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.
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.
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.
"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."
"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.
On Apr 29 2014, shinobu commented on Last page: Is the last page the last report, you guys?? (snif snif)[...]
On Apr 6 2014, Mika commented on Obstacles: Hi Shinobu - no don't worry. Not the hiatus - that would be funny though. Just a long winter, I supp[...]
After reading a recent post, “Reality and Illusion”, by a fellow member of MomenTech, I was sitting and reminded of two things, the first connected to a haiku by Koboyashi Issa (1762 – 1826), which in Japanese reads:
tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara
Donald Keene’s translation:
The world of dew Is a world of dew, and yet And yet…
Following the stream, Issa’s hiaku in turn reminded me of the Buddhist concept of Indra’s Net: a visual image for the idea that all phenomena are intimately connected. In “Vermeer’s Hat”, a history book by Timothy Brook, he describes it.
“When Indra fashioned the world, he made it as a web, and at every knot in the web is tied a pearl. Everything that exists, or has ever existed, every idea that can be thought about, every datum that is true—every dharma, in the language of Indian philosophy—is a pearl in Indra’s net. Not only is every pearl tied to every other pearl by virtue of the web on which they hang, but on the surface of every pearl is reflected every other jewel on the net. Everything that exists in Indra’s web implies all else that exists.“
In one sense, Indra’s Net appears a perfect metaphor for the idea that reality is an illusion since nothing actually exists without everything else. Self is illusory as is all else that appears permanent or stable. Quotes like these from the Buddha “A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering” seem to affirm this. At the same time, seen from a different perspective, Indra’s Net also expresses something entirely opposite: that the world is not an illusion and that escaping suffering is not possible. I will explain.
I first heard of Indra’s Net from a teacher who did not use the image of a pearl, at every node, but of a dewdrop. She said that each dewdrop could be thought of as a person; and that if you looked closely at each dewdrop, you could see tiny reflections of all the surrounding dewdrops (others); looking still closer, you could see all the reflections within reflections, to infinity, of all the dewdrops that exist. The same was true for the cosmos.
And so I return to Issa who wrote “The world of dew” after his daughter, Sato, died of smallpox when she was just over a year old. Knowing the poem’s context, the meaning changes.
The world of dew Is a world of dew, and yet And yet…
This leads me to think that the idea that the world is an illusion is only one interpretation that comes from the idea that the self is an illusion and that everything is connected, concepts that arise mutually. Seen from a different perspective, the world is very real. This is because as long as there are people or animals suffering in the world, so are we. Not because we feel their pain but because we are them, much like a hall of mirrors. The same could be said for the planet as a whole. When a forest or ecosystem die, so does a part of us since like Indra’s Net all of life is woven together. This feeling / understanding is what motivates activists worldwide. It is also what allows us to understand our greif when we lose someone or something we love.
Importantly, these two ways of seeing the world are not in contradiction. They even compliment one another. In one sense, the world is deeply real. But in another, it is very much an illusion. Balance is knowing the difference.
I went to Yosemite National Park, and I saw some huge waterfalls. The highest one there is 1,340 feet high, and from it the water comes down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly, as you might expect; it seems to come down very slowly because of the distance. And the water does not come down as one stream, but is separated into many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, along time, for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life. But at the same time, I thought, the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it is separated does it have some difficulty in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling when it is one whole river. Only when separated into many drops can it begin to have or to express some feeling. When we see one whole river we do not feel the living activity of the water, but when we dip a part of the water into a dipper, we experience some feeling of the water, and we also feel the value of the person who uses the water. Feeling ourselves and the water in this way, we cannot use it in just a material way. It is a living thing.
Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called “mind-only,” or “essence of mind,” or “big mind.” After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact, we have no fear of death anymore, and we have no actual difficulty in our life.
When the water returns to its original oneness with the river, it no longer has any individual feeling to it; it resumes its own nature, and finds composure. How very glad the water must be to come back to the original river! If this is so, what feeling will we have when we die? I think we are like the water in the dipper. We will have composure then, perfect composure. It may be too perfect for us, just now, because we are so much attached to our own feeling, to our individual existence. From us, just now, we have some fear of death, but after we resume our true original nature, there is Nirvana. That is why we say, “To attain Nirvana is to pass away.” “To pass away” is not a very adequate expression. Perhaps “to pass on,” or “to go on,” or “to join” would be better. Will you try to find some better expression for death? When you find it, you will have quite a new interpretation of your life. It will be like my experience when I saw the water in the big waterfall. Imagine! It was 1,340 feet high!
A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering. – The Buddha
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
Study: Progression of Alzheimer´s Slowed by Yoga and Meditation
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications that can stop the cognitive deteriorating associated with Alzheimer’s disease. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done.
A new study conducted at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center shows that practicing meditation and yoga can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
After eight weeks practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation for at least two hours per week, the study group experienced less overall atrophy in the hippocampus and better connectivity in other parts of the brain responsible for memory than the control group, which received regular care.
Most of the descriptions of enlightenment refer to a sensation of nothingness – no time. no space, no thoughts. It seems to be a positive place. Most of Buddha figures have a slight and enigmatic smile. Well, one can also visit a different place where you find yourself as a punctum vibrating in a black never ending space.
It emphasizes the radical contradiction of the human condition itself, between the subject as nothing, as the evanescent punctuality versus the horizon of our world. Here is an extraordinary quote from Hegel. One can only imagine that it was experienced by him in person.
“The human being is this night, this empty nothing, that contains everything in its simplicity—an unending wealth of many representations, images, of which none belongs to him—or which are not present. This night, the interior of nature, that exists here—pure self—in phantasmagorical representations, is night all around it, in which here shoots a bloody head—there another white ghastly apparition, suddenly here before it, and just so disappears. One catches sight of this night when one looks human beings in the eye—into a night that becomes awful.”
I know of no other filmmaker, before or after Tarkovsky, that devoted so much of their artistic practice to understanding time. The theme is present from his first film on. His book about cinema and art in general is even titled “Sculpting in Time”. About halfway through his career, or at least from “Solaris” on, Tarkovsky began to embed long scenes which double as meditative rituals, both for the viewer and the filmmakers working under his direction. This video, from “Nostalgia”, is one such scene and it does not, thankfully, spoil the ending, which to me is one of the most spiritual moments ever captured on film.
The term “Singularity” has been been popularized by well-known futurist Ray Kurzweil, who argues that with advances in computing and medical and nano-technology, we will be able to transfer our brain (and our consciousness) onto a super-human computer (or computer chip, or other computing device), allowing us to effectively live forever on silicon rather than biology.
Naropa (1016-1100) was a Buddhist scholar. He realized the illusory nature of physical reality and finally achieved liberation by seeing the true nature of consciousness and how it attaches to and detaches from the physical body. He systemized the Six Yogas of Naropa and taught them to his disciples. The Six Yogas, which have been taught primarily in secret over the years, are all about what happens to our consciousness when we go to sleep and when we die.
Two of the Yogas, that of Consciousness Transference and Forceful Projection, are directly related to transferring the consciousness of a person who is dying out of the body to “somewhere else” so that it can “live on” in the physical world. According to the literature, adepts at this Yoga were able, at exactly the time of their death, to “transfer” their consciousness out of their body and “forcefully project” it into another living “host” nearby.
So, it seems to me that before we barge ahead trying to transfer our brain’s neural patterns to a physical device, we might want to invite in the experts at consciousness (Tibetan and Indian Yogis) and see if we can learn something from them about how consciousness works both while we’re alive and when we die. Once we can reproduce the Yoga of forceful projection in a laboratory setting, we could then move on to how we might project our minds onto a superintelligent computing device.
This text is loosely based on Wikipedia and writing by Zen Enterprenuer
When is the last time you did absolutely nothing for 10 whole minutes? Not texting, talking or even thinking? Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe describes the transformative power of doing just that: Refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day, simply by being mindful and experiencing the present moment. (No need for incense or sitting in uncomfortable positions.) [TED Talk]
“There is certainly nothing more important in life than what we do at the present moment. A person’s entire life consists of nothing more than one moment piled on top of another, over and over again. Once enlightened to this, the warrior has nothing else to worry about, because he realizes that he has only to live in the present moment with the utmost intensity.”
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
If the warrior does not feel alone and sad, then he or she can be corrupted very easily. In fact, such a person may not be a warrior at all. To be a good warrior, one has to feel sad and lonely, but rich and resourceful at the same time. This makes the warrior sensitive to every aspect of phenomena: to sights, smells, sounds, and feelings. In that sense, the warrior is also an artist, appreciating whatever goes on in the world. Everything is extremely vivid. The rustling of your armor or the sound of rain drops falling on your coat is very loud. The fluttering of occasional butterflies around you is almost an insult, because you are so sensitive.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Every morning a warrior should recommit himself to death. In morning meditation, see yourself killed in various ways, such as being shredded by arrows, bullets, swords, and spears, being swept away by a tidal wave, burned by fire, struck by lightening, dieing in a earthquake, falling from a great height, or succumbing to overwhelming sickness.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai