Internationally known Asian artists’ collaborative art project in Laos ends after 4 years

Between 2004 and 2008, fourteen internationally renowned artists undertook residencies in Luang Prabang, Laos and developed art projects with local communities, including the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monks), artisans and students.

The artists were Marina Abramovic, Janine Antoni, Hans Georg Berger, Cai Guo-Qiang, Ann Hamilton, Manivong Khattiyarat, Dinh Q. Lê, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba, Shirin Neshat, Vong Phaophanit, Allan Sekula, Shahzia Sikander, Nithakhong Somsanith, and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

They created works ranging from photographic series to films to large-scale embroideries and collectively the project is titledThe Quiet in the Land: Art, Spirituality, and Everyday Life . These works addressed the tensions between cultural traditions and the financial temptations of tourism.

The Quiet in the Land: Art, Spirituality, and Everyday Life is the third project of The Quiet in the Land, a non-profit organization founded by the contemporary art curator France Morin.

Morin founded The Quiet in the Land in 1995. Previously senior curator of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York she had organized a series of provocative exhibitions in search of a way of working differently. Liberated from the constraints that come with working in an institution, she hoped to open up new spaces for bringing art and life together.

Particularly interested in investigating the spiritual nature of art and its potential for transformation, it was no surprise that the first project of The Quiet in the Land was a collaboration with the only active Shaker community in the world, located in Sabbathday Lake, Maine; and the second a collaboration with Projeto Axé, a non-governmental organization that works with former street children, located in Salvador, Brazil; and the third in Luang Prabang, where the traditions of Theravada Buddhism permeate everyday life.

Dinh Q. Lê and Nithakhong Somsanith, who is a descendant of the Lao royal family and one of the only surviving practitioners of the traditional Lao courtly art of gold- and silver-thread embroidery, developed a series of large-scale gold- and silver-thread embroideries on Lao natural-dyed silk, a medium that has been in decline since the abolition of the monarchy in 1975.

The challenge was how to invest this medium with new relevance to contemporary social realities. One of the works they created, Inner Self and Outer World (2005), addressed this challenge by juxtaposing images of twenty satellite dishes mounted on tall poles, arrayed in a staccato rhythm, like notes on a sheet of music, across a greenish-gold field, with images of three meditation huts, clustered to the left.

Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba created a film, The Root, the Ground, and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree (2007), in collaboration with fifty students from the Luang Prabang Fine Arts School, which explored the challenges faced by the young people of Luang Prabang as the pace of economic change accelerates, forcing them to choose between the past and the future.

In the film’s most dramatic sequence, a flotilla of fifty boats motors down the Mekong River each with an art student who balances at the helm of the boat before an easel, trying to paint or draw the landscape as it slips by. As they approach the Bodhi Tree (the species of tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment) of Vat Sing, a monastery outside of Luang Prabang, some of the youths jump out of their boats and swim toward the tree. By contrast, others float by without stopping.

Source Asia Art Archive
For full piece plus images http://www.aaa.org.hk/newsletter_detail.aspx?newsletter_id=514

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