The Quiet in the Land Project defies quick summaries -- which is only fitting, given that its fundamental premise challenges the way we define and debate “the issues” of modern life. The Quiet in the Land project began with founder France Morin’s conviction that “contemporary artists have the potential to stand alongside scientists, economists, and representatives of other disciplines to meaningfully examine critical discourses, ranging from globalization to biotechnology, that affect the daily lives of individuals and communities.” (The Quiet in the Land, 2009, ISNB 978-0-9841667-0-1) In her view, art and artists have something of major importance to contribute – something that the “objective” methods of the expert class may leave behind.
Morin’s decades-long career in the art-world took her from her native Montreal to Manhattan’s New Museum, where she worked under the legendary Marcia Tucker. Eventually she felt a need to take her exploration of art’s potential to capture, define, predict and refine our reality, outside the confines of museums and galleries and into the world. Since its inception, the Quiet in the Land has engaged with three communities experiencing profound transition: the Shakers of Sabbath Day Lake, Maine; a group of disenfranchised children in Bahia, Brazil; and Luang Prabang, Laos, a center of Southeast Asian Theravada Buddhism and at the same time, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focus of often intrusive global tourism.
As each phase of The Quiet in the Land unfolds, prominent contemporary artists live and work in, around, and with community members for various periods of time. The art that emerges is a delicate web of inquiry, observation, intuition, critical thinking and psychology. But the work is also more than that: each artist’s project offers a profound opportunity to understand the challenges faced by the community under study -- and by extension, all of us. As a body of work, the projects ask us to consider “what constitutes an enhanced life, and how can I create the conditions for such a life for myself and for others?” (The Quiet in the Land, 2009).
As a result of their time in Luang Prabang, renowned artists like Marina Abramovic (currently at the center of a major show at the MoMA), Ann Hamilton, Cai Guo-Qiang, Janine Antoni, Shirin Neshat, Shahzia Sikander, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Dinh Q Le, and others, created thoughtful projects that examine the history, spirituality, everyday life, and (implicitly) the future, of Luang Prabang. Hamilton created a tourist-free space for Buddhist meditation with her gorgeous meditation boat. Abramovic examines echoes of past violence, our current global culture of violence, and the possibilities of future violence, with a film and photo project involving local children. Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba’s film project looks at the pervasive influx of Western merchandise and Western habits. Details on all of the artists’ projects are available at www.thequietintheland.org)
When asked about the project’s most important accomplishment, Morin responds, “Maybe it’s that we could see in all the members of the communities we worked with the dignity that comes from empowering people by acknowledging their creative spirit and nature. And to confront the artists with world issues and complexities in a provocative new way, over a long period of time, without making the end result the making and selling of art objects, as well as exhibitions, but focusing more on the process.”
Because the project defies easy summary, it requires time and careful analysis to see the depth and scope of the work made by the artists – and the quietly revolutionary method of its founder. Morin and other project participants will gather at New York City’s Asia Society on April 6 to look at the project in a fulsome manner. Joining Morin in a panel discussion of The Quiet in the Land will be Dr. Carol Becker, Professor of the Arts and Dean of the School of the Arts, Columbia University, New York, and artist Ann Hamilton. Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, President of The Asia Society, will moderate the discussion. The event begins at 6.30pm.
A signing of the book documenting the project will immediately follow the panel. The fully illustrated book includes essays by France Morin, John Alan Farmer, Francis Engelmann, Carol Becker, Somsanouk Mixay, and Catherine Choron-Baix. The Quiet in the Land includes 240 pages, 212 color illustrations and 22 black and white illustrations, and sells for US $45). It is distributed by D.A.P./ Distributed Art Publishers, Inc and available at The Asia Society's bookstore, as well as www.amazon.com; click here for a direct link to the book.
For more information about The Quiet in the Land, please visit: www.thequietintheland.org.
There will also be a free live video web cast of this event on AsiaSociety.org from 6:30 to 8:30 pm EST. On-line viewers are encouraged to send questions to email@example.com.
The Asia Society is located at 725 Park Avenue in New York. Admission: $10 members; $12 students with ID; seniors: $15 non-members. For more information on the April 6 presentation, visit: http://www.asiasociety.org/events-calendar/quiet-land