I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I entered “Divine Immersion: The Experimental Art of Nick Dong” at the beginning of July. My mother had died at the end of May and my oldest dog mid-June. While my mother and I weren’t particularly close, the pandemic kept us apart from the ritual holiday visits. I only received my second Moderna shot at the beginning of May and was able to visit her after my two-week wait period. Yet “Divine Immersion” is about art as a shared experience and at the opening Dong spoke about how this exhibit was meant to “Provide you some comfort and some rejuvenation” and if you open yourself to the experience, you will capture something like tranquility.
Dong said, “Art is not just an object or a painting or some kind of a visual or audio effect. Actually, it’s all that. It’s combined into a unique experience.” He means to “open your awareness.”
The Taiwan-born Oakland-based Dong considers himself a 21st-century continuation of the wenren (literati) tradition. Originally, wenren (文人), meant scholars educated in the Confucian curriculum of Four Books (四書) and Five Classics (五經) during the Qing dynasty (1636-1911). “Divine Immersion” is more of a convergence of this century’s technology and thousands of years of Buddhist tradition. ach work is a quest of self-discovery and self-evolution, a means of sharing philosophy.
Before you enter the exhibit he asks you to access your current feeling in one word or phrase.
- What kind of energy are you bringing into the space?
- Is there something weighing you down that you with to let go of?
- How have recent events influenced you?
The “Divine Moments” utilizes levitational technology that Dong developed with the help of engineers. These pieces wouldn’t be out of place in an eclectic and whimsical haunted house.
“Immersion” is a kinetic sculpture soundscape. You can sit down and explore quiet against sounds that begin with the soft hammering of a metal bowl. You can even find a type of “Heaven,” that reflects and changes your own image. “Becoming Horizon” is kinetic sculpture with dancing light and music.
Dong (董承濂 ) received his Bachelor of Fine Arts for mixed medias and painting from Tunghai University in Taichung, the oldest private university in Taiwan (established in 1955). He went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in jewelry and metalsmithing from the University of Oregon.
A lucky few people were able to apply and participate in the “Mendsmith” project after submitting an application. Dong takes objects from a person and remakes them into an art piece. I brought him beads from my mother, my mother’s old charm bracelet, gold fillings and assorted silver rings. The gold filling and assorted rings became something that I will use as a scarf ornament and m mother had loved silk scarves. Dog show ribbons, some fur clippings, dog tags and a pendant I bought when my dog won his first major points on his way to his championship became one long pendant showpiece. But the making of the piece and the presentation are only the ending, Dong quietly questions and probes your feelings before he sets about to make a piece. For me the Mendsmith project was the beginning of my public mourning, bringing me back into the world. All the pieces were completed in a week with the group of recipients meeting in the courtyard for reflection and admiration.
Having the full experience makes you reconsider what art is and what art can be in your life. The exhibit itself is a study in meditation and if you’re open to it, transformational. You might even be tempted to go more than once.
“Divine Immersion: The Experimental Art of Nick Dong” continues at the USC Pacific Asia Museum (46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101) until 3 October 2021. Reservations are mandatory and check for up-to-date COVID-19 protocols. For more information, call (626) 787-2680 or visit the Pacific Asia Museum website.
You still have time to participate in the last related event:
This is a fun creative writing class, open to all, including Deaf and Blind participants.
Join us for brief, guided journaling exercises in response to meditative video clips and music from the USC Pacific Asia Museum’s exhibition Divine Immersion: The Experiential Art of Nick Dong. No previous writing experience is required.