalai lama's plans for a peace park in the himalayas.

as for the planned peace park, the government of tibet in exile, of which the dalai lama is the head of state, has issued this statement:

"In keeping with the vision of the Dalai Lama, all of Tibet should be transformed into a zone of peace where humans and nature can dwell in harmonious coexistence. Such a Tibet, as the Dalai Lama said, should be completely demilitarised and must have a democratic form of government and an economic system that ensures the sustainable use of the country's natural resources to provide a decent standard of living for its people."

more information on the state of tibet's environment can be found in this white paper.

i was so engrossed with the whole tibetan environment piece that i had completely lost track of the time; there was barely enough time left for me to quickly walk through the remaining displays and rush up the stairs to the rooftop space where most of the students had already laid claim to the prime spots.

as for the yoga class, it was a gentle hatha class which catered to all levels. although it was advertised as an opportunity to "salute the sun as it sets behind the santa monica mountains," from where i was, i could neither see the sun nor the mountains. no matter; it was a nice change to be able to practice out in the open, with a soft breeze blowing through the trees.

when the class ended, i had hoped to go back into the museum to continue browsing through the exhibit, but unfortunately, it had closed for the day.

the missing peace: artists consider the dalai lama runs through september 10th. admission is free.

i still have a few weeks left to check out what i missed...

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