Friday, September 06, 2013

Iterations

Currently on at the Rubin Museum of Art: an exhibition devoted to prayer beads. Most are, unsurprisingly, Buddhist and indeed Tibetan, but the case below has Hindu, Christian and Muslim exemplars. The docent showing us around emphasized that prayer beads are very personal, and it was tempting to imagine thumbs and fingers making their way around each one we saw, the beads making their own rounds as mouths and sometimes the rest of bodies worked their way through deepening iterations. There is a rack of prayer beads for visitors to finger, but without even a photograph of a hand, or a video of prayer 
 
beads in use, or a soundtrack of prayer beads clicking, the overall effect was static and lifeless like a gallery of x-rays. In a few places, however,
 
I sensed the curators doing the best they could, I guess, to mime this movement. I'm assuming the delightful play of shadows in the case at top was planned, the shapes looping and combining and intersecting in beautiful ways. And then there was this thousand-bead one from Korea, which a monk apparently used to mark his three thousand daily prostrations. (When people sought an audience with him they had to follow him on his rounds, we were told; most never made it through the three thousand prostrations - finding they were well on their way to enlightenment before that!) It speaks of spooling and unspooling time.

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