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Illustration: Chiladen

An Invitation to Meditation

  • Essay
  • PHI Foundation
By  Kim Johnson  &  Marie-Hélène Lemaire

Theme: Immersive Art

When we visit an art museum, we often expect the institution’s staff, namely its specialized educators, to feed our brains with information about the artworks. In our eyes, these educators vocalize the knowledge that we know them to possess about art.

But what if we imagined our visit differently? The work of art then becomes a “presence.” It is experienced by each of us, by the whole of our beings, our affective lives, our bodies, and our minds. We evolve in the world through our bodies, moving, looking, listening, touching, and feeling. In this way, we all have the capacity to interpret a work of art through the richness of our lived experiences. Without replacing our intellectual interpretation and the meaning we attribute to the works, this affective and somatic perspective complements and makes it more personal.

This is why we present two meditations on the Infinity Mirrored Rooms by Yayoi Kusama, DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE (2019) and BRILLIANCE OF THE SOULS (2014), that are currently presented as part of the exhibition at the PHI Foundation. These are two meditations that, through their poetic and open form, address our sensorial and embodied experiences.

BURST OF INFINITY

A meditation on DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE (2019) by Kim Johnson

A click is heard.
This is the beginning of something.
Or is it the end of a long wait?
You enter the darkness.
With hushed steps, you enter a world without borders.

 A presence is felt.
The darkness gives way to a soft glow.
You can see it clearly now, this reflection vibrating with curiosity is you. 

You are witnessing a phenomenon.
The ephemerality of the present moment makes you hold your breath. 

Slow flickers make you spin.
There is no more ceiling, no more floor beneath your feet.
You float in space-time, bathed in a milky way.
Waves of bright stars surround you. 

In the blink of an eye, white turns to red.
Is it a stop signal?
Is it a heartbeat?
You meditate for a while under the warm, enveloping light.

Hypnotized by the dance of glowing spheres, you end your journey in the void of total obscurity.
This brief burst of infinity carves a place in your mind.
Your thoughts fly away and become part of the collective memory of a community of dreamers, of which you are now part.

CHROMATIC NATURE: EVERYTHING REVERBERATES

A meditation on BRILLIANCE OF THE SOULS (2014) by Marie-Hélène Lemaire

I open the door.
A haunting and mysterious space opens up to me.
I enter, slowly, already astonished.
All at once a starry night, multitude of rainbows, imaginary forest.
My body, tenderly enveloped.

Here, everything is movement, pulsating rhythms, resonances.
Here, space unfolds, in gentle tides, coloured, silent.
My body is transported.

Whereas over there, where I come from, everything is solidity, constraints, and limits.

Here, a fluid and humid atmosphere sticks to my skin.
I become malleable, my body porous, watery, volatile.

At my feet, all around, a deep black lake spreads out.
I imagine the thin wing of a dragonfly brushing the surface of the water.
The calm of its surface gently disturbed by infinite waves.
My feet, my legs, my heart, my lungs, my head.
Everything reverberates. 

My whole being cohabits with a dreamed reality.
The will-o’-the-wisps fuse.
Orange, blue, violet, yellow.
Spirits of the night
of this lake,
of these stars.
And I, who dive into them.
And I, who fly away.

Movements

Movements: Yayoi Kusama is a tool designed by the PHI Foundation’s Department of Education to encourage visitors to develop and elaborate on some key concepts of the exhibition Yayoi Kusama: DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE.

Authors

Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson is an educator and project manager at the PHI Foundation. She completed a BA in Art Education at Concordia University in 2016. Kim is involved in the democratization of visual art through her educational and artistic projects in various community centres and cultural institutions in Montréal, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as a cultural mediator. As a visual artist, she draws her inspiration from human connections, the feminine and nature. Kim is particularly fond of painting and linocut.

Marie-Hélène Lemaire
Marie-Hélène Lemaire is Head of Education at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art. She has over twenty years of experience as a museum educator for contemporary art in various galleries and museums, such as the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery. She holds an M.A. in Museum Studies at UQÀM (Université du Québec à Montréal), as well as a Ph.D. in Communications Studies at Concordia University that focuses on developing a movement-based pedagogy for guided group visits in contemporary art exhibitions. Using a feminist pedagogy of embodiment, new materialist and poetic inquiry approaches, she aims to privilege and validate sensorial, sensuous and affective engagements with contemporary art. She has published in The Journal of Museum Education (2021), the Canadian Review of Art Education (2021), and Muséologies (2018). She also nurtures a poetic writing practice for developing, facilitating, and interpreting curricula for guided visits, as well as to express her own personal aesthetic engagements. She is committed to epistemic justice in the arts.

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