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)[...]
Want to Achieve Computer-Brain Meld? Try Yoga and Meditation
Training in mind/body awareness through practices like yoga or meditation allows people to learn a brain-computer interface faster. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
“Increasingly, we’re turning to systems that connect brains with computer systems…but the length of training has been a major obstacle to success,” said lead author Bin He, PhD, Director of the Center for Neuroengineering at the University of Minnesota. “This research tells us that we can significantly cut this time with practices like yoga and meditation.”
Training in mind/body awareness takes many forms, from yoga and meditation to Reiki, but all are designed to direct awareness to specific areas of the body. This ability to direct attention to discrete areas might be an important aspect of how we learn to manipulate objects using systems that connect our brains with computers.
The researchers took 12 participants who practiced mind/body awareness, and 19 who practiced no form of mind/body awareness, and trained them on an electroencephalography (EEG)-based brain-computer program. This experiment used monitors on the scalp to pick up electrical impulses from the brain. The participants had to imagine moving their hands, and the EEG program interpreted the brain activity as they imagined and translated the electrical signals into the movement of a cursor on the screen.
Scientists found that participants who practiced mind/body awareness learned the brain-computer interface faster than those who did not, with 75 percent of them achieving competence versus 42 percent of controls. This suggests that training in mind-body awareness could aid in the learning of brain-computer interfaces.
Research was supported with funds from the National Science Foundation.
“The most important thing is, whatever is past, just let it go. Your mind should be like a mirror, not a camera. Whatever goes into camera is recorded there: the reflection in a mirror vanishes when the object moves away.”
Chan Master Sheng Yen
“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
“Zen activity is activity which is completely burned out, with nothing remaining but ashes. This is the goal of our practice. This is what Dogen meant when he said, “Ashes do not come back to firewood.” Ash is ash. The firewood should be firewood.”
“In Zen practice we want our intuition — our universal self — to come forth,” says Berkeley Zen Center abbot, Sojun Mel Weitsman Roshi. “When you’re doing simple tasks [like peeling broccoli or breaking lettuce into bite-size bits], your body, mind, the broccoli, the knife, your hand, the breath, are all involved. When you keep bringing your attention back to what you’re doing — when you are simply one with your activity — it’s the same as sitting zazen.”
Lady Gaga Practicing Meditation Using the Abramovic Method
August 8—Known for her performance artistry and most recently seen in Jay Z‘s Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film, Marina Abramovic has linked up with none other than Lady Gaga to bring awareness to the Marina Abramovic Institute. Shot over the course of a three-day retreat in upstate New York, the piece sees Gaga practicing the eponymous Abramovic Method – “a series of exercises designed to heighten participants’ awareness of their physical and mental experience in the present moment,” and a method that ultimately prepares participants for both performance and observation of long duration work. Certainly eye opening, the resulting piece sees Gaga performing vocal exercises, meditation and more. A full breakdown of the Marina Abramovic Institute can be perused via the establishment’s Kickstarter page while Gaga will make her long-awaited ARTPOP reveal with a performance of her upcoming single at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. (source: T.S. Fox, Hypebeast)
“..our sense of time comes from the endless succession of thoughts and images passing through our minds. This flow of experience also gives rise to a sense of a separate self. If you could cease the march of thoughts through your mind, and fix on just one constant thought…, time would freeze. If you could then forget even that thought, time would dissolve”.
Meditation for Rural Railroad Crossings by MomenTech
This meditation is designed specifically for the rural driver, when stopped at a railroad crossing. Importantly, the meditation is for freight trains, as passenger trains are too short. It works best at night. Like a temple bell, which signals the beginning of a meditation session, the downward motion of a railroad crossing’s gate, the flashing red lights, and the steady ring signal that the session has begun.
1. Position: as the train’s still distant whistle can be heard, you should already be moving into position. Remove your seat belt so that you are less constricted; move your seat up until your spine is straight; let your muscles relax. Your body should be centered and free of tension.
2. Breath: as the train’s light moves across your field of vision, become aware of your breath. Don’t try to control it, just breath deeply and naturally, centering your attention just below your naval. Attempt to become one with your breath.
3. Vision: lower your gaze to a forty-five degree angle. For example, if you are the first car, you will most likely see just beyond your car’s hood: the crossing’s gate, the wheels beneath the train. As your eyes begin to relax, lights and objects in motion should blur. Soon you field of vision is indistinct, a collage.
4. Sound: allow the sound of the gate’s ringing, the passing train, and environmental sounds to become one indistinct but symphonic river of sound. This will include the car’s engine, heater, air conditioner, and windshield wipers, along with whatever random thoughts you hear in your head. The sound should stream.
5. Awareness: come back to your breath. You are aware of your posture. Your gaze is relaxed. You are listening to this symphony of sound and allowing it do whatever it likes. You are aware of it, not suppressing it. Allow it to exhaust itself.
As the train passes out of view, release whatever thoughts, anxieties, or stresses you would like it to take with it. When the gate goes up, the meditation has come to an end. Put your seat belt back on and drive away.
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” — Albert Einstein
In his classic 15th-century Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, Haá¹ha Yoga Pradipika, the yogic sage Svami Svatmarama wrote, “Looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed, is known as trataka by the acharyas.”
One form of trataka is called bahiranga trataka, a fixed-gaze meditation method that involves concentrating your vision on some external object or point. This practice seeks to achieve a “blanking out” of visual perception as a pathway to a meditative state.
For my session today, I stared deeply into an image of a Mandelbrot set, an elegant demonstration of the intimate connection between the mathematical and the mystical:
If c = 1, then you get the sequence 0, 1, 2, 5, 26,…, which tends to infinity. Put another way, all possibilities are implicit (i.e., exist in potential form) in the One.
The Mandelbrot set has been called “the thumbprint of God.” It also has a distinct resemblance to classical depictions of Gautama Buddha seated in a Lotus position.
“Just let dharma be the same as food, and let food be the same as dharma. Dharma is itself food, food is itself dharma. This dharma is what is received and used by all buddhas in the past and future. This food is the fulfillment that is the joy of dharma and the delight of meditation.”
Eihei Shingi, Zen master Dogen (1200-1253)
Dogen makes it clear near the beginning of the essay that there is no separation between food and spiritual teaching. “Dharma” in the following passage implies all of the meanings of the original Sanskrit word: primarily the teaching of reality, but also the truth of reality itself, the elements of that realm of reality, and this teaching as means or path to align with that reality.