The Living Stupa
My art is to make a collaborative living sculpture with plants in a way that plants are not merely manipulated for decoration, but are acknowledged for their ability to be interactive by their growth patterns, which shape their environs and space.
I will enter into an engagement with several plants to highlight the energy of biodiversity. For this project, titled “The Living Stupa”, I started with a mound of compost (three large wheelbarrows full) creating a base with a diameter of three feet and a height of two feet. In the Buddhist practice of making stupas—one of the most magnificent expressions is located in Bagan, Myanmar—the relic of a Buddha is enshrined within.
For this project, the compost enshrines the energy of life—teeming with thousands of microbes, earthworms, and insects. Planted in this mound are the seeds of gourds and squash, a gift from a neighbor. These plants will be the principal collaborators that will be interacting with me. Other planted seeds are zinnias of multiple shapes, colors and sizes, and basil, an Italian Genoese variety. I have deep personal memories of all these types of plants. They give me meaning on many different levels.
After a few days, germination was visible. By giving water to the seedlings, my relationship with the plants is reinforced in ways that provoke happiness and the wonder of life. This symbiotic relationship between plants and humans is an important experience for understanding our ecological connections that emphasize the value of our interactions.
After a few weeks of growth, the gourds and squash begin to exert their space. At this point I respond to their rapid movement of vine and tendrils, and began the construction of shapes that they could play with. I used seasoned sticks from last year’s tripods made from Ligustrum, a variety of wax leaf privet shrub.
I thank Alan Johnson for his last comment focusing on the future. Our dialogue is to seek new ways of thinking about how art can be a transformative process to see the natural world, the universe and us in different ways.
One artist whom I admire is Agnes Denes. She embraces the transformative process in art. As one of the first to explore concept-based art, and the relationship of science to art, Denes also pioneered the environmental art movement. In all her endeavors she viewed herself as an artist “…to create an art that is more than direction, commodity or political tool—an art that questions the status quo and the directions life has taken…”(p.ix, Krause Ottman, “Introduction”, in “The Human Argument: The Writings of Agnes Denes”, 2008. Edited with an Introduction by Krause Ottman. Putnam, Connecticut: Spring Publication).
In my understanding of Denes, she expanded her practice of art by incorporating knowledge from different disciplines, which opened pathways for new visions for humanity. More than a generation ago, Denes wrote about new thinking processes regarding what it means to be human. In her book “Book of Dust: The Beginning and the End of Time and Thereafter” (1971-1987), she talks about how being human will need to be redefined, especially in relation to AI (artificial intelligence). Her future speculations are now our current reality. Ai-Da, an AI robot, is exhibiting her paintings, drawings, sculptures and video art at Saint John’s College, Oxford University (June 12-July 6, 2019).
From an evolutionary perspective, Denes sees the future “…when H. Sapient has long been extinct and only our descendants are intelligent machines, those sentient beings may remember us with awe and reverence, for humanity was but a form of organic life with such a simple chemistry that it could be created spontaneously from the dusts of the earth, and yet through random forces of evolution it somehow, wondrously, developed a good enough brain to create machine intelligence, the higher form of intellect that eventually succeeded its creator” (pp. 50-52), “Book of Dust”).
From Alan Johnson Commenting on […something is changing the relationship of common understanding. Indeed, a crisis might stimulate action in positive directions and become the springboard to the ever evolving human.]
“True, our next level of ‘Art’ May be upon us now. Participatory. The patron as part of the art. Further it may be immersive. The patron as the art. Virtual Reality May give way to experimental art forms. Take for example the ‘Murder Mystery Dinner’. One is part of the ‘Play’, one is a character in the event. The Art is transitory. Oscar Wilde, although he created art, was art. Our artistic future may be events where individual patrons assume roles and become the art for themselves to experience, and every patron ‘sees’ the art differently.
Isn’t that a bit of what we experienced when we go, for example to the current Dior exhibit at the DMA and then gather to discuss what we each saw, felt, sensed and drew from the visit?
Isn’t the discussion even more Art, than the actual visit to the display? The display is static. A trip and a walk. The discussion is dynamic, prizing out emotions and deep seated response feelings of the participants.
I am sure that Cro-Magnon man sat around the fire and found that the true ‘art’ of his day was the talk that he had with his compatriots about the scratches he made on a sheep bone, more than the actual scratches themselves. I know my ancestors thought more of the meaning of the Runes on their Scandinavian rocks than they did of the rune shapes themselves.
The Future for Art is bright. It would be interesting to see what man considers art in 2100 or 2200 or beyond.”
From Alan Johnson Commenting on [Is our relationship to art a sign or symptom of these deep changes and developing crisis?]
“Not Crisis but change. Change as it has always been and continues to be. From the ‘Venus of Willendorf’ to the F-35 man has craved ‘beauty’. Shapes, surfaces, materials, colors light reflectivity, the tactile, the visual, the auditory all are sensory and stir the emotions. Not less than food or scent as well.”
From Alan Johnson Commenting on [This technology is one of the most revolutionary changes regarding how we see ourselves]
“Ah, back to the hand axe. Is true art, not simply the improvement of the aesthetic of the useful?
The necklace of the immigrant shows an attempt at a decorative motif in a quest for normality in a dismal situation.”
See https://www.google.com/search?q=immigrants and client=Firefox-b-1….
In the depths of a horrendous situation man still reaches fro some semblance of a higher state [of] being. Usually through Art.”
From Alan Johnson Commenting on [Technological conditions put pressure on the consumption of resources]
“Some of which are wasted on spurious efforts at Art, for example the entry to the New York Met Gala. This is constructive? Edifying? A useful and beneficial use of resources for the betterment of Humanity? Or just exploitive wasteful hubris?”
From Alan Johnson Commenting on [In the dynamics of rapid change, is this relationship threatened?]
“Not really, we still adorn ourselves daily with bits and pieces of pretty stones and metals or strings and baubles that we wear. Additionally we select implements that we use, in part for utility and in part for shape, form and color.”
From Alan Johnson: commenting on [Culture is cognizant by overt behavior, but it is also tacit, meaning a way of living that is so engrained to make it invisible in our daily life]
This mid Paleolithic (200,000 to 300,000 years ago) item is faceted on two sides. Only napping on one side was needed to form an edge. The extra effort of the worker to facet both sides was done to refine the tool for aesthetic purposes.
From Henry Biber
Traversing anew across antediluvian sands, I detect in the pebbles both sameness and difference.
For the body with its longevity of memory, some imports shift.
Now that there are so many, they jostle
Yet they leaven into a collegial gradient.
I stand benignly in witness of the world’s self-disclosure,
Resigned that it has shrugged off my authorship.
The Character of Non-Existence or,
For whom does the world exist.