Taking cues from Charles and Ray Eames’ classic film, Powers of Ten (1977), Nanomandala (2004) enables viewers to interact with a mandala, projected on an eight-foot diameter disk of sand, at diverse scales, fluidly telescoping back and forth from the molecular structure of a single grain of sand (imaged with a scanning electron microscope or SEM) to the whole mandala of Chakrasamvara. The installation is an art-science collaboration developed by media artist Victoria Vesna and nanoscience pioneer James Gimzewski, both faculty at UCLA. Viewers are invited to play in the sand and, in essence, become a surface upon which the mandala is projected, a form of expanded cinema.
This coming together of art, science and technology is a modern interpretation of an ancient tradition that consecrates the planet and its inhabitants to bring about purification and healing. The sand mandala of Chakrasamvara seen in this installation was created by Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Gaden Lhopa Khangtsen Monastery in India, in conjunction with the “Circle of Bliss” exhibition on Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhist Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This particular sand mandala had never before been made in the United States.
To complement the video, sound artist Anne Niemetz has developed a meditative soundscape derived from sounds recorded during the creative process of making the sand mandala. The work was also the set for the dance performance Any/Nano/Body, which brought nano science to life through “innovative choreography and site-specific improvisation. Choreographers Marianne M. Kim and Norah Zuniga Shaw work in collaboration with master performers to discover the nano science of our bodies and put it into to motion by interacting with the installations in the nano exhibition.” Isabel Toledo designed the dancers dresses in collaboration with Victoria Vesna.
Of the installation, the Vesna states: “Inspired by watching the nanoscientist at work, purposefully arranging atoms just as the monk laboriously creates sand images grain by grain, this work brings together the Eastern and Western minds through their shared process centered on patience. Both cultures use these bottom-up building practices to create a complex picture of the world from extremely different perspectives.”
Nanomandala premiered at the exhibition NANO at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The work was created with the generous support from the David W. Bermant Foundation.