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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 67 Tibetans need to hear. Kiss is channeling some- thing that Westerners need or want to hear, or so Lamdark seems to feel—something about self- dramatizing, perhaps. Tibetan artists flaunt their familiarity with Western consumer culture—most likely because they can and feel they should. Familiar Buddhist images are thrown into the cookie jar along with pop-culture icons: Shrek, modern machine civi- lization, the comic-book look, even a spoof by Dedron of the eminently spoofable Mona Lisa aglow in a Tibetan Pure Land. The artist Gade envisions Mahakala sprout- ing a gas mask, with hammer and sickle, gre- nade, guns and knives, the head of Shrek as a topknot, and garlands of Mickey Mouse-head skulls. Maybe wrathful deities speak to the sense of wreckage that Tibetans experience when they step into the chaos outside the monastery doors. How to explain Tibetan artists’ fascination with Shrek? Perhaps you have to be on the far side of Shangri-la. On the near side, Shrek looks less like an everyman than a product of corporate film factories whirring out consumables within a colossal Hollywood moneymaking machine. But why shouldn’t Tibetans in the diaspora be eagerly queuing for movie tickets, just as Westerners are excited about discovering Tibetan Buddhism? Each side is just getting to know the other. It’s a long story, and we’re only on page one. For more information on this exhibition and where it’s traveling, go to contemporarytibetanart.org. in several kinds of bandages, colorful testaments of Tibetan suffering. He’s also made twelve cans of “consecrated yellow hulless barley”—sacred tsampa—and the photos on the can labels repeat the parade of anonymous heads swathed in red and white gauze. As Nortse’s self-portraits sug- gest, to be a Tibetan now is to experience vio- lence of many kinds. Violence gets its portrait drawn and redrawn throughout Anonymous. The exhibition title itself suggests how much suppression Tibetans must endure. The monks, nuns, and civilians who have turned themselves into human torches have elevated the already high anxiety index in this exhibition. Some artists have responded in surprising ways. Kesang Lamdark, whose unusual medium is melted plastic, applied this moldable modern throwaway material onto two Tibetan fabric vests, fusing it into an epidermis-like layer. The vests—one in glossy orange, one in brilliant pur- ple—mimic fire-seared skin so effectively you can’t help but shudder. Lamdark has also become the exhibition’s poster child for two dramatic, frequently reproduced wall-tall “paintings” of acrylic pigments thickly spread on wire grids and plastic. On one, the protector deity Dorje Drakkten sticks his red tongue out; on the other, the campy Kiss singer Gene Simmons sticks his red tongue out. Dorje Drakkten is better known for speaking through the Nechung Oracle to the Dalai Lama, making prophetic revelations that In Zen Meditation the meditators have disappeared from inside the Tibetan monk’s robes, and crystals of sand in the cloth fibers suggest they’re long gone. Who or what is leaving? Is Tibetan Buddhism disappearing from the planet? (Opposite) Zen Meditation (installation detail), 2012 by Nortse Private European Collection