in Retrospect and Prospect
— A Photographic Project —
The project was started with an exhibition held at the University of Edinburgh from the
12th September to early 2012, with related events, all part of the
Knowledge Exchange programme.
The exhibition has now been moved to Aberdeen, where it will be on display at The Old Town House until the end of August;
this incarnation of the project contains over twenty of Graham Harrison’s photographs from his journeys around Asia, along with a selection from Ian Astley’s portfolio of more recent images from Japan and Korea.
For further information, including information on the venue,
Photograph © Graham Harrison
There are no further events planned at the moment apart from the exhibition in Aberdeen. We are, however, still working on a book to follow the various exhibitions.
Living Buddhism was an illustrated book and accompanying exhibition
on the Buddhist religion. The British Museum published the book and hosted the exhibition in 1989.
The photographs, the work of the renowned photographer Graham Harrison,
grew partly out of a major exhibition of the Museum’s Buddhist artefacts in 1985,
Buddhism: Art and Faith, curated by Wladimir Zwalf.
Graham Harrison undertook two long journeys around Asia in 1984–5 and 1987,
in addition to an earlier journey around Korea in 1983, to produce his photographic record
of this major world religion. Andrew Powell, who accompanied Graham Harrison on the last of
those journeys, provided the book’s evocative descriptions of Buddhism in the modern world.
The collection has now been transferred to Edinburgh and the current exhibition and
related events are a celebration of the revival of this important resource and the starting point
of a long-term project which seeks to maintain and develop the impetus behind the original venture.
This exhibition is not simply a display
of the original photographs but also augments and complements them with recent work by
whose research has taken him to Japan, China and Korea since the 1980s.
- For Doors Open Day 2011, Ian Astley
was on hand on Saturday 24th September to show
visitors around, including the expanded displays on the first floor.
- On the 15th September, there was a public talk by Ian Reader
(University of Manchester), an internationally renowned scholar of Japan, who spoke on the economic and pastoral crisis currently being experienced in Japanese Buddhism, a topic all too easily ignored against the backdrop of the
continuing splendour of its major institutions.
- The same evening we also showed the film KanZeOn (2011) for the first time in Scotland, the work of
Neil Cantwell and
independent filmmakers based in London. The film has been described as,
“A mysterious and compelling meditation on sound, song, story, ritual, performance, nature, tradition and Japanese Buddhism.”
We included it in the project not only for its intrinsic qualities but also because it challenges us to ask just how vital Buddhism is in the modern world.
- There was a further screening in Edinburgh of
KanZeOn, on 30th January 2012, when the makers were on hand to introduce their project and answer questions.
- Extracts from the full exhibition were on display at the New College on the Mound until Easter 2012.
- Photos of the displays in the library foyer (12th Sept to 6th Oct) are here.
Living Buddhism will not stop here: the digitization of a fully representative
sample of Graham Harrison’s work has already started (he took some 10,000 photographs during his travels through Asia). This is the first step in establishing a database which will be the foundation for an open-ended project with the aim of showing aspects of Buddhism in the modern world. In due course we will be issuing a call for portfolios to be incorporated into the project.
- You can read more about the background to the original project on Graham Harrison’s blog.
- And you can download an information sheet here.
Watch this space for further events!
- If you or your group would like a conducted tour of the displays,
please e-mail Ian Astley.
These events have been made possible through the co-operation of the Asia Department at the British Museum; with assistance towards transport costs from the Japan Society of Scotland; and, crucially, with a generous grant from the Knowledge Exchange programme of the University of Edinburgh. The University of Edinburgh has also contributed to the initial digitization of Graham Harrison's archive and to Ian Astley's recent trip to Tohoku, through an Innovation Grant. Thanks are due to all these people.
Some reading (and seeing, hearing . . .)
For more information:
[Posted by Ian Astley, 30th July 2011; last updated 3rd January 2012]