artist : freelance photographer

Extant Halcyon

extant halcyon 

Date: 2009

Medium: Plaster, gauze, silver gelatin print, mp3

Size: varies 

Exhibitions: 2009,  Environments, Archetypes and Images of Trauma, Washington College, Chestertown, M

Awards: Lynette Nielsen Award for Achievement in the Arts, Washington College, Chestertown, MD

The goal of meditation is to center the body and mind in order to achieve the highest level of relaxation and self-awareness. Many believe that meditation leads people to a higher state of understanding and a deeper connection with the natural world. In order to reach a meditative state, the mind undergoes an incredible process, requiring a perfect ritual of breathing from the bod. Circulation of air throughout the body replenishes blood oxygen and quiets the brain by slowing blood flow to the cortex, hypothalamus, and reticular formation.

The body in this state is beautiful, and that beauty carries both spiritual and political significance. In some Asian cultures, meditation is used in medicine, exercise and, occasionally, protest. Two of the most famous incidents of meditation as protest occurred in South Vietnam in 1963, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, and at a time when Buddhists were facing increasing discrimination from the corrupt, Catholic Ngô Đinh Diệm's administration. On October 5th in Saigon, a young Buddhist monk was set on fire in a ritual suicide to protest against government anti-Buddhist policies. Hòa thuợng Thích Quảng Ðức, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk , died on June 11th, also by ritual suicide. He burned himself at a busy Saigon road intersection, also to protest the persecution of Buddhists. Photos of his self-immolation were circulated across the world and brought attention to the oppressive policies of the Diệm regime. When Hòa thuợng Thích Quảng Ðức died, his fellow monks proclaimed him to be Bodhisattva: one who has reached enlightenment through a great act of compassion.

Extant Halcyon explores the relationships between war, peace, and the peaceful group of Buddhists who deviated from their normal practices in the name of protest. The cast is posed in the lotus position, and together with their hands held in the Jñana mudrā, they are the embodiment of meditation. A track of layered audio clips plays over headphones. The audio track includes sounds of the Vietnam war, a reading of the poem "For Example,” a narrative of the event, and a song called "Fire," interspersed with sounds of meditative breathing. Behind the sculpture are two photographs: the famous photo of Hòa thuợng Thích Quảng Ðức's self immolation by Malcom Browne, and the second, a burnt rose taken by me. These photographs create tension, but together they share the presence of death, the delicacy of the wilted petals juxtaposed with the smoke and the flames.