Written by Mathias Woo
(Co-Artistic Director of Zuni Icosahedron, Director of Hua-yen Buddhaverse)
Technological advances have brought about changes in the way of life and have constantly accelerated communication. Responsiveness has become very important. How to find a Mindful lifestyle in a technologically advanced society is precisely the challenge today.
In the past, we used to communicate with each other with letters and postcards. Later, we developed the telegraph, radio, television, computer, mobile phone and email. Today, we rely on WhatsApp, Facebook, IG, MeWe, WeChat, LINE and beyond. The world of sounds and images has influenced our reactions to things. While words make us think, image-driven communication has encouraged instant emotional reactions, and living in the moment has become living the moment. I often wonder if we can use technology to create a Mindful experience.
Traditional technology in the East is about unlocking human’s potentials – understanding the body, consciousness and the world; how the body can feel the world, space and the air around it. Eastern technology is the technology of the body, the inner self-knowledge, while Western technology creates an external system. The traditional teaching “Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form. Emptiness is not other than Form.” provides an appropriate reaction to technological progress. Is Form technology? Is Emptiness also technology? What is the nature of technology? Is the technology of Emptiness possible, and is Bitcoin the technology of Emptiness? Today’s technology began in the West to develop a material economy and create a material life external to the body. Western technology focuses on creating more significant quantities through speed, solving a problem through technology, and curing a disease with medicine. But it cannot cure the body as a whole, nor can it cure the heart.
The goal is the foundation. The foundation is the goal.
Eastern art is the pursuit of internal freedom rather than ranking or short-term monetary gain. The essence of calligraphy is the process, while the epitome of playing the guqin is silence. Both of these are internal processes. Of course, calligraphy on an iPad is not calligraphy because calligraphy is not a convenient process. We can display calligraphy with Western technology, but we cannot practice on an iPad. Ink is the source of calligraphy, which carries visual and intellectual messages. Interacting calligraphy with Western technology is also an interaction of cultures and minds.
I have been experimenting with possibilities between calligraphy, art and Western technology in the past. Forms and Emptiness alter within the light and shadow of a space – black and white contrasts. The ink becomes a feeling in the moment. Technology brings experience instead of excitement – an experience of living in a calligraphy space. It is impossible to express Eastern art through Western technology by simply applying Western form and method on Eastern philosophy.
The question of Art Tech is not one of form and method but instead of nature. My Art Tech is a deconstruction and mirror of Western technology.
Mindfulness is a direction, Art Tech’s Mindfulness. Art Tech creates an awareness of the breath and allows me to let go of the obsession with technology and to be still and breathe. Life, living, silence, nothingness, and emptiness are not about external consumption but start from observation. Watching, Avalokiteshvara, observing, freedom. Art Tech practices Mindfulness. Technology is constantly changing, but is art constant? Is art in the moment? Is technology a constant variant? Can we be less obsessive about technology and art? Can art be the answer to the sufferings technology creates? Does Emptiness refer to the senses? Lighting and observing require light. Light is essential for observance for Emptiness. Is light-speed technology or a concept? The speed commonly required in cursive script is an intuitive reaction in calligraphy. In this case, writing is intuitive. Technology spreads messages like light. One is many and many is one. There only one does not exist.
New technology has created more possibilities for Dharma teaching and practice. Technology can also enrich Mindfulness, which is omnipresent. To be technologically mindful is not to run away from technology but to face it, understand it, and use it to create Mindfulness.
(Edited from an article in Buddhist Compassion 18th February, 2021)
Co-Artistic Director of Zuni Icosahedron, scriptwriter, director, producer and curator, well-known for his ingenious blending of theatrical space, text, video images and cutting-edge multimedia technology.