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Shambhala Sun | July 2014


The Buddhas of West 17th

The art, spirituality, and ideas of the Himalayas meet the best of the modern world at New York's Rubin Museum. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, we showcase art from the collection and dialogues featuring LAURIE ANDERSON, MARTIN SCORSESE, SHARON SALZBERG, the late PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, and many more.

Located in the fashionable Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the Rubin Museum is not just the world’s leading museum dedicated to the ideas, cultures, and art of the Himalayas. It’s also a hot spot of innovative, contemporary programming. It was founded a decade ago by the husband-and-wife team of Donald and Shelley Rubin, philanthropists and art collectors who donated well over a thousand pieces from their personal collection. As Donald Rubin says, “We have always seen art as a source of joy, inspiration, and healing. I also see it as a means of positive social change and cultural education.” Today, under the leadership of Tim McHenry, the museum’s director of public programs and performances, the Rubin offers a unique combination of art exhibits, contemporary cultural events, and dialogues that bring together diverse voices exploring topics from happiness to neuroscience to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Shambhala Sun presents a sampling of the stimulating dialogues the Rubin Museum has hosted and the extraordinary art it has showcased.


A Question of Freedom

Artist/musician Laurie Anderson & Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

Laurie Anderson: When you move through your life, you have your schtick about who are you. You have your stories.

So I had my style and people would say, “That’s your style,” but your style is a trap. I thought, I’m an experimental artist. I should experiment. So I put myself in situations where I didn’t know what to say, what to do, who to be. I did things like work on an Amish farm and at McDonald’s. I just did a bunch of things that were really awkward for me.

Daniel Gilbert: I’m still stuck on the moment you walk into a McDonald’s and go, “Hi, can I get an application?”

Laurie Anderson: It’s easy to work at McDonald’s. I just said I’d done various things in my life. They didn’t ask questions. People don’t really care what you do. In fact, a lot of young artists ask me, “How could I dare call myself an artist? What would people think?” I have to tell you that people care as much about what you do as you care about what they do. Not a lot. It’s not going to rock your world if someone else calls themselves an artist. So knock yourself out! It’s a question of freedom. You prevent yourself from being free by this little defense of, “Gee, what would people say?”

Is art surprise? In certain ways, for me, it is. I like art that turns something upside down. I spent a lot of my childhood in my fort in the woods, smoking oak-leaf cigarettes and thinking of scenarios that had never happened. Just weird little stories like a goose has a heart attack and falls on a man’s head. That has never happened in the history of the world, and for some reason it’s satisfying to think of something that has never been. That’s a childish example but there’s something about the surprise of making something. It’s godlike.

Daniel Gilbert: Building reality—that’s what artists do. But that’s also what everybody does. Every time we think about our own future, we’re using imagination to create scenarios: If I marry Amanda or study the violin or move to New York, here’s what will happen, here’s how I’ll feel... This is really the thing that sets us apart from every other species on this planet. “Be here now” is easy for a mouse.

See this complete article inside the July 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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