- About Us
- What We Offer
- Podcasts & Video
Submitted by Patrick Groneman on Wed, 5/16/2012, 8:32am
by Patrick Groneman
(follow Patrick on Twitter)
America, post WWII. Buddhist philosophy, in all its awkward and oft-misunderstood early translations, creeps into lecture halls, art clubs, diaries, journals and embodies the verses, tones and gestures of avant-garde art. Some of the most influential artists of this time investigate the notions of emptiness, non-self and enlightenment. D.T. Suzuki lectures at Columbia university, Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes president and David Tudor plays 4 minutes and 33 seconds of “silence” on a piano at Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, NY.
This is the setting for Ellen Pearlman’s book Nothing & Everything (Available now via Evolver Editions). It uncovers the links between Buddhist philosophy coming to America and the avant-garde artists who fueled a generation of creative investigation with koans, mantras, meditation and this very exotic thing called “Zen”.
Pearlman's book is a bit of a treasure map for the spiritually-minded artist, as pulls from the notebooks and conversations of the soul-starved creative youth of the time, who were reconciling the experiences of what is known in Buddhism as “Samsara” or “Dis-satisfaction,” with these new "Eastern" ideas and concepts.
What made the book fun to read was the filling in-between the lines. After reading a few pages I would inevitably take to the internet, to look up the world of Alison Knowles, and Dick Higgins, to read a poem by Allen Ginsberg, or discover the work one of the many other artists whose work and life are subject of discussion.
Reading it also got me thinking about how radical Buddhist philosophy and practice actually is. Anyone who has studied it in any depth can attest to how transformative the practices are. Relationships change, power dynamics shift, internally and externally. The flow and force of habit and negligence come up against the revealing light of awareness, and something shifts...
This tension, this shift is not just personal, but also cultural. It is radical and artistic and can only happen in a single moment of awareness called "now".
And sometimes, it's very funny...
Author Ellen Pearlman will be at the IDP Next Wednesday 5/23 To talk about the book and hold a Q & A. More info and registration online here.
May is Arts Month at IDP. All are invited to explore their perception, reception and creation of the phenomenal world through our various workshops, events and classes. Full Schedule & details are available here.
Vote for this article to appear in the Recommended list.