The Techno-Buddhist is a Tourist

2004, Multi-media Performance, 60mins (with the collective Mrs. Rao’s Growl and Chi-Jan Yin)
The Techno-Buddhist is a Tourist is an interactive performance that explores our complicity in the appropriation of global culture, media representations and the hegemonic dynamics that govern global exchange. Through re-staging scenes from various films, the experience of a guided tour, and a game-like structure, we attempt to describe and dislodge these patterns of power while suggesting possibilities for resistant modalities. This performance is also born out of our interest in the language of film and performance, and the spaces they intersect and diverge from. Similarly, we are also interested in the insufficiency of oppositions such as east/west, high art/low art, self/other, etc. The fodder for our performance is primarily film clips, which feature characters experiencing a heightened sense of their subjugated positions.

Film excerpts are culled from the following films: Satyajit Ray’s CHARULATA, Alain Resnais’ HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR and Frankenheimer’s SECONDS and obscure, regional films such as TOMBOY and BUBBLES from the Philippines. These works are then informed by certain texts drawn from the areas of post-colonial and post-structuralist theory. Primary in our interests are Mimesis and Alterity by Michael Taussig, and Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze and Guattari. Mimesis (specifically for us through the appropriation and restaging of film characters and situations) and schizophrenia (or psychic seepage) are useful tools in destabilizing the social constructs of language and cultural norms of behavior.

The performance begins with a game of Musical Chairs. Those players left standing are drawn into the circle of performers and given specific tasks to do. These tasks range from purely mental exercises (Think about Fear), to group activities (where a group retires to a partitioned space to practice “Zen Laughter”), to active roles in the narratives within the performance. The performance is set-up as a system of pre-determined courses of action, whose outcomes are dependent wholly on the micro-community of participants (everyone has an equal chance of being performer or spectator and this game of chance is repeated over and over again). It is a narrative laced with unpredictability.

The performance fluctuates between moments of extreme focus and austerity and a carnivalesque multiplicity. Multiple narratives transpire simultaneously; narratives unfold for large groups of spectators, or for the private viewing of one individual spectator; events occur simultaneously in multiple locations, some in plain view of the spectators and some actions only visible to those who have been given the role of performer. There are no master narratives – everything is constantly shifting. There are as many performances as there are participants. Adding to the complexity of the live space, is the space of the projected image. The relationship between film and performance becomes one of equivalence, not equality – a constant movement, shifting back and forth – therefore revealing new meanings.

Mrs. Rao’s Growl is a collective of the artists Sheelah Murthy and Anuj Vaidya.


The Spare Room, Feb 2002
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Apr 2002