Sea of Buddha
The New York art scene in the 1970s was dominated by minimal and conceptual art, experiments in visualizing how abstract concepts. It occurred to me that similar motives inspired the making of art in twelfth-century Japan. In a Kyoto temple, there is an eight-hundred-years old installation of a thousand-and- one Senju Kanon, the "Thousand-Armed Merciful Bodhisattava Avalokitesvara " figure, which is a three-dimensional representation of the Buddhist afterlife,the Pure Land Western Paradise. After seven years of red tape, I was finally granted permission to photograph in the temple of Sanjusangendo, the Hall of Thirty-Three Bays. In special preparation for the shoot, I had all late-medieval and early-modern embellishments removed, and the contemporary fluorescent lighting was turned off. Stripping the temple of these additions re-created the splendor of the thousand bodhisattvas glistening in the light of the sun rising over the Higashiyama Hills, perhaps as the Kyoto aristocracy of the Heian period (794-1185) might have seen them. Will today's conceptual art survive another eight-hundred years?
- Hiroshi Sugimoto