Saturday, 28 March 2015

Visit to MOA

If you feel like going to the Museum of Anthropology some time before the term is over, please write about any of the artworks there that inspire you. Again - any genre/form is welcome....


  1. My favourite "piece" in the MOA is probably the large golden Buddha that sits near the other, smaller Buddhist figures in the MOA. I've always found it calming, for reasons both spiritual and non-spiritual. Of course, I won't pretend to be an expert on Buddhism; although my parents are Buddhist and I have grown up going to the temple with them, I am still learning about Buddhism myself.

    Although the golden Buddha is wonderful enough alone, what has also interested me was the any different versions and representations of Buddha. If you look up "Thai Buddha," "Chinese Buddha," "Indian Buddha," "Korean Buddha," "Japanese Buddha," etc. you'll often find that, although the general image is usually similar, and although it could be attributed to different styles of artwork, each culture has their own respective idea of what Buddha looks like. This fits rather well with the imagery of reincarnation that is present in Buddhist beliefs: there is more than one possible image.

    If you look at Western images of Buddha you'll often find the "laughing Buddha," which is actually not the Buddha but a laughing Buddhist monk. It could be argued that the idea of generosity and kindness that can be attributed to Buddhist belief is also present in this laughing monk, whether he is actually Buddha or not. Nevertheless, it is still worrisome when another culture misinterprets symbols and figures from other cultures/religions and asserts them as realities. Yet I know that - while the "laughing Buddha" being portrayed as Buddha himself may be an issue of appropriation, misinterpretation, and/or carelessness - for some, it simply represents the principles of generosity and peace that is present in Buddhist beliefs.

    As such, I'm still torn on how I feel about the fact that Western images of Buddha involve the laughing monk. Considering the fact that different cultures have their own versions of figures, it doesn't seem to be a problem - the principles are still there, the semantics are likely still correct. Yet the history of appropriation that permeates Western culture is a factor that isn't so easy to forget. I can't really make up my mind about how I feel about it.

    I suppose what we can learn from this is that it's not about either intentions or results but rather a combination of the two - one has to be holistic about it, and remain sensitive in all aspects in order to make the right decision.

    1. I just wanted to comment that I am Daoist (a branch off of Buddhism) and have learned a lot about Daoism and Buddhism during a summer seminar I attended at a temple. The image of the "Laughing Buddha" with the big belly, etc. was indeed a monk but his image is used for "Buddha" for a reason. It was believed that he was the earthly incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha, which is the future Buddha, so it technically is not wrong to find his image while searching for "Buddha." Though the Maitreya Buddha had his own image before this monk came along, the belief that the monk was an incarnation of the Maitreya led to this interchanging of the image of the future Buddha. I am also torn on how I feel about this but the original image of the Maitreya image is not completely gone; his image is still used for the Maitreya Buddha as well in different places. Much can be learned from the content nature and generosity of this monk that was the incarnation as well so it is not too much of a problem (in my opinion at least). It is wrong however, to say that the "Laughing Buddha" is the Buddha of our time. There can be many Buddhas as the term "Buddha" refers to anyone that has attained full enlightenment on their own but the "Laughing Buddha" should solely be recognized as the future Buddha because that is who the monk was an incarnation of.

    2. Thank you for the point about the reason for the use of the "Laughing Buddha"! As I mentioned, I'm in no way an expert on Buddhism, so while I knew it had something to do with an earthly incarnation, I didn't know about the "Future Buddha."
      I definitely agree with you in saying that it's not too much of a problem to use this image when searching for Buddha. I think my only real issue with the use of the Laughing Buddha is the idea of using an image without learning about what it might mean. Obviously, there's no monopoly on the use or interpretation of the Laughing Buddha, and I'm not arguing that symbols must always be used in the way they have been in the past (they are constructed and they can evolve, in any case). Nevertheless, it's one thing to interpret a symbol in your on way and another to essentialize and/or commercialize it without knowing what it might mean to others. And that's where sensitivity is probably important, because it helps us realize that none of us can be the sole representative for any symbol or the ideas it stands for, and that we should be mindful of the implications that come with using a symbol, even if it is all inherently constructed anyway.

    3. I definitely agree with what you are saying here :) Nowadays, it is very common to have people commercialize objects without truly knowing the real meaning behind it and this is definitely problematic. It is quite unfortunate that this happens but that is why more and more individuals are starting to speak up for the truth! I hope that those individuals who used the "Laughing Buddha" took the time to learn more about Buddhism and the real story behind the happy monk! :)

  2. When I took Art History, one of our assignments was to write about a non-Western piece of artwork and assess how well MOA was able to display the piece, and what effect the presentation had on Western viewers in regards to the perceptions they came away with about the artwork's cultural origin.

    I wrote about the Yup'ik display; the Yup'ik are an indigenous people who reside in Alaska. My research indicated that the display was less than sufficient in respectfully presenting Yup'ik culture. It generalized all the items in the case under the blanket term of "Yup'ik", and while not entirely incorrect, it insinuated that each tribe was the same despite the fact that it is actually important in Yup'ik culture for the different tribes to define themselves and their work by the specific region they came from. A lot of the information plaques for the pieces also did not indicate the use, creator or lore of the piece. The masks, for example, often have a myth associated with them but the information was either missing or had been lost long before the piece was even donated to the museum. I found out that most of the artwork had previously been in possession of an European/American collector, and this related back to what we studied in the class about cultural objects -- especially those of Native origins -- being commercialized and appropriated throughout history to the point that their cultural significance eventually gets lost.

    It is frustrating to think about all the stories or myths that had once contributed to our collective lore which can never really be retrieved again -- and for some of them, they continue to be misinterpreted by modern audiences. It doesn't help that museums, which are places where people are supposed to gain knowledge, are contributing to this misappropriation. The assignment was to make us become critical in viewing museums, and to think about what agendas they have and how they often affect cultural perceptions, especially in terms of minimizing the importance of and committing primitivism where non-Western art is concerned. It reminded me to further analyse the relationship that is being created between the viewer and the pieces being showcased, since a lot of our predetermined perceptions are conditioned through media -- and, of course, artwork is a central part of this. I cannot really comment about the other MOA displays, but I am inclined to think that there are probably many other cultures who are not being represented as they should and how that is likely warping their cultural identities and our perceptions of them.


  3. Since I was a toddler my mother and I have gone to see art shows together. We’ve gone to the East Side Culture Crawl every year for the last 14 years and we frequent the Vancouver Art Gallery a few times a year. Going to see exhibits has become a special outing for the two of us and so when she came to campus in November to visit, we decided to check out MOA’s exhibit at the time which was, “Without Masks” Contemporary Afro- Cuban Art. I’ve been to MOA multiple times now, a few times with my elementary school and a few times since I’ve come to UBC. I am still capitated by the totem poles, canoes and other carvings, but this exhibit was like nothing I’d ever seen before.

    It featured works of photography, painting, sculpture and multi- media that “[sought] to make new and deeper studies of the cultural, aesthetic, symbolic, and religious legacies that [Cubans] share and take for granted, without forgetting that we have received them from black sub-Saharan Africa.” (MOA). The exhibit of 31 works aimed to exemplify the struggles of Cubans of African decent through two themes: an insight into contemporary Afro-Cuban cultural and religious traditions and, an intense dialogue on the complex racial issues affecting the country today.

    The exhibit was so long ago that I don’t remember a singular piece that struck me the most, but rather I found the entire collection to be very moving. I was not particularly educated on Cuba’s history prior to seeing the exhibit, but I think that was the point of the show – to educate and bring awareness to people the complexities and issues related the Afro-Cuban struggle. I found many connections between these pieces and our course themes because the exhibit was really a collection of pieces that uncovered or de-masked racial tensions and issues in Cuba and you could feel the emotion in many of the works of art. In terms of simply aesthetics, I really liked the collection of traditional Cuban folk art. They were very bright and colorful and depictions of ‘everyday scenes’ that furthered to the complexity of the exhibit when displayed beside some darker pieces that portrayed violence and contention in Cuba.

  4. Although I was unable to go to the MOA in person I did get a chance to check out some one of their online exhibitions called "Voices of the Canoe". The online exhibition is about the importance of canoe crafting and usage to the Fijian, Haida, and Squamish cultures. The exhibition was extremely informative and well put together, giving an in depth look at the making of the canoes, important objects in each culture, and a detailed log of evidence they used to create the exhibition.

    The part of the exhibition I found to be most interesting was the making of the canoes. I thought it was really cool how each separate culture uses such different techniques to building their canoes and how the end result of the process is always unique. I would highly recommend checking out this exhibition if you have some spare time.

  5. Recently, I visited the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of British Columbia. When I arrived, I came across Dzunuk’wa dishes that are created in the form of red cedar masks. These masks represent Dzunuk’wa or “woman of the woods” and are presented at events where the host would challenge rivals to promise potential feasts. The masks display the spiritual and physical connection of red cedar wood to the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe in the presence of Dzunuk’wa and her importance to the adults and children. Along with her identity as the bringer of wealth, Dzunuk’wa dishes display and organize the political hierarchy associated with the men and women within each tribe.The museum is absolutely stunning and I was so grateful I could visit it a few times this year. UBC is truly a beautiful place.

  6. I've enjoyed visiting the MOA a few times. The first time I went was for a trip with my European History class to see the collection of European ceramics. It is fascinating that one of the largest collections of European ceramics is at UBC, brought over when Walter C. Koerner fled Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. I've also enjoyed browsing through the halls of various collections. It is such an amazing collection of works. I really enjoy the fact that nearly everything they have can be looked at. Drawers upon drawers of artifacts. It is a such a great place to relax and let the imagination wander about where all these things came from...

  7. I have visited the MOA three times now, each time it has been for a different subject and I can see how it relates to all three of them. Perhaps the most awe inspiring piece in the MOA is Bill Reid's raven. It is one of the MOA's most highly regarded pieces, but it stands out to me out of all the aboriginal works that are displayed in the museum. It is not only the size, but also the position it is in the museum, the lighting, and the meaning it is supposed to portray. All the other pieces in the museum portraying aboriginal pieces are quite impressive as well though, such as the totem poles, canoes, and especially the masks.

  8. Today I went to the Museum of Anthropology to go see the exhibitions there. The one that particularly stuck out to me was the exhibition that explores the city before the city. This exhibition draws to the viewers that although most people view Vancouver as a new city, it is in fact a city that was inhabited by the Musqueam First Nations for thousand of years. Although I already knew that we were living on the land of First Nations, this exhibition really made me think about the implications of living here in Vancouver.
    This exhibition focuses a lot on Musqueam identity and worldview through highlighting the language and oral history of these people. By using the perspectives of the Musqueam community it helped me to view the land in a different way. The medias presented in the exhibit demonstrated the Musqueam’s continuous connection to their land and the close relationship they had with it. Instead of land being something that can be owned, the Musqueam’s had great respect for land and thought that it should be treated with great care. This ideology greatly contrasts the Western view of land and I think this exhibition is a great way to share the deep history of Vancouver as well as viewing the land we live on differently.

  9. When I went to MOA last, there was an exhibit of the art of First Nations people, done by younger generations of local First Nations people. It was a perspective that I hadn’t seen very much of before. All too often, First Nations people are portrayed as a people of the past. When I think of the First Nations people, I imagine an old women wearing buckskin and beads with feathers in her hair. It’s ridiculous to say, but given the way the First Nations people are portrayed, I almost imagine them being born old. The exhibition at MOA was filled with murals, sculptures, and poetry, all created by First Nations youth. The work all spoke of the common themes of identity, heritage, culture, and loss. It was a new perspective on the daily life of people who still very much exist.

  10. The UBC Museum of Anthropology must of been built by a very creative architect. The building itself screams creativity. While visiting there, I saw many First Nations artwork. There were masks of all colours and they brought on different feelings. They were original, detailed, and all different.

    Outside the museum were totem poles. They stood high up and were a great form of greeting.

    The inside carvings told stories of myths. They keep the First Nations traditions alive and is a great piece of work.