1a. Intro: Borobudur Buddha Head + Shiva Parvati at BM

borobudur_m          Text, Image, Practice              shiva

Buddha Borobudur at BM

Shiva and Parvati BM

Themes: Spiritual, material, and physical journeys; trade routes; gods ands idols; Icons and iconoclasts


2 thoughts on “1a. Intro: Borobudur Buddha Head + Shiva Parvati at BM

  1. In reference to the Shiva and Parvati piece…
    Symbolism is an important part of religious myths, songs, texts, and of course, art. In this piece the presence of Shiva’s bull and Parvati’s lion connect the image to Hinduism on another level. In terms of teaching religion through art, there are lessons in the details. Through this one image, we learn about Hindu gods (Shiva/Pavarti), values (sexuality/erotics as a divine quality), and recurrent symbols (bull/lion). It’s a spectacularly effective and accessible mode of communication.

    • I like how Ariel referred to the Shiva and Parvati piece as a “symbol.” For indeed both the Hindu doorway depiction and the Buddhist grounds at Borobodur are representative of their respective ideologies. As images, they serve to impart certain emotions and values onto those who look upon them. As we read in Rykwert’s Dancing Column last term, as well as Plato’s Philosophy of Dance, there seems to be a unique effect of using the image of the human body: as we experience the world through what Rykwert called “Primordial Seperation,” seeing the image of the human body evokes the senses of touch, sight, and sound we have experienced in our own bodies. Furthermore, through the concept of mimesis, we saw how humans have a natural tendency to imitate and emulate things they see. The ideas and images conveyed by these two objects, in particular the Buddhist one, provides a sort of guide to influence the viewer’s experience. I found it interesting how both authors on the two artifacts emphasized the necessity of experience: we are reminded of the Embodied experience when we read about how even the most “seasoned tourists” find the journey through Borobodur incredibly moving.

      In our discussion of images, we touched upon the idea that there exists a fine line between a symbol and an idol. A symbol becomes an idol when one begins to worship the image itself as an end in itself. The defining factor, we discussed, lied in the “how-to” of using objects and images. Defining such a concept seems a task as elusive as having Plato actually define “goodness,” rather than just point to it through metaphor. Yet, I shall indulge the use of metaphors in order to explore this concept of the “how-to” with my own, if you all would indulge my attempt at wit.

      Suppose, in this world of mechanical reproduction, I happen to own a photograph depicting me and a loved one together. When I think about it, there are many ways in which I can view this photograph. When I gaze upon this imaginary photograph, in one way I could be reminded of certain memories, and emotions that I could associate with the person depicted in the photograph. Maybe I would think back to the time the photo was taken, or perhaps I would think about the person’s qualities. In this sense, I would not be so fixated on the image itself, but instead I would be focused on what the image means, or what the image depicts. By doing so, the image becomes a guide so that when I look upon it, I place myself in the experiences it is meant to reveal.

      It seems difficult with a photograph, which I feel as a medium are viewed by many as a storehouse for memories, but I suppose one could also become fixated on the object or image itself. Another example I could think of could be the rosary necklaces many Catholics use in prayer. Catholics are taught not to wear the rosary or use it for other means, but many can be found hanging from rear-view mirrors in cars, and others still wear the necklace because they like the look of it in one way or another. This may not be idolatry in its essence, but it still presents an interesting idea, that objects and images can be misused in a way that detracts from its intended purpose, either because of its material qualities or its aesthetic appeal. There seems to be a fine line with such art as well: to what extent can something be beautiful yet not possess a beauty so blinding it becomes a “guise,” as we read in the Hafiz poem today?

      One last comment as to why we may prefer older images over perhaps a Virtual Reality Shiva. The first part poses and interesting question: what makes an image authentic or believable? Is it its so-called experience, or maybe our expectations of its aesthetic? The second: going back to the judicial use of mediums, with Lessing we explored how each medium has a limitation. This includes its material qualities, but it also includes people’s view towards the medium itself. For me, I imagine bronze, marble, and stone to be the tools of the Classical fine artists, and so when I look at a Classical sculpture I expect to see one of those ornate mediums used. On the other hand, the very second I hear virtual reality, I think “artificial,” no matter how real my experience may feel. But then again, if such an experience were so real, how would I know it was artificial in the moment? Ah, I digress, but I hope these questions help us along on our first week.

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