India and Nepal, 2003
Masumi Hayashi is a mid-career artist and photographer whose projects include (1) the Japanese American Internment Camps, (2) E.P.A. Superfund Sites (toxic waste sites in the US), (3) Post-industrial landscapes of the Midwest, (4) abandoned prisons, and (5) cityworks. My position as full professor of art at Cleveland State University includes teaching all levels of photography courses (art), some digital imaging and photoshop courses, and contemporary issues in photography class.
During January to May 2003, I was a “Senior Fulbright Research Fellow” to Southeast Asia (India and Nepal). My Fulbright proposal project was to photograph the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples and other sites of ancestral worship in Nepal and India. This was part of an on-going project dealing with the Asian temples and sites of ancestral worship. The project began when I attended a Buddhist memorial service for my father in Fukuoka, Japan, and discovered the national graveyard of tombs and temples in Okunoin in Koyasan in 1996.
My temple and ancestral worship images are photographic reconstructions of architectural and archeological spaces, religious sites that remain in existence and in local use after centuries. They show a transcendence of time. The temples have changed through use over the years, from religious sites to domestic sites, to sites of commerce and other institutions, and back to religious sites. The ritual of the pilgrimage is carried over from generation to generation. My images attempt to capture these changes in time, as well as the transcendence of time.
The Indian and Nepalese temples included in the Fulbright portion of this project are Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain. From 1996 to the present, my work on this project has been limited to very short trips at winter break. This project has progressed to include temples and ancestral worship sites from Ankor Wat, Cambodia (Hindu/Buddhist), Koyasan, Japan (Buddhist), and some from India (Hindu/Buddhist/Jain). The Fulbright fellowship allowed me time to research major and lesser known temples, as well as the areas' local and folk temples and rituals.
The project involved doing historical research about the regions and its temples, going on location to shoot, and creating art with photography and photo collage. Production work included printing and assembling prints into a photo collage mounted on a large two-dimensional board, creating a five or six foot image (60-80 centimeters).
The Fellowship outreach has been through exhibitions, publications and lectures. Exhibitions include “India Temples: Masumi Hayashi Photographs," Cleveland Museum of Art, July-September 2003; “The Sacred and the Sublime: Photo collages of Angkor Wat and India," White Room Gallery in Los Angeles, California, July-August 2003; “The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art,” (group show) Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, October 2003-January 2004
Photographs and publications about my work have been in newspapers, magazines and professional journals. In Nepal, I gave two lectures and received 2 reviews in The Himalyan Times. I turned down several offers to lecture, due to time constraints. My educational web consultant and I plan to develop a website to exhibit artwork produced from India and Nepal, targeting an audience and developing a concept that balances the aesthetic fine art aspects with the educational.
My photographs differ from those already produced of Nepal and India, providing another way of seeing and providing different meaning and perspective to the land. This style of photography challenges the concept of space. The temples are photographed as the camera pivots in a circle on the tripod, in a sequential panoramic perspective, and are flattened out on a two-dimensional surface. After shooting five rolls of film, I put together a collage of the 100 plus prints to create an image, five or six foot long (60-80 centimeters). These images are a reconstruction of Foucault's panoptic space; they are an all-seeing space, a circular, 360-degree surface. They also are related to Asian symbology. As Richard Waterstone describes,
In Sanskrit, mandala means "circle" and the most important symbolic function of the mandalas is as circular containers of "sacred space." In Hindu thought, a network of "power lines" that travel from south and west to east divide cosmic space, charging the universe with the energy of the godhead. These are represented within mandalas by intersecting triangles or squares, and the points of intersection, or spots, are considered to be particularly powerful. Hindu temples are built according to the structure of a mandala, with grid networks of intersecting architectural lines representing the cosmic power lines that create numerous architectural power spots. (Richard Waterstone, India Belief and Ritual, the Gods and the Cosmos, Meditation and the Yogic Arts, London, UK, 1995, Duncan Baird Publications, page 100)
"Mandalas are diagrammatic representations of the universe used in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions as aids to meditation and as part of sacred rituals. " In ancient Japanese Buddhist ink drawings, the circle is seen frequently as a religious symbol. In Gestalt therapy it is seen as a sign of closure and completion. The methodology of my style of shooting these temples, pivoting from a central point, moving left to right in a 360 degree circle will have a mandala-like circular sequence to them.
In both Nepal and India, I hired local people to be my guides and photography assistants. They accompanied me on some of my shooting expeditions and were able to identify temples. They became familiar with a light meter, tripod, and other photographic equipment, and learned to develop an eye for my type of photography. It was a great intercultural and interactive type of teaching experience for them and me.
My research included shooting 150 rolls of film and over 20 temple sites.
Prior to my Fulbright Fellowship, the previous two-week trips to India and other countries limited my focus on the more famous temples of the area. The Fulbright Fellowship allowed time to research the areas for lesser known temples and local pilgrimage sites. It also gave me the opportunity to record temple singers from various temples and record musical columns in the temples. It provided a more experiential element of time and spontaneity of the moment, more intimacy with the people and area, and a fuller cultural experience.
The following is a list of the many major temples that I shot, plus a few of the local temples in these areas.
• Brihadisvara Temple
• Dharasuram Temple -- Airatesvara Temple
• Gangakondacholapuram Temple -- Airatesvara Temple
• Meenakshi Temple
• Sacred Waterfall
• Elephanta Cave Temples
• Vijayanagar Ruins
• Vittala Temple
• Virupaksha Temple
• Underground Virupaksa
• Kalachakra Temple
• Hoysala Temples
• Hoysaleswara Temple
• Kedareswara Temple
• Jain Bastis Temple
• Channeshava Temple
• Kappe - Chennigaraya Temple
• Bahubali Temple
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