The public is invited to attend two special presentations, as part of the research convening, In the Present Moment: Buddhism, Contemporary Art and Social Practice, running Oct 25-27 at UVicThese events are organized by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in partnership with UVic’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Multifaith Services and Centre for the Study of Religion in Society. 

Kay Larson (photo: Patrick Shen)

The public is invited to the Orion opening keynote lecture and performance at 7pm Friday, Oct 25 at UVic’s Phillip T Young Recital Hall: “Lecture on Nothing” by acclaimed art critic, columnist, and author Kay Larson. Her 2012 book on John Cage —Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artistsremains a definitive text.

At this talk, Larson will discuss Cage’s seminal text, Lecture on Nothing, which was first performed in New York City in 1949. Written as a piece of music organized around a series of “empty” time intervals (the central statement of the lecture is, “I have nothing to say and I’m saying it”) reads as an oxymoron at first, but reveals Cage’s inquiry into Buddhism.

Following this discussion, there will be a performance of Cage’s text, scored by Larson, conducted by School of Music director Christopher Butterfield and featuring local artists and performers. 

John Cage’s 4’33” by Paul Walde

Then, from 3:30 – 5:30pm on Sunday, Oct 27 , the public is invited to attend the Orion keynote conversation in room 105 of UVic’s Hickman Building: “Beautiful Trouble: A Conversation on Activism, Art and Buddhism” features Suzanne Lacy, artist and professor at the USC (LA) Roski School of Art and Design and Jodie Evans, author, activist, co-director, CODEPINK (Los Angeles). Join in a conversation between these two long-time friends as they explore the relationship between art and activism, activism and Buddhism, and the spaces in between.

Suzanne Lacy, with her 2017 performance “The Circle and the Square”

Lacy is a pioneering artist in social art practice who was introduced to Buddhism in the mid-1980s. She was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2019, titled Suzanne Lacy: We Are Here. 

Evans is a cultural producer and global activist who has worked with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and the Zen master, Thich Naht Hahn, who advocated for a notion of engaged Buddhism during the Vietnam War.

Evans & the 2018 CODEPINK march on the Pentagon

“UVic’s Visual Arts department is very pleased to be hosting this AGGV-organised event in conjunction with the Faculty of Fine Arts. The world-class calibre of the invited artists and scholars makes this a key event in the study of the immense impact of Buddhist teachings on modern and contemporary art,” said Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.

In the Present Moment: Buddhism, Contemporary Art and Social Practice is a multi-phase research and exhibition project led by AGGV Curator, Haema Sivanesan. The project takes a chronological and thematic approach towards examining the impact of Buddhism on art in North America from the post-war period (c1950) to the present.

“The AGGV’s collaboration with UVic to present this research convening is of great value, enhancing our community outreach and engaging students and faculty with the Gallery’s mission,” says AGGV director Jon Tupper. “These two lectures promise to entertain, provoke and challenge preconceived ideas of both art and Buddhism.” 

Research support is generously provided by The Robert H N Ho Family Foundation, Hong Kong and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York.