What spaces are sacred to you? Some sacred spaces are public, like a religious holy site or your community’s house of worship. Others are private, like a personal sanctuary for finding peace and concentration. Regardless of where they are or what they look like, the relationships we build with these sacred spaces inform how we think about ourselves and relate to the rest of the world.
The Rubin’s ongoing exhibition Sacred Spaces invites visitors to reflect on devotional activities in awe-inspiring places. This iteration, The Road To…, focuses on the act and action of pilgrimage for the benefit of one’s future self.
The Road to Sanchi
In The Road to Sanchi, artist Ghiora Aharoni transforms obsolete taxi meters with video screens that capture his travels to sacred sites throughout India for Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists. One such site is Sanchi, which is famous for its Great Stupa built over relics of the Buddha and is considered one of the most important sites in Buddhism. Sanchi and the other sacred sites are never seen, making the journeys a vehicle for examining the prism of time and the act of pilgrimage for the viewer. They also express India’s history of cultural plurality and the natural commingling of sacred and secular in India today.
Kora and Saga Dawa
The videos Kora and Saga Dawa, created by Arthur Liou, explore the vernacular and sacred aspects of Tibetan Buddhist ritual and celebration, as they take place in the breathtaking environment around Tibet’s holiest mountain, Mount Kailash. Challenging the distinction between landscape, sacred site, and personal devotional practice, Liou’s work invites the viewer to contemplate the significance of place in spiritual practice, and how pilgrimage cultivates intimacy with literal place, self-discovery, and the divine. The videos will be shown in succession, beginning with Kora.
The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
An ongoing focal point of Sacred Spaces, the Shrine Room is an immersive installation inspired by traditional Tibetan household shrines. Customarily such a space would be used for devotional practices, elaborate offerings, prayer, and contemplation through engagement with sculptures, paintings, and ritual objects. Each iteration of the Shrine Room features a specific Tibetan Buddhist tradition—this time the Sakya tradition.
The Rubin Museum is definitely off the beaten path and worth a visit. Curated through a small lens – what The Rubin Museum does well is create small spaces to reflect upon its gorgeous art and how it impacts you in the moment. Gods, deities and demons all hold their unique story. As we glimpse into the portrait they paint for us we can’t help but wonder how deep the fabric of their own wisdom goes within them.
You may not find a lot of seating in front of the art at The Rubin Museum. Perhaps this is deliberate to keep you moving up the winding staircase to get to the piece de resistance on the top floor, The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. The room is ornate, brimming with affection but also a solemn and indeed sacred space. Perhaps we may not have something as ornate and grandiose in our homes, but it will make you contemplate on what you can carve out in your own life that could mimic such austere beauty.
The works in the space are holy and full of vibrant colour, emotion and intent. It’s worth taking your time and not only slowly down your pace but your breathing when inhaling and exhaling the art. Unlike it’s fellow museum breathern in the city, The Rubin Museum will sure to inject a wonderful feeling of wellness and calm when departing from the building.