NUNO SOUSA VIEIRA

In sculptures made out of an array of discarded factory materials and old office furniture, the Portuguese artist Nuno Sousa Vieira confronts opposites: consumption and usefulness versus refuse and obsolescence; the mass-produced versus the handmade; function over form versus form over function. Sousa Vieira renders utilitarian materials useless, while referencing their former functions and investing them with new life as sculptural works. Utilitarian objects are repurposed and recycled into poetic, deconstructed geometric forms which subvert yet still refer to their original functional forms and milieus.  The transformed objects, devoid of original purpose, often are placed within their original “useful” environments,  highlighting the transgressional aspect of their transformations.

“The media daily bombs us with images of ruin and large scale human and urban devastation. The idea of ruin interests me but not its aestheticization or displacement into a sheltered context, be it the exhibition or the comfortable screening in front of our sofas. What interests and concerns me is to recuperate and understand how we can use that physical and symbolic material without causing more waste, re-edifying it, raising it from its ashes. In this context, I choose objects developed for human use like tables, chairs, typewriters, or architecture and construction materials – doors, windows or floor pavement. I consider them raw materials for my sculptures. Although these objects are capable of being used, they were abandoned when the factory shut down. What I want is to get them reintroduced at a visible level. In my practice I replicate industrial procedures because, in my studio as in the factory, the process starts by thinking and experimenting the context – the work space.”

Vieira’s studio is located within an abandoned industrial building in Lisbon, a location filled with items for “relocation and reintegration into a platform of discussion and visibility within the art sphere.”

“The objects I have been developing have an address, Plásticos SIMALA, S.A., Estrada dos Pousos, Pousos, 2410 Leiria, Portugal, and that is the place where they can fully reach their meaningfulness. The elements intervened come from an industrial structure which is now my studio and this is where, along with their fellow objects, that they find their measure and fitting. That space is doomed to disappearance because urban developed so predicted but there is, on my part, an attempt to save and inscribe that place on the map of my artistic practice. On the other hand, this place allows me to achieve an awareness of issues and situations paralleled in our daily lives, such as ruin and abandon. What interests me is not an “aesthetisation” of each one of them but their relocation and reintegration into a platform of discussion and visibility within the art sphere.”

Vieira trained at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Lisbon University, where he obtained a master’s degree in Painting and studied for a doctorate. Nuno Sousa Vieira has had a multidisciplinary international career and includes in his projects drawing, sculpture, and the installation of objects he finds.

An interview with Vieira, originally published in Juliet magazine, can be found here.

Nuno Sousa Vieira was born in Leiria (Portugal), in 1971. He currently lives and works between Leiria and Lisbon (Portugal).  http://www.nunosousavieira.com/

 

 

Sources:

Galerie Emmanuel Herve, Paris

Drawing Room, Madrid, Feb 2018

João Silvério, notes for exhibition at Empty Cube, Lisbon
October 2008

Advertisements

DAVID LANG: THE PASSING MEASURES – CITY OF BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY CHORUS, FEATURED ARTIST, MARTY EHRLICH, CLARINET

 

The Passing Measures – for bass clarinet, amplified orchestra, and women’s voices – is an ambient and emotionally charged meditation on the passing of time.

“This heartfelt, mournful piece, a wordless, 45-minute quasi-concerto for women’s chorus, bass clarinet, and amplified orchestra, is a welcome surprise from a composer whose always deft and subtle work has often seemed ironic and arch. The clarinetist Marty Ehrlich, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and members of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, conducted by Paul Herbert, provide a dignified performance, giving gentle life to the work’s lustrous waves of color. [This is one of the] best classical albums of 2001.”
– Russell Platt, The New Yorker

“Sits and shimmers gently, like a jeweled pendant turning very slowly in the light.”
– Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Lang has created a moody, moving 43-minute experience.”
– Bradley Bambarger, Billboard

 

David Lang on The Passing Measures

“I think one of the reasons our commercial culture likes all music to be fast and snappy is because in fast music it is much harder to recognize the passing of time. You listen to the tunes, to the catchy phrases, but you are not allowed to feel just how time slips away. Fast music is stirring, optimistic – that is why we are bombarded all day by active, energetic music that tries to make us buy things or do things or think things. Slow music, on the other hand, is good for contemplation but is terrible for business, so you don’t get much of it in your daily life. More and more I have become convinced that one of the noblest things you can do in a piece of “serious” music is to allow for an experience that can’t happen in your everyday life. The Passing Measures is that kind of experience.

My piece is about the struggle to create beauty. A single very consonant chord falls slowly over the course of forty minutes. That is the piece. Every aspect of the piece is on display, however – magnified, examined, amplified, prolonged. The soloist’s notes are impossibly long, requiring frequent drop-outs for breath and for rest. The players are all instructed to play as quietly as possible, and then are amplified at high volume, in order to make their restraint an issue of the piece. Four percussionists scrape pieces of junk metal from start to finish, as if to accompany the consonance of the chords with sounds of dirt and decay.

The Passing Measures is dedicated to the memory of Bette Snapp.

 

PAVEL KOSENKO, RUSSIAN STREET PHOTORAPHER: INTERVIEW, from Leica Liker.com

 PAVEL KOSENKO, Moscow (Russia) Street Photographer



Leica Liker is honored to have Pavel Kosenko, a Moscow (Russia)Street Photographer as our #17 guest.

I first discovered Pavel Kosenko through his Russian website  http://www.pavel-kosenko.livejournal.com. No, I can’t read Russian but Pavel is a blogger and photo discoverer himself. I came upon his post from another post of “4 x 5” Kodachromeslides of the American war effort during World War 2. They are stunning examples of color and subject matter by industrial and military photographers. You can check it out here. It was from there that I found Pavel.

What drew me to Pavel’s work is his sense of color. When you look at his images, you can just eat the colors. They are exquisitely rich and velvety or harsh and poppy. It’s as if he took them with Kodachrome, except it’s digital.

Pavel talks about the harmony between colors. He is devoted to the study of color. Not just with color wheels but how master painters, who have command of color, are able to combine colors to compliment each other.

Many of us start by contrast of forms, objects, composition, shadows and irony within the frame of story telling. Pavel on the other hand starts with color and in a way, emotions. Not emotions like happy or sad, but a kind of internal stirring. If you study many of his photographs, they are simple observations. Yet some of them have a subtle yet powerful complexity to them because of the variety and depth of colors. His colors define details that would have been overlooked had the image been too contrasty or over exposed. So you are pulled into the image wanting to explore every corner.  That’s not to say that sometimes Pavel also loves to make colors pop in high contrast shots. But when he is able to capture the digital version of that ‘Kodachrome’ magic, I can’t stop poring over every pixel of his photographs.

Here is my interview with PAVEL KOSENKO:

Nick Name: No, I just have my real name – Pavel Kosenko.
Currently living in: Moscow, Russia
Motto: “You can only be happy here and now.”

Street Photographer since: 2011
Profession/Job: Photographer
Websites: http://www.pavelkosenko.com
Organizations or Group: None

What do you do as a photographer professionally?Technically photography does not pay my bills. I do many things to pay the bills as a photographer. For instance, I organize photography tours in a variety of countries like Turkey, Vietnam, etc.. I also teach master classes in color for photographers. I have written a book, titled THE LIVING DIGIT, which is presently only published in Russian. I want to translate it into English to get a larger audience.

I also do color consulting for print. I have a small photography school in Moscow. I have a popular blog with 15,000 readers and 50,000 views posts per day. I have people who pay advertising on my blog. Camera companies give me cameras to use to write reviews about. I also have projects that are photography related. I have a friend in advertising who thinks my sense of color could be utilized in film. As you can see, I do a lot of things.

Favorite Street Camera & Lens: Canon EOS 1D X with Canon 35 mm f/1.4 lens, Canon 50 mm f/1.2 lens
Back-up Street Camera & Lens: Fujifilm X-Pro1 with Fujinon 18 mm f/2.0 lens
What and when was your first camera? Zorki Russian camera. I don’t remember the number.
Favorite photography gadget: iPhone 5

Favorite street food: Italian
Do you listen to music while shooting? Sometimes, but not often.
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos:Royksopp, Delinquent Habits, Moloko, Cypress Hill, Depeche Mode, Die Antwoord, Pink Floyd, Royksopp, Django Reinhardt, Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show 🙂 etc.
Favorite photo software: RPP (Raw Photo Processor)

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: The same
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? Unfortunately, I don’t have any.
Color or Black and White? Color

 

Shoot Film or Digital? Basically digital because film does not have the abilities that digital has to offer. With digital, I have more possibilities to push the limits of color as well as provide the best quality. But sometimes I play with film because is has an inherent aesthetic component which digital does not have. Film allows me to improve my visual experience and I try to apply what I learn in my digital work.

If Film, what type of negative? Last time I used film it was Kodak Ektar.
Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Any time. But lately I like to shoot without sun light (in the evening and with candlelight in rooms).

How do you define street photography? Exactly like Henri Cartier-Bresson defines it.
How did you get into photography? Actually my life was originally not destined for photography. I was born in the small Russian town of Protvino in the Moscow region. It has around 37,000 people. Protvino is a town of scientists. The main business is the research institute. It’s a tradition for young people in this area to go to the Moscow Physics Institute to become a scientist. The parents force their children to follow their footsteps. I left because I studied in Moscow at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute where I was for 1-1/2 years. But after attending the institute, I realized I needed to be creative. I went to music school for 5 years instead. After that I realized music was not my thing.

When I was 6 years old my father gave me a camera. I was shooting everything from family to friends, but primarily for myself only. While I was in music school I figured out photography was my where my passion and interest lied.

What is it about the medium photography that attracts you? What are you trying to express in photography?  For me it’s like drugs. I need it. I wake up and grab my camera. Or I switch on the computer and search for photographic images. I need to improve my visual experience all the time.  Even when I was studying physics and music, I was taking photographs. Sometimes I leave my camera at home and then I have to have it a few days later.

Why did you choose Street Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? I did not choose only Street Photography. It was my interest for the last 2 years, but I like art photography too. I try to mix it up.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? My interest in ordinary people and their lives.
Is Street Photography an obsession? I think yes.
Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? Both

Are you an invisible photographer or visible? Visible. I like to communicate with people. I believe that photographer cannot be invisible. You can’t shoot outside and think you have no effect on it. Each photographer sees his own particular way. We all get different photographic results, even if we all shoot the same place and in the same direction.
Favorite street photography city: Istanbul

What inspires your photography? Art, especially by Russian painters. I was a jazz musician in my past life. Although, I haven’t played the guitar for 6 years, the idea of art as an expression of me is extremely important. I love music. Sometimes I shoot while listening to music in my headphones. It is important what I listen to because the combination of the music and what I shoot is the process of my artistic expression.

Here are some painters I look to for inspiration: Konstantin Korovin (http://pavelkosenko.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/constantin-korovin/), Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Victor Borisov-Musatov, Nicholas Roerich, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Alexandr Rabin, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexandr Zavarin, Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, etc.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? I think it is better to quote Gueorgui Pinkhassov:  “Shoot the bad pictures, you might get a good one.”

What is your style? I don’t think I have a style. Often photographers don’t see what they see. It takes others to see what the photographer saw. My reaction to my fotos is often much too critical, sometimes dismissing good shots. I need to have a curator.

In general, I look for color and “chiaroscuro”. I am interested in light and dark colors. For showing light we need dark. I experiment in colors, dark, light. I always think about dark and light in my color compositions.

How has it changed over time? I think like everyone, I took travel photos first. After that I realized that they were good but they were like postcards. You know, National Geographic-type. It’s the first level of photography that everyone reaches. I realized I had to go to next level. I then went to one town and stayed a long time whereas before, I stayed 1 day in each town like a mindless tourist. I extended it to 3-4 days to a week. At first, I responded to anything exotic. For instance, if you come to Moscow, your first day would be spent at the obligatory Red Square. It’s not a deep level of understanding of our city. It’s only after spending a year can you have a chance to see life that’s not at a touristic level. I consider myself now  at 2ndlevel. I’ve been to Vietnam 9 times now. At first 2 weeks, then 2 months at a go. In the beginning, it was ‘pop’ like Britney Spears. Now it’s more impressionistic because I am getting the feel of the real Vietnam. SO I would say my style has moved from travel photography, to street photography and it’s moving towards art photography. I am more interested in impression and not information. I call it art.

What do you look for in a good photograph by others? What makes a color photograph look good? I don’t look for anything specific in other photos 🙂 I rely only on feelings. I am drawn to pictures with vivid colors, but I like b/w pictures too. With colors, I like harmony and rich variation (not many difirent colors, but many variation with lightness and saturation). And I don’t like supersaturation. In b/w I like geometry, texture and rich variation of shades of gray. Composition for me does not matter, because it is pseudo-science. The important thing is feelings and emotions.

How does color play a role in photography? Funny you should ask. My book THE LIVING DIGIT is exactly about that. When modern photographers look for colors they go to post production books to study histograms. This is the wrong way. The main idea in the book is to question the colors you find in museums. I mean, you need to study color through painters and history of art. Study the visual experience. After you have enough visual experience, your eyes can actually see what colors are in harmony and what not. And what works with each other. Then you can use digital tools to help you. It is about the aesthetics of color. In my book I start off with psychology of perception. I write about saturation and perception of colors – blue works better in dark regions while yellow is better in light situations. For example, I show how people normally see and perceive, from art to post production. Then I show the ‘art’ of perception followed by raw files and how it works. I use language of the modern digital photographer to explain a complex language in simple photo language. I talk about this in my master class.

How do you go about shooting a street photograph?Sometimes I like to sit at a café and watch for around 1-3 hours. I see. I look. If I find an interesting background, I wait for some people to walk into my frame. But some times, I like to talk to people. For instance, last time I went out to shoot, I walked on the street and immediately spoke with people; to connect with them and to learn about their lives. While we were talking I noticed they had relaxed. That’s when I took a relaxed portrait of them. Not passport photos. Of course it’s very important for me to form interesting geometric frame. So while I’m talking to them, I am constantly looking for an interesting viewpoint. I am more interested in the art of the shot and  not the classic street frames. So my shots tend not to be classic street captures. Sometimes it’s just the color. I like to take impressionistic images. For instance, Vietnam before bedtime.  That’s the direction I am more interested in.

Can you describe the entire process of photographing these photos, from preparation to when you pressed the shutter button?  I took this picture in Colombo. It was the last day of my two-week trip to Sri Lanka. By this time I thought every shot I made were all “masterpieces”. I just walked around the city with a camera in hand, and assumed the images would somehow make interesting photo-stories. As always, I am interested in texture and color. So when I walked past the garbage, I took about ten shots, not counting on any one to make a good photograph. But when I worked the Raw-files, I saw a good picture. It was  interesting, not only in color, but the scene itself (crows and cats).

In this photo (below), what is interesting is not so much the picture but the story behind this woman. Her name  is Kulipa. She lives in the village of Jeti-Oguz on Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. She is 80 years old and raised 11 children in the one-room apartment with total area of about 30 square meters. Now  her kids have grown up and gone to different cities and countries, but sometimes they come to visit their mother. They come with their wives, husbands and children, so in this tiny apartment sometimes there are 20-35 people. In this case, sleeping on the floor, one next to each other. It sleeps 10 people, therefore 10 or more are awake. They all take turns sleeping.

I managed to get into the Kulipa’s house, because I was working on a project in Kyrgyzstan at the time. The project was linked to the search for information about Soviet astronauts who trained at the local air force base. Kulipa worked at the base as a cook from 1960 to 1970.

I was visiting Kulipa for many hours. We looked over all of her family photo albums. She told me a lot about her life. We drank tea. After 2 hours she was used to me and stopped paying attention to my camera. That’s when I snapped the picture.

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? This is the most complicated process. On the selection of photos I spend 100 times more time than processing them. I try to focus only on my gut feeling.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Stay in the moment. Use mostly wide angle lenses. Treat people well.

Best single advice on how to improve your work: Visit the museum and look at paintings.
Best single advice on how to edit your work. Excuse yourself from work and go shoot some photographs.
Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street photography: Study the classic street photographs.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? I do not have a career in street photographer. I shoot for pleasure.
What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? See the answer to the previous question.
What projects are you working on? Now I’m interested in a whole series rather than single shots. It’s the direction I am taking.

Where do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? I am not sure that in 5 years I would do exactly street photography 🙂

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? I am not ready for a serious personal exhibition. However, I have been repeatedly invited to participate   in group exhibits. As soon as I’m ready to show a body of work, I’ll do it.

Leica Liker thanks Pavel for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. We look forward to checking in with him in the future.

You can check out Pavel’s book here.

You can check out Pavel’s gear in “Liker Bags’n Gear” here.

 

Shugendô & Japanese Mountain Asceticism, pt 2: Self-Mummifying Monks, the Sokushinbutsu Documentary, 50min

Sokushinbutsu (即身仏) refers to a practice of Buddhist monks observing Asceticism to the point of death and entering mummification while alive. This process of self-mummification was mainly practiced in Yamagata in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century, by members of the Japanese Vajrayana school of Buddhism called Shingon (“True Word”). The practitioners of sokushinbutsu did not view this practice as an act of suicide, but rather as a form of further enlightenment.

It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only 24 such mummifications have been discovered to date. There is a common suggestion that Shingon school founder Kukai brought this practice from Tang China as part of secret tantric practices he learned, and that were later lost in China.

Shugendō practice

A mountain-dwelling version of Buddhism called Shugendō emerged in Japan as a syncretism between Vajrayana, Shinto and Taoism in the 7th century, which stressed ascetic practices. This tradition continued through the Edo period. One of its ascetic practice was Sokushinbutsu (or Sokushin jobutsu), connoting mountain austerities in order to attain Buddha-nature in one’s body. This practice was perfected over a period of time, particularly in the Three Mountains of Dewa region of Japan, that is the Haguro, Gassan and Yudono mountains. These mountains remain sacred in the Shugendō tradition to this day, and ascetic austerities continue to be performed in the valleys and mountain range in this area.

In medieval Japan, this tradition developed a process for Sokushinbutsu, which a monk completed over about 3,000 days to ten years. It involved a strict diet called mokujikigyo (literally, “eating a tree”). The diet abstained from any cereals, and relied on pine needles, resins and seeds found in the mountains, which would eliminate all fat in the body. Increasing rates of fasting and meditation would lead to starvation. The monks would slowly reduce then stop liquid intake, thus dehydrating the body and shrinking all organs. The monks would die in a state of jhana (meditation) while chanting the nenbutsu (a mantra about Buddha), and their body would become naturally preserved as a mummy with skin and teeth intact without decay and without the need of any artificial preservatives. Many Buddhist Sokushinbutsu mummies have been found in northern Japan and estimated to be centuries old, while texts suggest that hundreds of these cases are buried in the stupas and mountains of Japan. These mummies have been revered and venerated by the laypeople of Buddhism.

One of the altars in the Honmyō-ji temple of Kyushu prefecture continues to preserve one of the oldest mummy of the Sokushinbutsu ascetic named Honmyōkai.

Related practices

There is the existence of at least one “self-mummified” 550-year-old corpse of a Buddhist monk named Sangha Tenzin in northern Himalayan region of India, visible in a temple in Gue village, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. This mummy was discovered in 1975 when the old stupa preserving it collapsed and it is estimated to be from about the 14th century, well after Islamic rule had arrived in India, and Buddhism had practically vanished there. The monk was likely a Tibetan dzogpa-chenpo practitioner and similar mummies have been found in Tibet and East Asia. The preservation of the mummy for at least 5 centuries has been possible due to the aridity of the area and cold weather.

According to Paul Williams, the Sokushinbutsu ascetic practices of Shugendō were likely inspired by Kūkai – the founder of Shingon Buddhism, who ended his life by reducing and then stopping intake of food and water, while continuing to meditate and chant Buddhist mantras. Ascetic self-mummification practices are also recorded in China, but it is associated with the Ch’an (Zen Buddhism) tradition there. Alternate ascetic practices similar to Sokushinbutsu are also known, such as public self-immolation (auto cremation) practice in China, such as that of Fayu in 396 CE and many more in the centuries that followed. This was considered as evidence of a renunciant bodhisattva.

 

The Mysterious World of Shugendō (修験道) and the Japanese Mountain Ascetics, Pt 1

 

Little is known in the West about the the mystical practices of Japanese Mountain Asceticism: the Yamabushi, mountain-wandering warrior monks.

The Yamabushi believe that to become spiritually enlightened, you have to commune with nature over a long period of time, and that communing with nature will give you mystical powers.  They often trained in the martial arts to protect themselves in their journeys.  For the past 1400 years, these mountain ascetics have been engaged in a tradition of spiritual practice which evolved from the combination of number of separate teachings, ultimately becoming codified into a defined religion: Shugendō. 

“Shugendō” literally means “the path of training and testing.” It is an old Japanese practice of being outside using special awareness.  It centers on an ascetic, mountain-dwelling lifestyle and incorporates teachings from other eastern philosophies.is a form of Japanese folk religion, based on primitive mountain worship, and formed under the influence of Buddhism, Daoism, Onmyōdō, and other religions. The name shugen is derived from the term genriki, which refers to special powers acquired as the result of religious practice (shugyō) performed within the mountains. In the past, such persons were frequently referred to by such terms as sanga (one who beds in the mountains) or the more common yamabushi (one who retreats to the mountains).

While Shugendō provides abstract theories regarding the meaning of such terms, they are generally used to refer to those who supranormal magico-religious capabilities by sheltering in the mountains, in other words by retreating to the mountains and engaging in concourse with mountain spirits. Shugen practitioners are also called yama no hijiri (holy-men of the mountains), genja (men of power), or gyōja (ascetic practitioners).

The 7th century ascetic and mystic En no Gyōja is widely considered as the patriarch of Shugendō, having first organized Shugendō as a doctrine. Shugendōliterally means “the path of training and testing” or “the way to spiritual power through discipline.”

In modern times, Shugendō is practiced mainly through Tendai and Shingon temples. Some temples include Kimpusen-ji in Yoshino (Tendai), Ideha Shrine in the Three Mountains of Dewa and Daigo-ji in Kyoto (Shingon).

Shugendō practitioners are said to be descendants of the Kōya Hijiri monks of the eighth and ninth centuries.

The world of Shugendo and the Yamabushi is one filled with arduous spiritual discipline,  supernatural powers, other-worldly forces and creatures & rigorous warrior training. The following are articles & videos which begin the explain this nearly inexplicable and mysterious religious sect and it’s esoteric culture.

Shugendō & Japan’s Mysterious Mountain Monks

 From the comfort of the bullet-train, Japan’s countryside appears picturesque and benign.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Shugendō

Shugendō (修験道)

Crow Tengu, the Yamabushi Ninja martial instructor

Crow Tengu, the Yamabushi Ninja martial instructor

is an old Japanese practice of being outside using special awareness. “Shugendo” literally means “the path of training and testing.” It centers on an ascetic, mountain-dwelling lifestyle and incorporates teachings from other eastern philosophies.In modern times, Shugendo is practiced by the Yoshino Yamabushiof Dewa Sanzan (Tendai sect), Kinpusenji and Ishiyama-dera Shingon sects, but it retains an influence on modern Japanese religion, Culture of Japan and many outdoor practices.

History

En-no-Gyōja is often considered the founder of shugendo. Shugendō evolved on the cultural background of state-sponsored Buddhism and other religious influences in Japan around the 7th century, including but not limited to Taoism and Shintō. During the Meiji restoration, Shugendō was banned as a superstition not fit for a new, enlightened Japan. The Shugendō temples were converted into imperial Shintō shrines.

Followers

Those who practice Shugendō are referred in two ways. One term, shugenja (修験者), is derived from the term “Shugendo”.

The other term, yamabushi (山伏) means “one who sleeps in the mountains”. Supernatural creatures often appeared as yamabushi in Japanese mythology, as is evident in the legendary monk warrior Saito Musashibo Benkei and the deity Sojobo, king of the tengu (mountain spirits).

Modern Shugenja in Japan and throughout the world are known to practice through challenging and rigorous ritualistic tests of courage and devotion known as shugyo. Walkabouts involving mountain treks (Mts Ominé, Dewa, Hakusan, etc in Japan) are embarked upon by the aspiring Yamabushi, and, through the experience of each trek, as well as years of study, experience and insights are gained.

 

Yossi Sheriff,Shugendo,http://www.akban.org/wiki/Shugend%C5%8D

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

Shugendō is a form of Japanese folk religion, based on primitive mountain worship, and formed under the influence of Buddhism, Daoism, Onmyōdō, and other religions. The name shugen is derived from the term genriki, which refers to special powers acquired as the result of religious practice (shugyō) performed within the mountains. In the past, such persons were frequently referred to by such terms as sanga (one who beds in the mountains) or the more common yamabushi (one who retreats to the mountains). While Shugendō provides abstract theories regarding the meaning of such terms, they are generally used to refer to those who supranormal magico-religious capabilities by sheltering in the mountains, in other words by retreating to the mountains and engaging in concourse with mountain spirits. Shugen practitioners are also called yama no hijiri (holy-men of the mountains), genja (men of power), or gyōja (ascetic practitioners). 

The History of Shugendō
The history of Shugendō can be roughly divided into four periods. The first period extends to the end of Heian period before the two schools of Honzanha and Tōzanha were formed. It can be called pre-Shugendō or primitive Shugendō. Based on early views of mountains as sacred space or gateways to the other world (takaikan), the number of ascetics using mountains and forests as sites of religious practice gradually increased. With the rise of mountain-centered Buddhism and esoteric Buddhism in the Heian Period, groups of shugen gradually coalesced, and by the end of the Heian period, sacred mountains throughout the country had become well known as sites of ascetic religious practice. Beginning with the pilgrimage to Mount Yoshino (typified by the Fujiwara Michinaga’s 1007 pilgrimage to Mitake or Mitake mōde) and the pilgrimages to Kumano (Kumano mōde) by retired Emperors Shirakawa, Go-Shirakawa and Go-Toba, pilgrimages to the “three mountains of Kumano” (Kumano sanzan) flourished to such a degree that the parade of visitors came to be known as “pilgrimage of ants to Kumano.” 
       The second period extends from the formation of the two Shugendō branches Honzanha and Tōzanha to the forcible “separation of Shintō and Buddhism” or Shinbutsu bunri in 1868 and the abolition of Shugendō itself in 1872. This can be called the period of sectarian Shugendō, and can be divided into early and late halves centering on the Bakufu’s issuance of the Shugendō hatto(Ordinance for Shugendō) in 1613. Shugendō flourished during the early half of the period, with Mount Ōmine, including the peaks of Yoshino, Ōmine and Kumano, considered the religion’s central place of training and practice and En no Ozunu coming to be viewed as patriarch. Periodic intensive mountain retreats (nyūbu shugyō, or buchū shugyō) were practiced, and the Honzanha and Tōzanha branches developed organizationally. Furthermore, various sacred mountains throughout the country—from the “three mountains of Dewa” (Dewa Sanzan) in the northeast to Hikosan in Kyūshū—displayed independent development as places of Shugendō practice. The Shugendō hatto of 1613 represented an official recognition of the dual existence of the Honzanha and Tōzanha branches, and both groups continued their organizational development through the early modern period, but unfortunately the practice of mountain retreats (nyūbu shugyō) tended to become formalized. Ritual spells and invocations (kaji kitō) performed for the common people became the primary religious activities, and yamabushi practitioners commonly began residing in villages (sato yamabushi) instead of mountains. From the mid Edo period, lay people commonly participated in mountain retreats as well, and Fuji gyōja (Mount Fuji ascetics) in the line of the founder known as Miroku, and Mitake gyōja (Mount Mitake ascetics) in the tradition of Fukan and Kukumei became active. 
       The third period of Shugendō history extends from the Meiji-period separation of Shinto and Buddhism and abolition of Shugendō, to the end of World War II in 1945, when the new Religious Corporations Ordinance (Shūkyō hōjinrei) was promulgated. With the Meiji-period abolition of Shugendō, practitioners went in three directions: they either grew their hair and became Shinto priests (shinshoku), joined the Tendai or Shingon sects of Buddhism, or returned to secular life, and Shugendō ceased to exist as an organized religion. Shugendō practice continued to be observed, however, within the Tendai and Shingon schools of Buddhism, and within sectarian Shinto (kyōha Shintō) groups such as Fusōkyō, Jikkōkyō, and Mitakekyō.
       The fourth period of Shugendō history runs from the promulgation of the aforementioned postwar Religious Corporations Ordinance to the present. A wide variety of new Shugendō organizations exist with an equally wide variety of affiliations, from the old Honzanha and Tōzanha groups and independent practitioners who formerly were associated with individual mountains, to new religions of a Shugendō nature. 

The Similarity of Shinto and Shugendō —
The historical process of Shugendō’s development is similar to that in the history of Shinto: from primitive Shinto to Ryōbu Shintō, Ise Shintō, Yoshida Shintō, and on to Jinja Shintō and Kokka Shintō (State Shinto). The resemblance between the two is reflected in the fact that widespread feuding and rivalry occurred between adherents of Yoshida Shintō and Shugendō in the early modern period as a result of the expansion of Yoshida Shintō throughout the period, and the fact that the Meiji-period separation of Shintō and Buddhism and subsequent abolition of Shugendō resulted in many practitioners converting from Shugendō to Shinto.
       Viewed from the contrary side, it might be said that factors lying behind the conflict with Yoshida Shinto and the Meiji-period conversion from Shugendō to Shintō priesthood include the fact that shugen practitioners vastly outnumbered Shinto priests during the early modern period and Shudendō rituals included Shintō-type elements, and the fact that most yamabushi who resided in villages formed groups of clients for their thaumaturgic invocatory practices and frequently performed Shinto rituals in the status of supervising intendent priests (bettō) over Shinto shrines. 

Shugendō Religious Practice— 
Originally, Shugendō based its practice on a “transmission beyond words” (furiyūmonji), and aimed at the acquisition of spiritual powers through ascetic practice, but from the medieval into the early modern period numerous works of doctrine were authored. These works, however, were mainly explications and descriptions of mountain retreats, vestments and ritual procedures based on theories of esoteric Buddhism. Although four seasonal mountain retreats are postulated in Shugendō (one each in spring, summer, autumn and winter), only the Haguro sect continued to observe all four throughout the early modern period. And while Shugendō evolved its own object of worship called KongōZaō Gongen, various other deities are also worshiped, including natural phenomena such as sun, moon and stars/planets, various Buddhist divinities and the kami of Shinto. Overall, however, practice focuses on the cosmic buddha Dainichi Nyorai and its “disciplinary manifestation (kyōryō rinshin)” as Fudō Myōō (demon-quelling form with scowling countenance), and ritual practices likewise focus on the adept’s visualizing his unification with the deity Fudō Myōō. Frequent use of the Buddhist goma fire ritual is seen in Shugendō during the performance of various rites, including mountain retreats and rites for Buddhist deities and kami. While many of these adopt the goma rituals of esoteric Buddhism such as the sokusai goma(ritual for exorcizing disaster), Shugendō also makes use of its own unique hashiramoto gomaduring mountain retreats, and saitō goma is frequently performed both during mountain retreats and in various other rituals. Religious activities performed for the common people mainly comprised thaumaturgic spells and invocations (kaji kitō) and purificatory harai rituals that utilized a variety of sacred texts, amulets, and ritual implements. Such activities ranged from exorcisms of possessing spirits (tsukimono otoshi), to thaumaturgic healings, all-night vigils held on specific days of the lunar calendar to worship the moon or sun, and rituals dedicated to deities of home and grounds (ie no kami and yashikigami). Among the rites of Shugendō, many of those of Shinto lineage have been compiled in the Shugendō shoshin kanjō tsūyō edited by Gyōson and the Shugenshū Shinto jinja injin edited by Jinkan, while the Shugen shinpi gyōhō fujushū and Shugen shinpi gyōhō fuju zokushū reproduce numerous Shinto-derived kirigami, ritual transmissions originally written on small slips of paper.

-Shinto and Shugendo, Minamoto Kesao, Encyclopedia of Shinto, http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=830

_______________________________________________________________

Below is a trailer for the feature film, Shugendō Now, directed by Jean-Marc Abela & produced by Mark Patrick McGuire.

Synopsis:

This feature documentary is an experiential journey in to the mystical practices of Japanese mountain asceticism. In Shugendō (The Way of Acquiring Power), practitioners perform ritual actions from shamanism, Shintō, Daoism, and Tantric Buddhism. They seek experiential truth of the teachings during arduous climbs in sacred mountains. Through the peace and beauty of the natural world, practitioners purify the six roots of perception, revitalize their energy and reconnect with their truest nature — all while grasping the fundamental interconnectedness with nature and all sentient beings.

How does one return to the city after an enlightening experience in the mountains?

More poetic than analytical, this film explores how a group of modern Japanese people integrate the myriad ways mountain learning interacts with urban life. With intimate camera work and a sensual sound design the viewer is taken from deep within the Kumano mountains to the floating worlds of Ōsaka and Tokyo and back again.

THOMAS NOZKOWSKI

” I have never thought of myself as a geometric painter, but I have always thought of myself as an improviser. The geometry in my work has increased over the years and I’m not completely sure why this is so. It isn’t by conscious intent, I can assure you. Improvisation, however, is essential to my work. I want my ideas to be located at the tip of my brush. I want my materials to talk back to me. I want to be surprised.”

“Every artist has little rules or devices that enables them to move a painting forward. I’m not thinking of great and meaningful exercises of desire, but simple, quotidian, almost mechanical procedures. I mean, one of the strategies that I’ve always used in different permutations is to, as a first step, go to the opposite of what the logical move would be. So if a painting would seem to have a source that is anthropomorphic or organic, you know, start geometrically. If a painting has a source in a city and architecture in the urban, let’s do it with curves and juicy paint running all over the place. And this is not out of perversity, but out of a desire to challenge any kind of received wisdom. In other words, if a city has to be geometric, well, okay, let it prove itself, let it become geometric in the process, in the procedure of thinking about these things. This interests me—looking for the core of things. What is essential? What is at the bottom of it?”

-Thomas Nozkowski, in conversation with John Yau, just prior to his exhibition at The Pace Gallery, NYC, The Brooklyn Rail, November 5, 2010

LAURIE ANDERSON INTERVIEW: A VIRTUALITY OF STORIES, via Louisiana Channel, 2017

Notes from Louisiana Channel:

In this exclusive video, Laurie Anderson presents her prizewinning virtual reality work from 2017: “I wanted to see what it would be like to travel through stories, to make the viewer feel free,” the legendary multimedia artist says.

Laurie Anderson’s ‘Chalkroom’ (2017) has been created in collaboration with the Taiwanese artist Hsin-Chien Huang. In ‘Chalkroom’ it is possible to float around virtually and to explore a hand-drawn universe of sentences and words written in chalk on the walls, guided all the while by Laurie Anderson’s voice – stories and storytelling are at the heart of the work.

You can interact in different ways and e.g. experience letters intermittently floating towards you: “Like snow, they’re there to define the space and to show you a little bit about what it is. But they’re actually fractured languages, so it’s kind of exploded things.” The most important aspect of working in virtual reality for Anderson was the fact that this technology enables you to fly, “like in your dreams.” Anderson feels that everything that she’s ever done is about one thing: disembodiment. In virtual reality, this is even more evident, as you become the ultimate viewer, who has amazing abilities such as flying: “My goal is to make an experience that frees you.”

Being inside Anderson’s VR work is an isolated experiment not unlike reading a book, and one of the things that make it different is that it isn’t task-oriented but rather “visually dazzling.” Another difference is that it isn’t as “perfect, slick and shiny” as VR is in general: “The reason it’s ‘chalk room’ is it has a certain tactility and made-by-hand kind of thing, and it’s the opposite of what virtual reality usually is, which is distant and very synthetic. So this is gritty and drippy and filled with dust and dirt.” Moreover, Hsin-Chien Huang – who is responsible for the extensive programming – made it full of never-ending secrets: “’Chalkroom’ is a library of stories, and no one will ever find them all.”

Laurie Anderson (b. 1947) is a legendary award winning multimedia artist based in New York. Initially trained as a sculptor, she has worked with painting, music, multimedia shows, drawings, operas, electronic software, theatre, films and installations throughout her career. Anderson became widely known outside the art world with her single ‘O Superman’, which reached number two on the UK pop charts in 1981. She is considered a pioneer of electronic music and is praised for her unique spoken word albums and multimedia art pieces. Among her most recent work is the film ‘Heart of a Dog’ (2015). In 2017 under the name of ‘La Camera Insabbiata’, ‘Chalkroom’ won for ‘Best VR Experience’ at the Venice Film Festival. Anderson’s visual work has been presented in major museums throughout the United States and Europe. From May 2017 Laurie Anderson’s ’Chalkroom’ is on view at the MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA. For more about Anderson see: http://www.laurieanderson.com/

Laurie Anderson was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in connection with ‘Chalkroom’ being shown as part of the Louisiana Literature festival 23 – 27 August 2017. Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard & Simon Weyhe Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Supported by Nordea-fonden

Advertisements

kneeling to the god of eclecticism and allergic to the commonplace

Advertisements