MomenTech, United States

Residency Period: 1 November 2013 - 30 April 2014


Bio

MomenTech is an experimental production studio based in New York City, founded in 2010 by Filipino-American conceptual artist Reynard Loki and Polish-American multimedia artist Maciej Toporowicz. American filmmaker Mika Johnson joined in 2013. Inspired by transnational progressivism, cosmology, post-humanism, ecology, neo-nomadism, futurism and more, MomenTech has created pop culture remixes, instructional works, site-specifc installations, public space interventions and user-generated content pieces, developing over 35 projects and participating in 18 group exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Greece, South Africa, China and the Philippines.

momentech.blogspot.com/


On-hiatus Proposal Summary

As of November 1, 2013, MomenTech is on hiatus from any and all creative production for a six-month period as they engage fully with our proposed on-hiatus activity: a daily meditation practice.

MomenTech's hiatus residency also includes meditation research, data collection and progress updates posted to the RFAOH website.

This investigation into meditation continues MomenTech's interest in the practice, which began in 2010 with Field Experiment, an interactive, site-specific audiovisual project that explores meditation, self-hypnosis, the media and our cosmic origins (via Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, or CMBR) by asking participants to imagine a field after having stared into live television static for a period of 10 seconds. Field Experiment was selected by the Behring Institute of Medical Research to be a part of their first publication for "Placebos for Art," a long-term research project investigating the influence of "art-based placebos" on public health.

Meditation was also a theme in MomenTech's 2011 project Mandala-Tanque, in which pétanque competitors are invited to play a game on the surface of the pétanque court on which a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala has been drawn. The project was selected for inclusion at the 2011 Dumbo Arts Festival.

MomenTech will resume its normal production schedule on May 1, 2014.

To contact MomenTech, please email: m01123581321345589144@gmail.com.


Final Report

Reynard Loki:

Being the primary writer in MomenTech, the task of composing the group's response to the exit questionnaire naturally fell on me. My suggestion to my fellow collaborators was that I would draft a response from the group as a whole and Mika and Maciej would add their own thoughts. But the more I thought about what we "should" express as a group, the more I realized that it was a bit of a fool's errand. It makes sense: Meditation—the daily practice of which was the main activity of MomenTech's residency—is ultimately an individual journey.

Of course, group meditation is a common practice; I have participated in several such gatherings at the Tibet House in New York during our residency as part of my own exploration into the various styles of meditation. But in the end, meditation is an intensely personal activity that can lead to intensely personal revelations, even as it may help to strip away what is to be one of humans' heaviest burdens: the ego.

The initial structure of our residency was straightforward: Each of MomenTech's three members would engage in an individual daily meditation practice for the residency's six-month period. But while the design of our residency may have been rather simple, its goals were anything but: to "develop mindfulness, concentration, insight, wisdom." That's pretty heavy-duty stuff.

Did we develop any of these aspects? I'd like to say yes, but who can really know? Meditation is not so much a "fix-it" therapy as it is a lifestyle, a way of being present in the world. Perhaps that movement towards "being present" and "being in the present" affected MomenTech's ability to plan for future events around the residency. For example, at the outset, we were all gung-ho about hosting weekly online open meditation sessions via Google Hangouts. That plan never materialized until the very end. (We hosted an open meditation on Google Hangout on the last day of our residency.)

One thing is for sure, MomenTech really did go on hiatus and for the first time in our four-year history, took a break from making art; or rather, taking a break from producing the things MomenTech produces (MomenTech, as a rule, avoids using the terms "art" and "artists.") But is that even possible? Art is often compared to life. And if art, like life, is a continual process, then can an artist truly avoid "making art"? Perhaps MomenTech did not think about, design and build a "product," per se, but the experiences we had, both individually and as a group, during our six month hiatus will forever be a part of all our future work in some fundamental way.

Our residency did "create" one kind of important thing: questions. And perhaps the best thing about our residency with RFAOH. Some of the best effects that meditation can call forth have to do with a growth in awareness. And part of becoming aware is to challenge one's status quo, to continually ask questions. What is art? What does it mean to create it? Can an artist take a break from making art? Is meditation an art form? Conversely, can making art be meditative?

I asked my fellow MomenTechnicians to email me a few lines of thoughts and observations a few days after the residency ended.

 

Maciej Toporowicz:

"Having a surgery and recovery during the residency taught me that meditation has its limits, at least for me," Maciej said. "I wasn't able to meditate, because the post-surgery stress was too much." He added that "having opportunity to meditate more often than usually moved me closer to solving my personal koan, the one I have been trying to solve since a while."

 

Mika Johnson:

"The main challenge the residency posed for me was in relation to self-discipline. On some days finding time to meditate was not an issue, whereas on other days it was almost interruptive, even frustrating. Undoubtedly, this was partly because the residency was not in a physical space, with a community of artists or meditation practitioners working toward a common goal. However, in the end, this absence of a physical space and community made my practice stronger, in the sense that I had to learn to integrate my meditation time with my normal routines and responsibilities, which is also a useful approach to art making as well.

"In the beginning, we had originally set out to answer short daily and weekly questionnaires. We took a lot of time formulating these questions, which were later abandoned. My guess is that the practice immediately became something very personal, which in many ways was difficult to comment on, at least by questionnaire. I responded similarly to the blog, in the sense that I found it challening to write about something that felt entirely personal. I simply didn’t feel I had much to contribute, as the content of that practice was my own subjectivity, not something that I could generalize about or even articulate. In retrospect, I do wish MomenTech had agreed to do one spontaneous drawing before and after each meditation session, as it would have physicalized that response, without rationalizing it. We did this on the last day and all found it surprisingly interesting and satisfying."

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through," wrote French author Anais Nin. "Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

 

Could taking a break from "creating art" help to avoid a kind of "artistic death"? Perhaps. One thing is for sure, for six months, a residency with RFAOH changed the normal "elected" state of MomenTech. The decision to meditate during our hiatus only heightened the experience.

Finally, on behalf of MomenTech, I would like to thank Matt and Shinobu, the founders of RFAOH, for making this all possible. We are fortunate to have been a part of this program. Through our residency, MomenTech sowed important seeds for the future.


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Sumi-Rorschach Ink Blots


“Japanese ink painting, also known as suibokuga or sumi-e,” writes Mariusz Szmerdt, a master sumi-e ink painter and a member of the International Chinese Calligraphy & Ink Painting Art Society in Tokyo, “is a creation of pure energy of an artist submerged in a meditative state.” He notes that, “Initially, the art of ink painting was tightly related to the Zen philosophy of minimalism.”[1]

Szmerdt compares the act of sumi-e is “like climbing up the mountain. When still at the base of the mountain, we fail to appreciate its monumental size. However, once we begin our climb, through studies and careful assessment of self, we start to see things from a different perspective.”

I have incorporated a sumi-e ritual as part of my overall meditative practice, but not in the traditional way. Instead of using conventional brush strokes, I create ink blots that resemble the images of the Rorschach test, the famous psychological test named after its creator, Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach, in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed. The general goal of the Rorschach test is to “collect data about cognition and personality variables such as motivations, response tendencies, cognitive operations, affectivity, and personal/interpersonal perceptions.”[2] Though the Rorschach test has been widely used by psychologists and psychiatrists, it has also been criticized as pseudoscience.

One of the striking elements of a Rorschach inkblot is its symmetry. Rorschach explained this decision:

“Asymmetric figures are rejected by many subjects; symmetry supplied part of the necessary artistic composition. It has a disadvantage in that it tends to make answers somewhat stereotyped. On the other hand, symmetry makes conditions the same for right and left handed subjects; furthermore, it facilitates interpretation for certain blocked subjects. Finally, symmetry makes possible the interpretation of whole scenes.”[3]

And here is a valuable connection. Symmetry is an important aspect of Buddhism. For example, Tibetan mandalas are notable for their strict radial symmetry, a form drawn from nature itself—from galaxies and solar systems to flowers and snowflakes.

“The mandala form is a visual expression of this universal ordering principle of nature, one of the ways in which humanity has sought to relate to and sum up the awesome universe of which we are a part,” writes mandala artist  Shashi Prem. “Mandalas—sometimes literally—cosmic diagrams, attempts to represent the essential elements of the macrocosm in an ordered, coherent manner.”[4]

But there are also conflicting Buddhist ideas regarding this type of natural symmetry. In her 1965 book The Japanese Tea Ceremony, Julia V. Nakamura writes:

“The thatched roof [of a Japanese tea house] suggests perishability; the slender pillars the fragility of life; the bamboo supports suggest lightness; the use of ordinary materials testifies to non-attachment. “Abode of the A-Symmetrical” is also basically Zen, which is the philosophy of Becoming—a dynamic, endless process. Symmetry suggests completeness and the ‘aping of an abstract and artificial perfection.’ In the tea room (sukiya) or in the Japanese house, the decorations are always off-center, the balance occult; sets come in threes and fives; one never finds the artistic representation of a man on display.”[5]

Taking a tradition meditative art form like sumi-e and transforming it through the modern Rorschach technique allows a reflection on dualities—symmetry and asymmetry, external nature and internal psychology. But really, making them is just very relaxing. And, in addition to providing an expression of a meditative mind state—which is not made to exist as “art ” per se—these sumi visual meditations can also be used as tools for practicing bahiranga trataka, a fixed-gaze meditation technique that is part of the Hatha Yoga tradition.

NOTES

[1] Art Gallery of Mariusz Szmerdt. http://sumi-e.pl/
[2] Rorschach test. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test
[3] Hermann Rorschach. Psychodiagnostics; a diagnostic test based on perception : including Rorschach’s paper, The application of the form interpretation test (published posthumously by Dr. Emil Oberholzer). Grune & Stratton inc, New York (1942). p15.
[4] Shashi Prem. About Mandalas. http://www.mandalascapes.com/aboutmandalas.html 
[5] Julia V. Nakamura. The Japanese Tea Ceremony. Mount Vernon, New York: The Peter Pauper Press, 1965. pp 29-30.

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