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Lions Roar : November 2014
PHotoByJeSSeFRoHmaN meredIth monK IS one oF america’s pre- eminent avant-garde artists. a choreographer, film director, and opera composer, she’s best known as a pioneer in extended vocal technique, which effectively means that gorgeously strange music pours out of her. this year monk is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of her first major performance. – andrea mIller You once described making art as a “bodhisattva activity.” What did you mean by that? art has the potential to soothe the heart, mind, and body. artists can be very attuned to the suffering of the world. i’ve come to see that there isn’t a separation between art and Buddhist practice because i try to make art that’s of benefit, that’s affirming of life. Just the process of making art is a political statement. art is an antidote or counterbalance to the overwhelming and distracting bombardment of our sensibilities. Would you say that creating art is a kind of meditation? absolutely. Does that mean that one could forgo seated meditation and just focus on artistic endeavors? one could, but i feel like the sitting practice is important. For me, meditation gets me in touch with a wider perspective and integrates my artwork and my life. my life seems like one fabric with no separation between practice, making art, and washing the dishes. What do you do when you’re feeling blocked in your cre- ative process? i just keep trying—keep showing up. making art is a process and that process is not that different from sitting on the cushion with your mind going to California one minute and timbuktu the next and then going back to your breath. it’s the same pro- cess of just coming back, but it’s coming back to the work. Beginning a project is like throwing seeds on the ground. there’re all kinds of seeds and it sometimes feels like there’re too many or not enough but then little by little, a few seeds start growing and you can build from that. i allow myself to have periods, which i call hunting and gathering where i’m trying stuff—just trying anything, not even knowing what it is, not knowing whether it’s going to be in the piece that i’m work- ing on or not. i’ve found that hunting and gathering is never a waste of time. if the material doesn’t come into this piece, it will come into another piece. it’s always worthwhile one way or another. By being open to what comes up, moments of dis- covery happen. Waiting and being playful are also part of the process. i never think that forcing is really a good thing. Nothing really comes from it. So maybe if i’m really having a rough time one day, i’ll just stop. it’s more the daily practice of just trying to take it step by step. Silence Is Part of the Song Q&A meredith monk SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2014 25