Le Quoc Viet: The Secret Mantra
Within the last decades of the 20th century in King’s Court in Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh province nowadays), Vietnamese archeologists unearthed a series of 8 sided stone pillars with the carving of Mantra script in Han character following the Sanskrit pronunciation. According to the pillar writings, Prince Dinh Khuong Lien (the son of the king Dinh Bo Linh) killed his brother and then, greatly regretting this, he placed 100 stone pillars in 100 road intersections for people passing by to read as a way of praying by chanting and remembering his brother. To chant the mantra is one of the practices of the Vajrayana Buddhism. A mantra can be read silently or chanted aloud to form a real prayer for happiness, transformation of the soul or to eliminate the sin created by the human being. Over time, this practice lead to the ceremonial practice of creating stone pillars with the carved mantra.
This installation is about losing the root language of Vietnam and everything that that entails. My art focuses on using history — here ancient calligraphy — as a metaphor that can be applied in the present time. I have borrowed and transformed the images of the mantra pillars from Dinh Dynasty into illuminated fabric lanterns, focusing on the visual effect through the Han and especially Nom calligraphy. I wanted to apply a form of Vietnamese literature used in the past, and place this in a natural setting. Also, my intent is to invite the audience to play a role as participants in my work, completing my vision between their movement and the stillness of the lanterns.
For me, I will be standing at a distance, longing for the past with nostalgia — from the Eastern perspective of a Vietnamese who has lost the Han language — observing the installations and you all — Westerners wearing long outfits decorated with Asian scripts.
video: Antoni Ansarov