27 March 2013

Ajahn Pei Comes to BIA

Yesterday was a magical full moon day! 

Ajahn Pei, Ven. Manjusri and I had a very nice visit to the Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives yesterday to talk about the September exhibit. Khun Muay, Phat, Paco, Mike and other members of the Int'l Lay Sangha were able to casually meet Ajahn Pei as we walked around, which is very nice. 


I think Ajahn was very inspired by BIA. He talked about the details in the ancient artworks reproduced from India that are displayed there.  Here he is pointing to the serpents that adorn the figures' headdresses. He said, in Thailand a "naga" is known today as a serpent, but in India the term refers to an ancient people.

Both Aj. Pei and Venerable like the idea of the community artwork, the "bridge" of flags to the island. Ajahn described it as connecting the mind--our source of knowledge--back to nature, and our heart.  :) 

We began to discuss practical ways of designing it for strength and durability. 

We talked about ways to secure the structure and to measure the dimensions of the building, the depth of the lake, and the distance to the island. 

We need blueprints to the building and/or the use of some measuring equipment. To support the bridge of flags, we will design supports at 2 or 3 points in the lake, so that the flags do not fall into the water.  


We looked into the meditation room, for a cool break from the 40 degree heat outside. (That's 104 Farenheit.) I hope to create a set of projections for this space linked to the theme of the poem in the exhibit as well. 


FLAGS: Mike also suggested looking for a source that could donate the material for flags. (He suggested old military parachutes!) If you have ideas about this, please let me know. I am looking for a very light material and strong cables. 

It is wonderful to finally connect these two worlds I've been working in the last 6 months. 

25 March 2013

Each Luminous Bead Finished by Hand

In parallel to the planning for AKSHA's first exhibit, designers Nine, Don and I are working to complete the first line of the Luminous prayer beads, rings and earrings that were offered to backers on AKSHA's Kickstarter campaign.

It's been an exciting process, and we've had the opportunity to learn and refine the designs along the way. Here are some pictures from the process.

After creating wax prototypes, the beads are cast in halves from brass. They come from the mold attached to a frame that look like "trees". Each half-bead is carefully freed and then soldered together until seamless. Then they are silver-plated and polished again, removing any imperfections from the process.

Here are some pictures.

12 March 2013

Making the Path Over the Hot Wax Sea

Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives

Pi Noi enjoying her ring, Luminous Space, from AKSHA.

Today was exciting. We had an important meeting to officially launch the planning phase for the exhibition at BIA. Dr. Banchar, Director of the Buddhadasa Indapanno Archives, attended with volunteers and staff Paco, Mike, Pi Muay, Pi Noi, and myself.  (Ven. Manjusri, Ajahns Pei and Duang from Pohchang could not join due to various circumstances, but will join later.)

This is one of my personal inspirations for the site-specific installation. It is a really beautiful lullaby from Southern Thailand, first sung to me by Phon (apologies, I am probaby mispelling her name). The Nalikea tree, is a coconut tree whose name is probably related to the Pali nalikera or King Coconut so beloved to Sri Lanka. One such tree lives on an island in the middle of the lake in front of BIA.

"Dear little child, listen to me:
There was once a Nalikae coconut tree,
Alone it stood amidst the hot wax sea,
Neither by the rain was it shaken, nor by thunder.
One could possibly reach it,
If, to oneself, bad and good do not matter."

Phon interpreted it to mean we could only cross the hot wax if we stayed cool. A take which I love.

The revered and revolutionary teacher, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, has used it in his dharma teachings. According to Dr. Banchar, Buddhadasa said that the hot wax sea is all our experience in our life, and advised us to build the island in our mind.

I would like to create an installation that symbolizes the "path" over this hot wax sea stretching from the sculpture garden through the open 1st floor, out the mouth of the building and across the lake to the island and the tree. This path would be composed of flags of prayers (of forgiveness, perhaps) contributed by the entire community.

We discussed this and other such ideas at our meeting, before Dr. Banchar invited us to a rare peek into the contents of the archive.

He introduced us to the enigmatic Edward M. Sherman, an American who left his job as a billboard painter, moved his family to Japan where he studied Zen and woodblock printing before coming to Thailand where he passed away while on retreat in a rural cave temple. Apparently, after his death the villagers collected his original blocks and prints, not understanding the English written on them or their significance, and donated them to Suan Mokh. Ajahn Buddhadasa never met Sherman, but immediately realized the significance of the works and their power as dharma teachings themselves.

We saw some of the original paper reproductions that Buddhadasa commissioned from original classical work of relief sculpture in India. These were created meticulously to scale and used in creating molds for the existing works at Suan Mokh and BIA.

It is refrigerated in here--and normally people other than the archivists are not allowed because bodies change the temperature.
An exhibition in collaboration with Pohchang is fortuitous, as many of Pohchang's most famous artists already have works in the archive. These were donated during the 100th Anniversary Celebration of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu 7 years ago.


Perhaps one of the most impressive facts I learned is just how organized Aj. Buddhadasa was during his lifetime. He kept every letter sent to him with his own hand-written and typed responses. There were even lists of articles he brought back from his trips to India. Amazing. I am inspired to try harder in my own life. 

Photo courtesy of P' Noi