Geographies of Passage


Geographies of Passage

Darren Almond’s Fire Under Snow

Saturday 2 February, 2pm – 6pm
£8/6 conc.

‘There’s always a portion of the world in shadow. The exercise of looking just keeps me in check.’

Darren Almond in an interview with Anita Sethi, November 4, 2005, Guardian


Abstracts and speakers biographies


In his talk ‘An Appreciation of Tibet’s Cultural and Spiritual Legacy’ Tadeusz Skorupski will look at the cultural history of Buddhism in Tibet. Ever since her conversion to Buddhism in the 7th century, Tibet has developed a unique cultural and spiritual heritage that nurtures and lives in the heart of every Tibetan, and that inspires and reaches beyond the illusory boundaries of her sacred mountains, rivers and valleys. Tibet’s vibrant and visionary legacy, unrestricted by time and space, breathes in earthly uncertainties and adversities, and breathes out the air of spiritual peace and liberation. This presentation offers selected images of Tibet’s cultural and religious heritage and its lasting legacy to humanity.

Dr Tadeusz Skorupski is the director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies. He is a specialist in Buddhist iconography, rituals and doctrines. He is the author of The Six Perfections, Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2002; Kriyasamgraha, Manual of Buddhist Rituals, Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2002 and Body, Speech and Mind, Buddhist Art from Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia and China, Spink and Son, London, 1998.


Andrew Fischer’s talk ‘The Return of the Lama: Tibetan Buddhist revival in contemporary Tibet and China’ will explore one important yet often overlooked dimension of contemporary Tibetan-Chinese relations; the financial revival of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet and its expansion into China through lama-patron networks. While most scholarly work on the political dimensions of Tibetan-Chinese relations focuses on ongoing political contestation against the Chinese state, cooperative interactions with Chinese people alternatively illustrates certain underlying aspects of integration into the ‘new China’ initiated by Tibetan religious elites themselves. In this regard, the post-Mao reform period in China has witnessed a re-emergence of lama-patron relationships between Tibetan religious figures and private Chinese sponsors from Mainland China, Taiwan and other Chinese cultural areas. Thus, ironically, the revival of Buddhism in Tibet since the early 1980s has involved an important dimension of integration into China (and often degrees of rivalry between Tibetan elites), facilitated by the rising popularity of Tibetan Buddhism in ‘China Proper’.

Dr Andrew Fisher is a London School of Economics Fellow at the Department of Development Studies Institute (DESTIN). He is the author of State Growth and Social Exclusion in Tibet: Challenges of Recent Growth, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, Copenhagen, 2005. Fisher lived in the Tibetan exile community in India and Nepal for seven years, where he studied Buddhism and language including one and a half years of field research.


In his talk ‘The Artist Traveler: Contemporary Art and Globalisation’ TJ Demos will consider Darren Almond’s recent video and sculptural work in light of its relationship to travel, geopolitical dislocation, and trans-cultural representation. Globalisation is often celebrated as an era of newfound mobility, easy access to information through ever fast and quicker technological interfaces, and the inclusive growth of the art market; yet it also entails the expansion of economic inequality and political instability, bringing military conflict, increasing waves of refugees, and a worldwide consciousness of environmental crisis. Demos will examine how Almond’s practice positions itself in the face of such ambivalent developments that define our present.

Dr TJ Demos is lecturer in modern and contemporary art at University College of London. He is currently working on a new book publication with the working title Migrations: Contemporary Art in the Age of Globalization. Demos’ interest in globalism is based on his Ph.D. research, which was recently published under the title The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp, MIT Press, 2007. Demos is a regular contributor to Artforum Magazine, October and Grey Room. He also wrote for the Vitamin Ph catalogue published by Phaidon in 2006.


Lucy Reynolds ‘s talk entitled ‘Utopian Landscapes: Experimental film and the exotic Other’ will look at the way in which artists and film directors have visited places such as Tibet and responded to the spiritual connotations of the place and to the idea of the exotic other. In experimental film this manifests in the counter culture films of amongst others Ron Rice, Robert Frank and Bruce Baillie, who made experimental travelogues in India and Afghanistan. In Darren Almond’s work, the same impulses are at play, yet its context is fundamentally different. This talk will explore the question of how Almond’s work relates to the historical experimental travel films on a representational as well as institutional level.

Lucy Reynolds is a filmmaker, academic and content manager of luxonline. Reynolds’ films focus on the representation of landscape. She is currently working on her Ph.D. on early feminist film and expanded cinema. Reynolds also curated a series of screenings including the online exhibition Defining Filmaktion for the British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection, 2006, the touring screening Describing Form, 2005, and the exhibition Other People’s Movies, 2002.#


Darren Almond is a British artist. His work takes as its subject matter time, memory, human labour and exploitation in various geographical parts of the world. Almond is an avid traveler and since the beginning of his career in the mid 1990s he has experimented with films, video-installations and photography in remote regions. He has also made kinetic sculptures, the best-known of which are made with digital clock mechanisms. In his solo exhibition at Parasol Unit Fire Under Snow: Darren Almond (18.1.– 30.2.2008) he presents two new film installations, shot separately in Tibet and Indonesia and a series of photographs taken in Norilsk and Monchegorsk, Siberia. This exhibition coincides with the show Moons of the Iapetus Ocean at White Cube Gallery in Hoxton Square (18.1.—23.2. 2008).

Almond graduated from Winchester School of Art in 1993. He had solo exhibitions at prestigious art institutions, including Tate Britain, Museum Folkwang Essen, K21 Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle Zürich and De Appel Centre for Contemporary Art Amsterdam. Almond has taken part in important group exhibitions, such as Venice Biennale in 2003, Video Acts at P.S.1 New York in 2002, and Sensation at the Royal Academy in 1997. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2005.


Ziba de Weck Ardalan is the Founder and Director of Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, a privately funded not-for-profit exhibition space in London. After having obtained a PhD in science, de Weck Ardalan studied art history at Colombia University, New York and started her career in art at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1987 de Weck Ardalan became the first Director of the Swiss Institute, New York. Prior to moving to London and founding Parasol unit de Weck Ardalan was based in Zurich, Switzerland, where she lectured extensively on art and worked also as Art Advisor.

Maxa Zoller is the adjunct education programmer at Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art. In 2007 she completed her Ph.D. in experimental film history at Birkbeck College, London. Her curatorial projects include the structural film programme Open Systems: Film: Structural Film in Europe 1967-1974 at Tate Modern and a Chris Welsby exhibition at the Lethaby Gallery at St Martin’s College of Art. She has published in a number of academic publications and exhibition catalogues, such as X-Screen: Film Installations and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s (MuMoK Vienna). Zoller is a contributor to Art Monthly and Sculpture Magazine.


Symposium Schedule

2.00-2.15: Welcome by Ziba de Weck

2.15-2.45: Tadeusz Skorupski, ‘An Appreciation of Tibet’s Cultural and Spiritual Legacy’

2.45-3.15: Andrew Fischer, ‘The Return of the Lama: Tibetan Buddhist revival in contemporary Tibet and China’

3.15-3.35: Q&A with chair Ziba de Weck

3.35-4.00: Tea break

4.00-4.30: TJ Demos, ‘The Artist Traveler: Contemporary Art and Globalisation’

4.30-5.00: Lucy Reynolds, ‘Utopian Landscapes: Experimental film and the exotic Other’

5.00-5.20: Q&A with chair Maxa Zoller

5.20-6.00: wrap up and final discussion, which will be joined by Darren Almond