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In the Present Moment

In the Present Moment: Buddhism, Contemporary Art and Social Practice is a major multi-phase research project led by Curator Haema Sivanesan. The project takes a chronological and thematic approach towards examining the impact of Buddhism on art in North America from the post-war period (c.1950) to the present. The project ⁠— which encompasses artist residencies, an international research convening, a publication, and ultimately an exhibition ⁠— considers how Buddhism has contributed to the development of new ideas in contemporary art. It examines how Buddhism proposes new meaning and social purpose for art and artists. In turn, the project considers how artists have contributed to the development of “modern Buddhism”, referring to those forms of Buddhism that have adapted to contexts of modernization and globalism, tracing a history of trans-national and cross-cultural encounter.

The project centres on artists who have drawn on Buddhism as a “methodology” of contemporary art practice. International artists who are significant to this history include, Mark Tobey, John Cage, Yoko Ono, Robert Filliou, Allan Kaprow, Pauline Oliveros, Marina Abramović among numerous others. Canadian artists who are significant to this history include Nobuo Kubota, Jack Wise, Kalsang Dawa, Tomoyo Ihaya, Dylan Thomas, Chrysanne Stathacos.

This project contributes to a growing body of curatorial and scholarly projects concerned with understanding the impact of Buddhism on a history of contemporary art. Research support is generously provided by The Robert H N Ho Family Foundation, Hong Kong, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York.

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In the Present Moment: Buddhism, Contemporary Art and Social Practice, A Research Convening was presented by the AGGV in partnership with the University of Victoria at the end of October 2019 (Location: UVic).

The research convening brought together professional artists, practising Buddhists, and scholars from a range of disciplines to better understand Buddhist influences in contemporary art in North America. Resisting orientalized notions of Buddhism as a timeless, unchanging, passive tradition, this convening explores how diverse artists have drawn on Buddhist ideas and practices as a “methodology” of art practice, shifting the focus of inquiry from the art object to processes of artistic creation.

Public Lecture and Performance (Oct 25, 2019): Lecture on Nothing by Kay Larson, writer, art critic (New York)

Public Lecture (Oct 27, 2019): Beautiful Trouble: A Conversation on Activism, Art and Buddhism with Suzanne Lacy, artist (Los Angeles) with Jodie Evans co-founder CODEPINK (Los Angeles)

Q&A with Haema Sivanesan in the AGGV Magazine

Download the Teacher Resource Guide. The guide features dynamic artwork by thought-provoking artists from this project with hands-on activities for all ages. Or watch the videos, as an AGGV Educator interprets activities from the guide, and follow along to create your own art inspired by Nakahara Nantenbo, Mark Tobey, Pauline Oliveros, Tenzing Rigdol and Dylan Thomas:

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