video still from  Blissed Out

video still from Blissed Out

Blissed Out

2013
looping HD video
unlimited edition

I discovered Zen monasticism, which has been my antidote to globally capitalistic, ultraindividualistic, überalienating megachurch and minimall McAmerica. (Monks, as you can imagine, make lousy consumers.  I suspect this is another reason that contemporary mainstream society finds us so damn creepy.)

-Shozan Jack Haubner in Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk

 installation detail at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

installation detail at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

When Nam June Paik debuted TV Buddha in 1974, audiences were confronted by a small bronze Buddha statue gazing at a television that broadcasted an image of the Buddha himself.  Paik created a “closed circuit video installation” that questioned the role of spirituality, technology, and identity.  Since then, the “idol” has morphed into many different representations in artwork, including Sam Taylor-Johnson’s 2004 David, a one-hour seven-minute single-take video recording of international footballer and celebrity David Beckham sleeping (an homage to Andy Warhol’s 1963 five-hour twenty-minute film Sleep).  

In Blissed Out, a young muscular white man performs the simple act of a single deep breath while wearing athletic wear from iconic American fashion brands Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle.  By using the ubiquitous technology of looping short video (as made popular by Vine, the breakout mobile application of 2013), the solitary breath becomes an endless practice of meditation.  

What does the compromise between Western capitalism and Eastern spiritual practices look like?  How does an American negotiate between a cultural emphasis on Western materialistic comfort and a Buddhist philosophy of suffering?  Jesus suffered so the Christian man does not have to – yet a profound preference for alternative spirituality has emerged and evolved into the aggressive consumption of Yoga and Zen meditation.  Walmart and Target sell colorful yoga mats (and other “essentials”) to the masses while advertising beautifully fit and athletic white bodies, such as reality-television star and successful entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl brand.  Blissed Out exists as the aesthetic negotiation between the production of advertising and the consumption of spirituality.