Art Performance as Meditation
Watkins Mind Body Spirit Magazine Issue 47
Artist Alexander de Cadenet explores the fascinating performance art of Lisa Park.
Lisa Park is a multi-disciplinary American-Korean performance artist whose main goal is to manifest various inner states of mind into
the outer material world and to share these feelings/states of mind with others.
She is one of a handful of artists working today who are actively exploring the relationship between meditation and making art and utilizing cutting edge technology to achieve their goals. Park’s performances reveal the impact and effect of various states of mind through water, light and soundscape experiences.
In her iconic performance works ‘Eunonia’ and ‘Eunonia II’, for example, she translated her various brain waves, (recorded by a headset that digitally measures her various brain waves) into vibrating speakers that in turn created kinetic water sculptures. In 2015 she presented her iconic performance work ‘Nue’ which means ‘Silkworm’ in Korean – “Driven by the artist’s brainwave data, a soundscape unfolds that encompasses the audience in its unravelling of the structure of the extended draped fabric of a 150 m dress. Based on the artist’s current state during ‘Nue’, the sonic textures either melt together or fall apart, depending on whether she is focused, distracted or meditative”.
The unpredictability of the elements of the performance echo the unpredictability of the creative process. The artwork is literally being created in real time as a response and result of the artist’s, performer’s or audience’s participation. In addition to raising fascinating questions as to what constitutes a piece of art, it also raises questions about Park’s own practice and what she’s trying to achieve with her work. I interviewed her to discover if there was any relationship between her own spiritual beliefs or background and her art practice.
In ‘Nue’, Park is fully wrapped within a dress that she describes as a metaphor for a cocoon. The performance itself is the unfolding of this dress, a process she describes as ‘unknotting the emotional traumas’ in her life.
It’s a powerful metaphor for the therapeutic, ritualistic significance of the performance itself; she is shedding her past like a skin and metamorphosing into a richer incarnation, free of all the emotional baggage. In the end, the artist emerges from this ‘cocoon’ as herself – uncovered and free from the memories that have restricted her evolution and freedom to explore the world.
“I am emotionally affected by others, it’s a therapeutic exercise to empty my mind.” - Lisa Park
Although Lisa doesn’t meditate every day, she recognizes the importance of meditation and its significance within her art practice. She doesn’t feel however that ‘complete emptiness’ can ever be achieved. She knows this because even when she
is ‘fully concentrated’ during a performance there is always data that records her mind’s activity – sometimes less activity and sometimes more. The fewer vibrations that appear on the water trays, the more concentrated and peaceful Lisa actually is.
Alex: How do you achieve the calming of your mind during a performance?
Lisa: The best way is to block out my senses, be present with my own self; sometimes by looking at my reflection the water.
Alex: I read an article about you where the writer posed the idea that you are seeking ‘enlightenment’ in your performances. How do you see this?
Lisa: My objective is to achieve inner calmness, a moment of emotional silence….especially during the vulnerability of a public performance.Lisa’s performances, born from her desire for personal purification, have a universal significance, especially in her new performances where she invites members of the audience to don the headset and experience what she has been experiencing during her performances – an outer manifestation of their inner states of mind.
Alex: Do you consider your art practice as a spiritual practice?
Lisa: My intention is not that it is a ‘spiritual practice’; however, I’m aware of the spiritual dimension of my work. My goal is to understand myself and to understand others and how we relate to each other and are interconnected. I’m interested in the relationship I have with others, to present their internal physical forms.
Alex: Do you consider developing hyper-awareness, through the performances, a spiritual practice?
Lisa: Yes, in the sense of exploring the relationship between the mental and the physical.The music accompanying Lisa’s performances is either created in real time, based on the processing of the data coming directly from the headset, or more often she will compose a piece of music herself that complements the performance, where the volume and speed of the music are regulated and impacted in real-time through the data being read by the headset.Park’s art practice is an ongoing investigation into who she is, her evolving identity and its relationship to the practice of ‘being an artist’. It’s an exciting, dynamic process that is now incorporating the participation of the audience. It’s a self-styled, idiosyncratic blend of various different artistic and scientific disciplines drawn from a diverse cultural background and richness of life experience.
The performances have a relevance not only to Park’s own life path and progress as a human being, but to the lives of others in how they are able to explore their identities and reveal what is hidden inside.
Park’s practice embodies Spinoza’s dictum, “The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions the more you become a lover of what is”.
MEET THE ARTISTS:
LISA PARK is an American- born, Korean-raised artist living in New York. A recipient of NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) Fellowship in the category of Digital/ Electronic Arts, she was selected to be an inaugural member of NEW INC, New Museum’s first museum-led incubator residency in art, technology, and design 2014-2016.
ALEXANDER DE CADENET is a visual artist who has been exhibiting his artworks internationally for the past twenty years. His artworks reveal an exploration into philosophical and spiritual questions such as the meaning of life and death, the nature of human achievement and the sacredness of art itself. The first comprehensive retrospective of his work, Alexander de Cadenet by Edward Lucie-Smith, was published in April by Unicorn Press.