See, Touch, Ask Questions.
(or Sketches For A Monument To A Possible Future), 2012
Installation: Tree, mirrors, bucket, water, torch, tree resin, matches, white quartz crystal (dimensions varied)
See, Touch, Ask Questions. (or Sketches For A Monument To A Possible Future) is a site-specific installation constructed from materials and objects that bring together the five elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Space, that are studied in Tibetan medicine and in Buddhism and believed to form everything in the universe. The three words attached to its title: See, Touch, Ask Questions are principle instructions followed by its practitioners in healing processes. Each of the elements of the installation: a dead (or hibernating) tree, a mirror lined bucket filled with water, a cluster of healing crystal, a fire torch, a match box, shards of mirror, is linked to another, symbolically referring to a source of available ‘healing’ power, alluding to interdependencies of collective action, and an individual responsibility for part-taking in the process.
The installation is ‘activated’ by direct sun light, when shards of mirror hanged from the branches cast fragmented reflections onto the surrounding ground. A fragile, constantly changing circle of lines resembles Morse code message, only it is formed momentarily, disappearing before it can be deciphered. The circle of light, like visions of future will remain incomplete, unless Light can reach the mirrors without obstructions and from all directions at once. Notion of ‘future’ is an ultimate abstraction and universally faced uncertainty. It allows for arbitrary speculations, and even when best planned for, it is still subject to change by the unexpected. Buddhists beliefs and struggle for freedom seem contradictory in nature, especially to an average Western observer, likely to have a limited insight into the Tibetan issue.
The work reflects on conversations about hopes for the ending of Chinese occupation of Tibet, impact of China’s policies on Tibetan culture, its aggressive exploitation of natural resources in Tibet and the resulting impact on environment, and about the ways through which different generations of Tibetans deal with life in exile. These conversations took place in Dharamshala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, with international artists, cultural producers, filmmakers, poets, writers, political activists, monks, and local residents. With pressing issues to deal with, mainly the preservation and development of Tibetan culture and struggle for Tibet’s freedom, projections of the future are speculative.
The idea of freedom takes on a monumental but an obscure form here. The work is a homage to a multitude of voices that add to visions of what might, and what has to happen once Tibet is free, casting fragmented Light onto pages of history that are yet to be open.
Dharamshala International Artists Workshop, (Khoj International Artists Assocciation / White Crane Arts and Media, 20 Oct – 1 Nov 2012).
Curatorial Team: Pooja Sood, Curator, Founding Member & Director, Khoj International Artists’ Association, Asmita Rangari (‘Andi’), Curator, Khoj International Artists’ Association, Ritu Sarin, Filmmaker/Artist, Founding Member, White Crane Arts & Media, Tenzing Sonam, Filmmaker/Artist, Founding Member, White Crane Arts & Media
Critic: Latika Gupta
Artists: Bchuchung D Sonam (Dharamshala/Tibet), Karma Sichoe (Dharamshala/Tibet), Aradhana Seth (Goa, India), Ayisha Abraham (Bangaluru, India), Tejal Shah (Mumbai, India), Zuleikha Chaudhari (New Delhi, India), Aman Mojadidi (Afghanistan), Ania Dabrowska (Poland / London), Erdenebayar Monkhor (Mongolia), Munkhtsetseg Jalkhaajav (Mongolia), Tsherin Sherpa (Nepal / USA), Kesang Lamdark (Tibet / Switzerland)
Khoj International Artist Association (New Delhi, India) has a long tradition of running workshops and residencies that offer international and Indian-based artists time and space for exchange and development of new ideas. These often take place in locations around India, which are removed from the established centers of contemporary art production.
In 2012, Khoj teamed up with White Crane Films (founded by filmmakers/artists Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam) to bring the workshop to Dharamshala, a rapidly expanding global destination for pilgrims and tourists.
The participating artists had an opportunity to engage with the complex social and political history and current significance of Dharamshala, to produce works that addressed issues of local identity, culture and politics.
The workshop culminated in an Open Day exhibition in Mc Loeod Ganj, exile home of the Dalai Lama, the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and home to a growing Tibetan Diaspora.