Contemporary Tibetan Video Art

September 2, 2014September 25, 2014
Anonymous @ MOCA Cleveland
September 2 - 25, 2014
Gund Commons | Free and open to all
Curated by Rachel Perera Weingeist
Organized at MOCA Cleveland by Christian Whitworth
MOCA Cleveland is pleased to present a series of eight video works excerpted from the traveling exhibition Anonymous. Realized by guest curator Rachel Perera Weingeist, the exhibition showcases artists living in Tibet and in diaspora. In order to solicit the video works from a broad community of artists, an open call was initiated more than two years ago and a website was produced in English, Tibetan, and Chinese. Great lengths were taken to protect the identities of those who submitted and it was determined that all of the work would be presented without attribution, allowing for the display of otherwise inaccessible imagery.
Anonymous explores the tension between an ancient culture’s unbroken artistic tradition and the personality driven world of contemporary art. Traditional Tibetan art commonly utilizes a formal mode of artistic production, aiming to support the transmission of Buddhist culture. The present atmosphere has shown an increased engagement with selfexpression within Tibetan culture, fostering the emergence of a cautious 21st century visual language focused on the individual and steeped in irony, metaphor, and illusion. As Weingeist explains, “It is only roughly in the last ten years that a contemporary Tibetan visual culture has galvanized. Concepts of anonymity, authorship, and self-representation are still very much in flux. By and large there is trepidation and reserved acceptance of this new introspective visual culture.”
Anonymous opens at the Queens Museum September 21st, 2014, and runs through January 4th, 2015. To learn more about Anonymous, visit 
All works courtesy of the artists.
The Barkhor
Color video with sound, 00:14:33
Secretly filmed with the use of a hidden camera and fish eye lens, this piece functions as a contemporary portrait of the Jokhang temple, one of the most sacred Tibetan locations, and the main circumambulatory route called the Barkhor. Moving from daylight to dusk, it features a cast of pilgrims, shop-keepers, police, and military. Throughout the route, the cameraperson films and highlights—at huge personal risk—the inordinate police and military presence on the street. Without the use of traditional narration, it comments on colonialism, the changing cityscape, and reduction of tradition to commercialism.
Color video with sound, 00:05:47
In Self, a succession of young men and women in ate balloons until they pop. On each balloon, the word “self” is written in one of nine languages, including English, Tibetan, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Arabic. There is a shared anticipation of the participants in the piece, and those watching it. Through humor, the video addresses issues of identity and language, and refers to the concept of “no-self” or anatman. In Buddhist philosophy, it is believed that a person must understand the non-existence of self in order to achieve enlightenment. The subjects enact this idea, constructing “self,” only for it to blow up in their faces.
Scripture Noodle
Color video with sound, 00:08:00
Embodying the friction between a contemplative art tradition and the need for new ideas and action, Scripture Noodle fuses symbols of both together. A Tibetan pecha (book) is cut up, stir-fried and consumed in a small Chinese fast-food restaurant; this entails the digestion or disappearing of cultural systems to create a different energy, both metaphorically and bodily.
Color video with sound, 00:13:35
In Matchsticks, the sensitive subject of immolation is addressed. The video piece is a memorial for those, who because of political reasons, cannot have one. In the narration, the date, place and name of the protester are stated. Speci cs of each place are narrowed down to a location, often a county, town or city, instead of a prefecture or region. The dorje (a symbol of enlightenment) illuminated by the strike of a match, is an instrument used by lamas in rituals and prayers. It is believed to cut through illusion to reveal truth. Many Tibetans see the immolators as ful lling this function.
Lhasa Wind
Color video with sound, 00:01:50
There are many philosophical implications in this poetic video piece. The drying of traditional clothing in a Himalayan landscape bisected by a mass-produced fence, serves as a metaphor for the fragility of people’s lives in the face of modernity, our collective disconnect from nature, and the impact of cultural colonialism. In the course of the lm, the clothes are unceremoniously blown to the ground by the wind, suggesting a cruel indifference to the value of cultural tradition.
Landscape Movements
Color video with sound, 00:08:35
At the beginning of Landscape Movements, we are presented with what seems to be an aerial view of the earth. As it progresses, a hand pushes earth toward the center of the image with a paint-brush, gradually revealing the outline of an ambiguous topographical map. At the end of the video, ve jars are placed in front of the gathered earth—reminiscent of bowls that hold offerings in shrines—alluding to a sacredness inherent to the landscape of Tibet.
Color video with sound, 00:04:30
Drifting examines environmental concerns and the recent phenomena of tourism. Initially the viewer sees traditionally dressed oarsmen in a Gowa (Tibetan boat), rowing female passengers dressed in western clothing through a pristine landscape. The camera zooms out to reveal an industrial structure with a sign in Chinese. As suggested in the title, their journey doesn’t have a defined end point or goal. In Tibet, development and modernization are seen by many as the byproducts of tourism, eroding the traditions, environment, and natural beauty of Tibet.
Crazy of Silent
Color video with sound, 00:04:54
Crazy of Silent tracks the progression of a caterpillar, through an endless industrial expanse. Associations with Buddhist enlightenment come to mind, as the insect attempts to get to the sustenance necessary to complete its transformation. The fragmented narrative accompanying the piece is taken from numerous Chinese, American, and Korean news reports. Covering a range of themes, it begins with a philosophical question about why people exist at all. Some quotes reference ideas of freedom, such as Obama’s “In America we make our own destiny.” Along with other works in this exhibition, Crazy of Silent pits industrialization and modernity against nature.