Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Lamp Map of Tibet from SFT's Art Auction
At SFT's Art Auction held sometime ago, in Chinatown of all places, there were several pieces of art that pulled at my heart. One that was very very cool and creative was Tenzin Mochoe's piece: a sculpture of a map of Tibet made up of little wax candles. Mochoe described the piece as a melding together of the political and the religious- the map of Tibet with the candles symbolizing butter lamps that we light in temples; and he stressed that with the lighting of the lamps, the act of creation, of making the map come alive with fire, simultaneously becomes an act of destruction- as the candles light, the wax melts and the map blurs.
I thought this was brilliant. A map of Tibet is always highly political, especially a map of Tibet as we conceive it, with borders around the three historical provinces of Tibet and the plateau itself as one political entity (just as it is one geological unit). Here, this map, the highly political and usually secular entity, becomes spiritual and sacred. And how does it become sacred? Not by sitting there as a piece of art, but because people -the audience- light the candles as an offering, which act, when you think about it, is really the performance of a wish fulfulling ritual. You make the wish, and you light the lamp to mark its making. With the lighting of the lamps made of candles, you are complicit in the creation and the destruction and the sanctification of this map of Tibet made of lamps.