Sunday, September 04, 2005
Goings-on about town (and beyond)
I haven't been spending the last two weeks under a rock; quite the contrary -- I've been enjoying a little of the culture that abounds in this neck of the woods. Since three of these adventures clearly fall within the scope of Art, Spirit and Science, I now conscientiously report my findings to you, my dear readers.
First, if you haven't seen March of the Penguins yet, you really must. This is the tale of how the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) endures great hardship to insure the survival of it's species.
The narrator (Morgan Freeman in the English version) tells us it is a story about love. At the risk of anthropomorphizing even beyond what the filmmakers have dared, I would argue that this is a story not only about the love of penguins for one another and their offspring, but of the love of the filmmakers for the penguins and yes, the love of penguins for us. They have so much to teach us about love, perseverance and peaceful strength. Amazing. If you're an animal loving softie like me, be prepared to have wet eyes for the duration of the film.
Second -- (assuming you are regularly in Manhattan) have you noticed that a new museum magically appeared last September in the old Barney's building in Chelsea? It's the Rubin Museum of Art, dedicated to the "the art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions." What this amounts to is that the art is primarily, but not exclusively, Buddhist.
A current exhibit is on the role of handprints and footprints in Buddhist art. This is a fascinating show. For the first several hundred years following the death of the historical buddha, he was never depicted in art as a person. Instead his presence was symbolized by footprints. This tradition continued after the advent of iconographic representations, and even continues to this day. Handprints have also played an important symbolic role. Particularly fascinating are Tibetan documents and painting that include the actual (not drawn) handprints of important spiritual leaders, themselves considered living bodhisattvas. Quite evocative.
At only $7 for admission, the museum makes for a very reasonable and peaceful afternoon visit. A nice touch are the magnifying glasses provided on each floor for viewing the art, much of which features amazing detail.
Third -- The third has not happened yet, or perhaps it is better to say that has not happened around these parts yet. But coming soon to our near neighbor Philadelphia is an exhibit both artistic and scientific called Body Worlds. This bizarre and somewhat ghoulish event was first brought to my attention by Tricycle, the Buddhist magazine. It features real human bodies, artfully preserved and displayed using a plasticizing technique developed by German scientist Gunther von Hagens. Bear in mind that the bodies are by and large displayed without their skins, revealing the inner workings of the human structure in all its marvelous -- and gory -- detail.
Apparently the donated corpses are very carefully flushed of body fluids then suffused with some sort of silicon plastic that makes them perfectly pliable and, er, life-like. The Wikipedia has a brief article about the traveling exhibition touching upon some of the controversies it has generated. I was going to include a linked image here, but I noticed in the Wikipedia article that Hagens is a bit of a hardliner about copyright, so maybe I'd best be prudent and not. Besides, it's kind of gross.
Body Worlds comes to Philly October 30. You can bet Hominy Grits will be there to see what it's all about!