Empty Gestures

EMPTY GESTURES draws upon the Buddhist philosophical concept of suññatā (often translated as “emptiness”: which refers both to the lack of inherent existence of all things and the reality that we experience, as well as a meditative state or experience) to reflect upon the medieval temple ruins of the Angkor empire and the contemporary existence of the Khmer people who live around them today. The Khmer Empire produced some of the world’s most magnificent architectural masterpieces in the area known as Angkor unlike anything else in the world with 72 major temples and hundreds of smaller temple sites concentrated in the archaeological zone near Siem Reap, and over a thousand temples spread out across the empire. The common narrative tells when the Khmer empire fell, it was “lost” to the jungle and the (Western) world until it was “discovered” by French colonialists in the late 19th century. In fact, Khmer people continued to live in the area, near the temples in villages till today, although the government today is displacing these villagers for tourist developments. The Khmer people’s respect for these temple ruins evidenced by the lack of any traces of Cambodia’s turbulent history since WWII.

The Khmer rule was legitimized through religion, initially as Hindu God Kings and later as Bodhisattva Savior Kings when the empire converted to Buddhism. These Buddhist temples are perhaps the most intriguing, a wholly unique architecture and layout unlike any other Buddhist temples in the world, before or since; most famously in the enigmatic face towers (believed to be the representation of the King as Buddha) in Angkor Thom. However. a Hindu revolt led by a later king swept across the country and temples, resulting in the carvings of Buddha chiseled out, or re-carved into Rishis. One has to travel 3 hours away from the Angkor archaeological zone to the temple ruins of Banteay Chhmar near the Thai border (which escaped the destruction due to its remote location) to glean what it might have looked like.

EMPTY GESTURES evokes the tenet of impermanence “Emptiness is Form” with juxtaposition of decay against the permanence of rock quarried and transported from far-off mountains, the ruin of monuments built by thousands for everlasting glory, a meditation on the collapse of centrality and empire through the erasure of Buddha images – for even Savior Kings, and Buddhist paradise are ephemeral.

CREATED BY: Stephen Chen | COMPLETED: 04/30/2024

2048 1536 dissonance productions

dissonance productions

Started by trans-discplinary art-ivist Stephen Chen to consolidate his recent work; as well as facilitate collaboration with others. Stephen’s oeuvre is often allegorical as well as simultaneously deconstruct and hybridize the very forms he works in. Disdaining academic and esoteric expressions, as well as institutional conventions and practices, Stephen explores complex ideas and issues immanent in his works through experiments in form and technique.

dissonance productions