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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Obstacles

I usually find that I have little or nothing to say about meditation; maybe because many have said what I think there is to say, before, as in the last few millennium, or maybe because it feels too personal, too subjective. This week, however, I have something to say since my practice, over the past month, has been disrupted for reasons that made me think.  To begin with, I moved. Boxing up my life and changing spaces has always been incredibly un-grounding. There is shift, it feels, in my total pattern of existence, which is sometimes good in the sense that I become aware of my accumulated possessions and my daily routines, most of which belong to a space. Only when I lost the room where I meditate did I realize the value of that space. Now I have a makeshift space, with distractions, but not a space I can devote to the practice entirely. But then a second thing happened: I got sick and have remained sick for almost four weeks. These were different illnesses, almost back to back, but one has held on, I suppose partly due to the stress of moving.

What does being sick and meditating feel like? It depends on the sickness of course but in my case, which is sinus related, my head feels like it’s in a bubble. Furthermore I become more aware of the general discomfort of my body, not the free flowing energy that usually comes with meditation. I can only hope that this feeling lifts next week so that my desire to meditate returns (I am still meditating, but against my will or desire to do so). Who, after all, would consciously want to intensify their awareness of pain? It makes more sense, at least when your body is sick, or feels pain, to stay distracted. Of course most of us have heard the opposite: that you should go into that sickness, that you should ask the question why? — since your mind and body are using that sickness, or that pain, to make you conscious of something etc. All interesting ideas, but ideas no less, most of which remind me of the story of Aesop’s “Sour Grapes” (cognitive dissonace).

So rather than looking too hard for a reason for my sickness, instead I have used this experience to reflect on things I took previously for granted, specifically a.) that meditation comes easy with a space devoted to the practice and b.) that meditation also comes easy when in good physical health. This is more interesting to think about when we realize that most of our species do not have access to a space without distractions or a physical body, free of sickness or pain. For example hunger is a pain and where I live right now, in America, which is often considered the wealthiest country in the world, we have approximately 50 million people who live in food-insecure households; that means 50 million people, on any given day, who might experience hunger.

Having read one of my collaborators blog entries – especially “My Garden”, in January — which describes his experience with meditation after open-heart-surgery, and mitral valve replacement, his words return to me. It makes me wonder what other obstacles people everywhere feel in relation to meditation; things that I have simply not thought about; things that I take for granted. Would love to hear what others have to say on the subject.

Leave a Comment (4)

Mika wrote on Apr 6:

Hi Shinobu - no don't worry. Not the hiatus - that would be funny though. Just a long winter, I suppose, and some unfortunate brushes with illnesses. Finally mine is gone :)

shinobu wrote on Mar 30:

are you guys, all alright? Is being on-hiatus making you all sick???

Mika wrote on Mar 29:

Thanks JT for your comment. I realized, after writing this post that the opposite can also be true. That distractions, such as sounds we can't control, and hunger and body pains and such might also make our practice all the more stronger. I can't say that about my particular sickness, especially after thankfully coming out of it, but it's an interesting idea - obstacles in general and how they affect our practice.

JT wrote on Mar 26:

I live in an old building where heat cannot be controlled at all. It comes and goes without any logical pattern and it makes hell of a noise. Sometimes there is no heat at all. I had to learn to sit in cold. I also learned how to incorporate freaking sounds of heater, firetruck siren and other urban noise in my meditation. I dream sometimes about doing my ZEN in countryside, where you can hear only birds and wind blowing..