Kailash Cartographies will feature artists from India, China, Nepal and the US who will consider this important peak in the Himalayan mountain range both as a location through which to understand issues of ecology and climate change, as well as a metaphorical and spiritual location that functions as a locus for grounding and identification for people who live far from the site. This exhibition is a collaboration between members of the India China Institute, Parsons AMT, the School of Media Studies and the SJDC Gallery. The exhibit is part of ICI’s ongoing Sacred Himalaya Initiative research project focused on Mount Kailash in Tibet.
About The Exhibit
As an important source of glacial fresh water that feeds the Indus, the Brahmaputra and the Ganges Rivers, the effect of global warming on the Tibetan Plateau where Mount Kailash resides has significant consequences on the lives of billions of people in far flung regions in South and East Asia. While human-caused climate change in general forces us to think beyond national and racial identifications, Kailash serves as a specific case study through which to consider a politics of the Anthropocene.
In addition to the ecological dimension of the site, Kailash is of central significance to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Bön traditions and an important destination for religious pilgrimages. Mount Kailash therefore serves symbolically as a transnational spiritual nexus for Indians, Chinese, Nepalese and others, through which we may consider notions of national boundaries and their porosity.
Our symbolic, perspectival relation to a site has been historically depicted in forms like the map and the landscape painting, but might we not also consider the pilgrimage or circumambulation as cartographic techniques? Are they not aesthetic, somatic and spiritual technologies that trace and materialize realities in space in much the same way as other mapmakers drew the charts that determined an orientation in the world? Participation is the key to the mapping of sacred sites such as Mount Kailash—a participation that means not only the full involvement of the self, but also the multiple forms of agency, human and other than human, which inhabit a place.
The artists included in this exhibition will ask: What might we learn from cartographies such as these that resist mastery? Can we conceive of modes of drawing, mapmaking and placemaking that manifest entanglements (social, political, sacred, secular and ecological) rather than delineate boundaries? When is a map not a fixed diagram but a vector of mobility and an impetus for transformation?