Buddhas from A Bottleshop: Finding Guru Rinpoche

UntitledA Waste Cardboard Installation: Buddhas from a Bottleshop.

15-21 June, 2014
Opening: 15 June at 2 pm

At MIECAT, 17 Victoria Street, Fitzroy, Victoria (Austalia)

Associate Professor John Bradley
Deputy Director, Monash Indigenous Centre
Program Director Monash Country Lines Archive

Enter into the realm of the manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, the bringer of Buddhism to the Himalayas. Buddhas as you may never have imagined them, not in shining gold or bronze, but formed from the detritus of a bottle shop.

This project also relates to a long term reflection on my understandings of the sacred in Australia; in particular relating it to my 36 years of working with people in a remote Indigenous community of the south west Gulf of Carpentaria. Over the years of working in this community I have observed mundane objects such as card board beer and Coke a Cola cartons, the inner material from disposable nappies, bed sheets and wood from housing construction turned into objects of power. These were seen to be so sacred that the materials used could never be returned to a more secular realm and were destroyed or buried at the conclusion of the ceremonies for which they were constructed. For the people I have worked with there has never been an issue with the use of material such as described above being used to construct sacred ephemeral forms. These thoughts about the ephemeral nature of objects; what is secular and what is sacred, and who determines the transition between the two, have been both a part of my academic and art explorations over the last three decades.

Buddhas from a Bottle Shop is an installation, created from recycled cardboard beer and wine cartons and boxes that once held expensive spirits. This installation, in part, represents in three dimensional form, the inner heart of a Himalayan Buddhist mandala concerning the great teacher and second Buddha Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava.

In 2012, I visited the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and visited many temples. There the images of the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche, amongst many others, were of semi-precious and precious materials. These statues are held in awe and reverence by both the Bhutanese people as well as by visitors from neighbouring countries and tourists alike. As I visited these places I began to think of the imagery, and if it could still hold the sacred or reverence if they were made of other more prosaic materials such cardboard. The idea for this exhibition was born standing on a cliff top overlooking Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan. A monastery perched high on a cliff face, a thousand metres above the valley floor; a place where it said Guru Rinpoche arrived on the back of female tiger

Buddhist iconography is not new to the west, it pervades so many parts of our day-to-day lives; words such as mindfulness, karma, Zen, Dalai Lama and objects such as prayer flags, and Buddha statues are now part of the everyday. Images of the Buddha abound and are so often attributed with ideas of happiness and peace and bliss states. The images and words have been appropriated in advertising, garden design, health practices and new age help books.

The question, that arises for me from this work is whether recycled material can be reused to create the sacred or the spiritual in the same way that Indigenous people I know feel it can be, and whether iconic images drawn from traditional Buddhist art, made from reconstituted waste can still convey a sense of the sacred, especially when made from containers that have held substances that are often described as being detrimental to our society and warned against in Buddhist teachings.

Associate Professor John Bradley
Deputy Director, Monash Indigenous Centre
Program Director Monash Country Lines Archive

Building 55
Clayton Campus
Monash University Victoria 3800


One response to “Buddhas from A Bottleshop: Finding Guru Rinpoche

  1. Pingback: Shambhala SunSpace » Buddhas from beer boxes? Artist John Bradley explains.

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