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Skidmore College: Liberal Studies1
Fall 2004

The Tang Teaching Museum Fall 2004

Paradise and Plumage: Chinese Connections in Tibetan Arhat Painting
September 25, 2004 - January 2, 2005
Organized by Rob Linrothe, Associate Professor of Art History at Skidmore College in collaboration with the Rubin Museum of Art, New York.

By the fourteenth century, cultural exchanges between the courts at the imperial capitols of China and the religious centers of Tibet were a regular occurrence.  Imperial envoys visited Tibet bearing gifts of sculptures, paintings and other precious objects; likewise, Tibetan religious leaders reciprocated, bringing Tibetan works of art to the Chinese courts. The Chinese products of this cultural exchange were particularly admired in Tibet, where artists had access to both the objects themselves and paintings that represented them.

Tibetan paintings depicting Arhats (early Indian disciples of the Buddha) clearly exhibit the artistic consequences of this exchange.  The paintings display the gnarled pine trees, fantastic birds, deer, exotic flowers, and other objects that are common in various genres of Chinese painting, and also contain other emblems of Chinese literati culture like furniture, vases, tapestries, and scholar’s rocks.  By the fifteenth century, Chinese court painters were themselves producing exquisite sets of Arhat paintings embellished with gold and expensive mineral pigments.  Nearly identical Tibetan versions of these paintings also exist, and comparisons between the Chinese and Tibetan versions of the compositions are revealing of the cultural values of the two groups.

This focused exhibition illustrates the artistic interchange of the two cultures by juxtaposing paintings and objects from China and Tibet of the fourteenth through eighteenth century.  The works include tangka paintings (Tibetan scroll paintings originally mounted in silk brocade), Chinese hanging scrolls, album leaves, porcelain ceramics, scholar’s rocks, and semi-precious treasure-offerings such as coral and turquoise. 


Elevator Music 3: Michelle Nagai October 15, 2004 - January 2, 2005

Michelle Nagai is an electroacoustic composer, performance artist, and improviser who creates site-specific performances, radio broadcasts and installations of an interdisciplinary nature.  Her creative activities find their basis in the theories of acoustic ecology—the relationships between sounds and the environments that create them, and the way that those relationships act on and influence human beings.

At the Tang Museum, in collaboration with 91.1 WSPN Skidmore College Radio, Nagai will continue her traveling sound project EC(h)OLOCATOR.  EC(h)OLOCATOR aims to utilize the unique sonic character of a place to create soundscapes that awaken the senses, enliven a connection to place, and encourage deeper, more thoughtful modes of listening.  Its live broadcasts are designed to share creative control of the project between community members, radio station staff, producers, and Nagai herself.  The project will culminate with a live broadcast on WSPN and an installation in the Tang’s elevator.

The Elevator Music series is organized by Tang Curatorial Assistant, Gretchen Wagner in collaboration with the artist and is supported by the Friends of the Tang.

A Very Liquid Heaven, October 23, 2004June 5, 2005
Organized by Mary Crone-Odekon, associate professor of Physics, and Margo Mensing, associate profesor of Art, Skidmore College.

In his Principles of Philosophy of 1644, Rene Descartes described the earth as surrounded on all sides by a very liquid heaven.  Although later discoveries discredited this idea, in a sense Descartes was on target.  Modern astronomy reveals stars not as hard, fixed objects, but as pulsing plasmas, and interstellar space not as pure void, but as diffuse clouds of atoms and molecules.

A Very Liquid Heaven explores the essence of permanence versus mutability by posing questions regarding the nature of time, the constancy of experience, and the perception of change.  These questions will be examined through an investigation of the changing human perception of stars based on physical observation, technical postulation, and artistic imagination.  Traditionally, stars have been characterized as immutable points of light, but in the last one hundred years scientists have redefined these seemingly timeless objects as very active bodies—stars dramatically pulse, even catastrophically explode.  Does this change in the ways stars are perceived help to make the stars more comprehensible, more real? 

This exhibit will feature historical artifacts, star charts, maps, globes, and photographs of astronomical bodies, as well as recent art by Kiki Smith, Russell Crotty, John Torreano, Bill Viola, and Sebastian Romo, among others.  Additionally, three performances of Music for a Summer Evening: Makrokosmos III (a work for two pianos and a wide array of percussion instruments, composed by George Crumb) will open the exhibition.  The performances, featuring Skidmore faculty musicians and a dance choreographed and performed by Debra Fernandez, will take place on October 14, 15, and 17.

Organized by Associate Professor of Physics, Mary Crone-Odekon, Associate Professor of Art, Margo Mensing, and Tang Curator, Ian Berry.  The project is supported by Larry and Beverly St. Clair, Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the Friends of the Tang.