My second life in Tibet
Arahmaiani, Indonesian artist, talks about her "Flag project" in Tibet and how art can cross all borders, in the interest of environmental sustainability.
The “Flag Project” is designed to study and develop collective creativity. I implement an “open art system,” in which art is defined as broadly as possible, to break through rigid discourses and established values, engaging in democratic dialogue, but also taking a critical approach when needed. During this process, outcomes—artworks or other forms—are produced collectively, collaboratively or individually. Another aim is to create and maintain a network that enables the exchange of ideas and experiences, or development in the form of collaborations.
In 2010, four years after beginning this project, I found myself stranded in a tiny remote village, situated around two and a half hours by car from Yushu, which historically was in the Kham region of Tibet but is now part of China’s Qinghai Province, from where three of Asia’s largest rivers—the Yangtze, the Mekong and the Yellow River—flow through China and Southeast Asia. I was courteously met there by around 500 Buddhist monks, several Geshes (Tibetan Buddhist “professors”) and lamas. Although they seemed taken aback at first by the unexpected visit of a female Indonesian artist, uninvited and not working for anyone except myself, there was evidently a rapport between us, and since that day we have been collaborating. On my first visit I could not stay there overnight, as the rules prohibit women from doing so, but by my second visit I was invited to live in the monastery.
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