Biennale of Sydney

Spiral Incense – Hundred Syllable Mantra, 2016, Installation at Biennale of Sydney

Biennale of Sydney, 2016
The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed
Curated by Stephanie Rosenthal
18 March – 5 June, 2016

Exhibited Works:
Spiral Incense – Hundred Syllable Mantra, 2016, Installation
Bardo, 2016, Video installation
A Dedication to Those Who Have Passed Through Mortuary Station of Sydney, 2016, Installation

Photo credits: Ben Symons, Leïla Joy, Biennale of Sydney, and the artist

With special thanks: Rae & Yuri Bolotin from BigCi Bilpin International Ground for Creative Initiatives and Lionel Buckett from Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia, Tibetan filmmaker Tsering Tashi Gyalthang

Project Description:
At the Embassy of Transition, Tsai contemplates the Bardo – the indeterminate state between death and rebirth – through a series of works that explore the continuous cycles of life and death. Tsai’s multilayered installation is based on The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo, a widely studied Tibetan text considered to be a guide for the dying that is also beneficial for the living. According to the text, the consciousness of a person who has passed from this life lingers in the world for 49 days, confused and unable to let go, clinging to life through images, people or events of the past. While the spirit is still present, they are capable of hearing, and so the text is read aloud, describing how in death consciousness separates from the body, encouraging a spirit to release their hold on life.

Sketch for Mortuary Station by the artist, 2015, Biennale of Sydney

Echoing the historic function of Mortuary Station as a place of transition and final farewells, Tsai has created a series of works as meditations on death as a reflection of life. Suspended over the platform, Spiral Incense – Hundred Syllable Mantra, 2016, enacts a ritual of purification. Large incense spirals inscribed with Hundred Syllable Mantra are lit each morning, burning until the end of the day, whereupon they are extinguished and the fallen ashes smeared over the ground. Scattered over the train tracks is A Dedication to Those Who Have Passed Through Mortuary Station, Sydney, 2016. Objects from nature – dried leaves and seeds – each bear a word from the text in memory of the spirits who passed through the station when funerary trains bound for Rookwood Cemetery departed from the platform.

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