“The Invisible Thread”

Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Snug Harbor Cultural Center

What makes a work of art “Buddhist”? This question is like a koan, a riddle that can only be experienced, not expressed in words. In this show about the Buddhist spirit in contemporary American art, Bill Viola’s video The Reflecting Pool, 1977–79 perfectly summarizes some of the fundamental steps of Buddhist experience: self-inquiry, the negation of the individual ego, the interrelatedness of all human beings and nature. A man comes from a wood to a pool, looks into it, and jumps; when he’s in midair, the image freezes, and his body slowly disappears; time passes in silence; suddenly he emerges naked from the pool and walks back into nature. Viola conveys the radical transformation of mind that occurs in the practice of meditation, when the individual ego is purified until it disappears, the aesthetic and the ethical merge, and the void gives rise to innocent and spontaneous action.


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