What a familiar smell, I think, as I drift towards its source. Pillars which arch inwards, unite over an unfilled space. Something about that emptiness beckons me to come hither.
Titled Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala, this piece is heavily associated with ideas like death and illness. A Thai artist, Boonma himself stated that the purpose of this piece was “to cleanse and cure the mind in order to experience the condition of relaxation and mindfulness“. There is an evident relation to his affinity with spiritual healing and religion as a means of coping with his wife’s terminal illness.
What I find most impressive is the use of scent as a form of interaction. There’s something intriguing (and also philosophical!) about the idea of interactivity which relies on a connection between extant knowledge and sensory cues. Through the act of breathing, one becomes conscious of a herbal aroma which evokes ideas of traditional healing, even before the artwork is seen.
An interaction through visual cues is also evident, as with the lungs and the symmetrical dome, which resembles places of meditation. I am hesitant to suggest it resembles a stupa, simply because those are places not made to be entered, unlike this piece.
Regardless, I can see ways in which this piece might fail to engage its audience.
- Without context, an audience unfamiliar with Buddhism (or, at least, a basic understanding of Southeast Asia) might not find the form familiar, nor the scent appealing.
- The ordained inability to touch, to enter, creates a distance between the perceiving and the perceived, which is at odds with the sensory cues (which suggest intimacy).
In essence, awareness of your target audience is crucial to interactivity, as are rules which work in tandem with intuitive/inherent knowledge.
- Buddhist Temples and Buildings. On Facts and Details. (link).
- (Excerpt) In Search of Lost Time. (link).
- Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind. On National Gallery of Australia. (link).
- Nature’s Breath: Arokhayasala. On Asia Society. (link).
- Weight of History: The Collector’s Show. On ArtAsiaPacific. (link).