Call: The New Museum is looking for a mixed media, participatory project that brings a new perspective to an ancient weapon. Archery, Internal -- A Performative, Meditative Journey of the Self
A participatory exhibit involving one of the world's oldest art form, "Archery, Internal" is at once an appreciation and a journey. I am interested in exploring the fundamental ideas of why archery has endured for millennia in all cultures, East and West, Modern and Traditional. Archery has always been treated with respect since the ancient times: it is seen as an art to be mastered. In warfare archers were feared, with many battles won with bows and arrows. Archery also had a long history in mythology of both Eastern and Western cultures: From Apollo to Hou Yi, to Tolkien and Japanese comics, archery was associated with nobility and respect.
While archery evolved from hunting to warfare to a form of sport, and as bows and arrows get more sophisticated, I believe the philosophy remains the same. During my research, many experienced archers commented that archery is a competition with the self: the competition is with you, your target, rather than with other archers. Improvement is less about hitting the target than improving one's form. In Kyudo, the Japanese form of archery, the challenge is less on marksmanship but on the natural form of shooting, with some schools closely linking it to the Zen philosophy. My project aims to replicate a similar form of meditation, competition with the self and improving one's form mentally.
1) The Unfinished Bow Many archers have built their own bows and consider it as part of its challenge, as well as being even more connected with the art form. My idea is to have a station with a half-finished bow: ready for handling but requires more work to complete, and visitors will be encouraged to spend some time to help complete the bow. The action will be repetitive (for example, using the hand wood planer to "shave" and thin the piece of wood), but is calming and can help settle the mind.
A sketch of the Unfinished Bow Station
A prototype of the bow and the station:
2) The Range
Once the visitor feels ready to use the Bow (and ideally have established a connection with it), s/he can visit the range, where there will be three options, all of which will offer a different challenge for one's self to overcome.
i) Target what you hope to overcome
Decorate your target with colours, notes, shapes, of issues you wish to conquer. For example: Fear of crowds, impatience over other people, cigarette craving...lay it out on the target.
ii) The meditative target
There is nothing on the target. Use it as a source of meditation and relaxation. Clear your head. Find your rhythm and form. Breathe.
iii) The Mirror Target
Face yourself. Look, focus, challenge yourself. Find your strength, find yourself, there is only YOU.
Hold the bow, face your target, and hold your form for a period of time. Use the time to focus your mind, lift yourself higher, find the concentration you never thought you had. Find it, use it, and make yourself stronger.
Grayson, Charles E., French, Mary, and O'Brien, Michael J.. Traditional Archery from Six Continents : The Charles E. Grayson Collection. Columbia, MO, USA: University of Missouri Press, 2007. e-Book.
Herrigel, Eugen, and R. F. C. Hull. Zen in the Art of Archery. New York, N.Y.: Pantheon, 1953. Print
"Targeting Modernity: Archery and the Modernization of Japan." Sport History Review 35 (2004): 20-31. Print.