The first section, Transience and Transcendence, reveals the implicit connection between time and eternity. Over 100 interviewees in David and Hi-Jin Hodge’s video work Impermanence reflect on how human lives, although transitory, can have meaning. Hauntingly beautiful photographs by artist Gauri Gill of ephemeral graves in the desert, as well as a Tibetan thangka that captures both the decease of the historical Buddha and his attainment of immortality, also speak to life and its eventual end.
Embodying the Sacred considers the body as a powerful form of communication, presenting a provocative juxtaposition of sculptural portraits of the Buddha from China, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Pakistan. A sensual bronze Shiva from Tamil Nadu, a beautiful gilded copper White Tara from Nepal, a stone sculpture of the ferocious Thunderbolt Tara and humorous depictions of the gods in Vivan Sundaram’s series Khajuraho bring to life the exhibition’s third section, The Many Aspects of Divinity. Pamela Singh’s composite photographs taken in urban landscapes also evoke this theme by simultaneously suggesting the presence and absence of the artist.
Divine Metamorphosis, the final section, groups together several distinct bodily forms of a single Hindu or Buddhist deity, suggesting the centrality of transformation to our understanding of the divine. The Hindu god Vishnu is depicted in various forms, from cosmic pillar to wild boar to flute-playing Krishna, while photographs by Dayanita Singh from the series Mona Ahmed document the lived reality of self-transformation in India’s eunuch community.
Ultimately, these diverse images of gods and goddesses, buddhas and bodhisattvas, humans and their landscapes — past and present — lead us to reflect on how to find meaning in an impermanent world.