This week’s chapter of San Jose State University Film Production Society's documentary about Tiffany Singh's The Bells of Mindfulness project illustrates the arrival of the components at the persimmon tree. The work was installed color by color, starting with the base chakra red and moving round the tree to finish at the crown chakra purple. The dyed twine was tied to the tree then cut at the right height, each strand with a bell and paper cranes then attached to it. The finished installation created a sort of giant natural sun dial—the sun hit the colors at different times of the day, making the tree glow in rainbow hues.
The whole installation took 12 days to complete. Singh sends a huge “thank you!” to all the volunteers that took part in creating this work. “It truly was a beautiful thing to see it realized,” she says.
In this final installment of our conversation, Tiffany Singh talks about a previous installation of The Bells of Mindfulness, and more broadly, about her creative development and practice.
INT: This is not the first iteration of The Bells of Mindfulness, correct?
TS: That’s right. I did a version of it in Melbourne (Australia) and it didn’t work at all. Melbourne is a big city, the piece was installed in the middle of a shopping district—and it just got destroyed. I think it was because people were in an acquiring mindset. They were out on a Saturday afternoon, shopping. They came across this beautiful thing—the installation of the bells—and they just took them.
That’s why, here at Montalvo, I’ve picked a spot that’s a bit out of the way as my installation site. I hope people will feel a little more invested in the work from the outset because they’ve had to put in the effort to find it, rather than just stumbling upon it.
INT: Was your process for informing people about the intention of the piece different at the Melbourne installation? Were you present at the installation site to talk to people when it was being activated, as you have been here at Montalvo?
Today’s chapter of San Jose State University Film Production Society's documentary about Tiffany Singh's The Bells of Mindfulness project is entitled “Holding Dyes,” and it shows the process the artist used to prepare the threads from which the bells were hung. The organic twine, which was naturally dyed using sun and salt to cure the colors, was chosen for its natural relationship to the bark and textures of the persimmon tree. The seven colors used are a reference to the colors of the chakras.
The chakras—in the Hindu metaphysical tradition and other eastern belief systems--are points or knots, in the subtle (or non-physical) body. They are located at the physical counterparts of the major plexuses of arteries, veins, and nerves. As such, they are the meeting points of energy channels. Each energetic center has a color associated to it. This particular color spectrum has become a signature motif in Singh’s practice.
Today’s installment of San Jose State University Film Production Society's documentary about Tiffany Singh's The Bells of Mindfulness project is entitled “Dipped in Beeswax,” and focuses on Singh’s use of beeswax loops in the installation of the bells. With twine dipped in wax from the hives behind the Lucas Arts Residency and mixed with the soil of Montalvo, she created a ring on which to hang each bell. The addition of the wax to the piece provides a direct link to the earth. It also provides a delicious aroma, attracting bees to aid in pollination for the Montalvo gardens.
Singh uses a variety of natural materials in her artworks including beeswax, spices, rice and flower petals. These objects relate to her interest in colour and to wider environmental concerns. By using beeswax, Singh makes connections between the artwork and the environment, and also draws attention to the life of bees – the way they gather nectar, distribute pollen, and make wax and honey. Singh comments, “Bees are such an intrinsic part of the work – they are key collaborators with me.”
In the second installment of our conversation, Tiffany Singh speaks about the constituent elements of The Bells of Mindfulness, and explains a bit about processes she went through to produce and install them.
INT: Can you tell me about the individual pieces that make up The Bells of Mindfulness? I know that you have 1,000 artisan-crafted bells and 1,000 hand-folded paper cranes hanging from the branches of a persimmon tree on 1,000 strands of hand-dyed twine. But can you tell me about the way the twine has been treated?
TS: The bells are attached to the hanging strands with twine loops that have been dipped in beeswax from the hives behind the Lucas Artists Residency complex, which holds the earth of the Montalvo grounds. The addition of the wax and earth gives the piece a more grounded quality, and the wax in particular smells lovely. It’s drawing bees to the garden, which is helping to pollinate the surrounding plants. Once the bells go, the colored strings will remain behind as a visual indicator of how deconstructed the work is.
The bell-making craft in Kutch originated in the region of Sindh (today, a province of Pakistan), over a thousand years ago. According to Janmamad, the master bell-maker responsible for creating the bells, his family has a hundred-year association with the craft. Janmamad is an expert in the art of metallurgy, but also possesses musical knowledge. He claims he was born with the innate ability to tune bells, which he considers to be God’s gift.
There are various sizes of bells with different sounds and pitches, with polishing and embellishments adding a final decorative touch. Since they are fashioned from iron and brass scraps purchased from the junkyards of Jamnagar (Gujarat), the craft can be categorized as a sustainable one. The indigenous furnaces used consume little energy and also generate little waste—only a minuscule quantity of metal scraps and burnt mud.
Back in October of 2013, we were delighted to present a remarkable and thought-provoking evening: a video and choral performance entitled Everything that happens.
Everything that happens is part of former LAP Artist-in-Residence Nene Humphrey’s project Circling the Center, an ongoing series of live multimedia works that explore the science of emotions. This iteration was co-created with Roberto C. Lange and performed by the Cantabile Youth Singers of Silicon Valley, under the artistic direction of Elena Sharkova.
The libretto for the piece was excerpted from a 2011 conversation with neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux, in which he described the firing synapses in our brains. Choral singers used a system of syllables, vowels, and breathing patterns to make music without a traditional score. Video and text projections wove in and out of the performance, drawing connections between sights and sounds. Happy viewing!
Today, we are pleased to release the second installment of San Jose State University Film Production Society's documentary about Tiffany Singh's The Bells of Mindfulness project. This segment features footage of Tiffany working with volunteers to fold the 1,000 handmade paper cranes that were included in the installation.
An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1001 origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. The crane in Japan is regarded as a holy mystical creature. Happy viewing!