Ladakh: A Spirit of Place
This show presents the collective work of Abhishek Bij, Mike Case, Ruchika Lall, Magda Loczi, Kris Mun, Alfons Poblocki, and Ashwin Tahiliani.
In the summer of 2015 a group of architects, artists, scholars and engineers traveled to the Himalayas to explore and learn about a remote part of the world being challenged by modernity. We were invited to join His Excellency Raja Jigmed W. Namgyal, a descendent of the Royal Tibetan Namgyal dynasty, at Stok Palace to discuss the problems of the loss of traditions in their culture and its impact. The exhibition presents photographs that bear witness to the beauty of their traditions while simultaneously observe the fading process of a tradition as the Tibetan centered way of life has continued to take a back seat to a modern way of life. It asks us to seriously reconsider a more sustainable and sensible way to progress into the future without sacrificing the knowledge of our ancient culture.
Support for this exhibition was provided by School of Architecture, the College of Design at University of Minnesota and the Goldstein Museum of Design.
Nestled in the Himalayan Mountains between Northwestern India, Pakistan and China, the ancient region of Ladakh was for many years largely isolated from the modern industrial world. Strategically located at a pivotal point connecting the East to the West, this remote region once visited only by Silk Road caravans, was opened to foreign tourists in 1974 and has since increased in tourism by a hundred-fold.
A walk down the Main Bazaar in this city that was once the capital of the Tibetan kingdom is where past meets future through the present. We find ourselves at a crossroads where ancient ways intersect with the rush of progress, where development intersects with tradition, locals cross paths with refugees, migrants with foreign tourists.
The spirit of Ladakh is felt in the vibrant colorful symbols of Tibetan Buddhism encouraging a sense of mindfulness and presence throughout. There is a harmony felt here between man and nature, whether in the quaint villages or in the majestic topography of the Himalayas, where fresh mountain air and the peaceful sounds of nature merge perfectly with rushing streams. The beating drums and horns of ceremonial processions or sacred benedictions in the monasteries blend seamlessly within the surrounding landscape.
The traditional spirit of Ladakh continues to change dramatically as increasing numbers of tourists and seasonal migrants bring forth a modern view of living. Influences of change intersecting traditionally held views impose a different set of values and offers a vision of a new possible world that modernity affords.
With this new demand, massive construction projects have displaced traditional buildings and techniques as food and water supplies have become ever more replaced by packaged goods. Daily life in downtown Leh hustles with market competition in the midst of diesel trucks & motorcycles spewing exhaust and filling the space with a noise that is as anxious as it is feverish. This is called progress.
The slower pace of a life lived in harmony with its environment, however harsh, presents a stark contrast with the rush of progress and industrialized development. For the first time in our human history, scientists are considering naming the next epoch the Anthropocene, drawing attention to the destructive impact that mankind has made on the planet. As globalization continues it is assumed that 75% of the world population will live in urban settings by 2050. More small remote regions in the world will continue to face pressures of modernity and the monoculture of globalization.
Ladakh provides a poignant lens to the rapid transition an ancient society undergoes when faced with modern influences of life. Separated in four categories, this exhibition locates the genius loci of Ladakh: NATURE: Land, Landscape, Landmarks; CULTURE: Rituals, Ceremonies, Festivals; ARCHITECTURE: Palaces, Monasteries, Home; and FUTURE: Construction, Markets, Reformation.
Each of these categories presents an element of the crossroads with which we are faced. We invite you to pause and take a moment to set your gaze on this remote and historically significant place.
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