The Power of Intention: Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel at The Rubin Museum of Art, March 1 – October 14, 2019

The Power of Intention: Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel is an exhibition that brings together traditional and contemporary art to illuminate the relationship between our intentions, commitments, and actions. Inspired by concepts related to Buddhist prayer wheels — ritual objects containing thousands of written prayers and mantras — the show looks at how we can empower ourselves to create positive change within and between us. This marks the official opening of Power: Within and Between Us — the Rubin’s yearlong, institution-wide thematic exploration, incorporating exhibitions, talks, programs, and experiences designed to spark new ways of thinking about power, from intention to action. 

Prayer Wheels can be small handheld devices turned by hand or large, building-size structures that can only be rotated with effort, often by several people working together. With each turn, the mantras are believed to be read and sent out into the world for the benefit of all.

The Power of Intention: Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel expands on this idea, highlighting the potential of intention to kindle positive change. It explores the notions and concepts inherent in the construction, activation, and meaning of the prayer wheels, including the power of commitment, engagement, repetition, accumulation, and belief.” — The Rubin Museum of Art 

Photographs by Corrado Serra.

Left: Youdhi Maharjan (b. 1984, Kathmandu, Nepal); Committed to Becoming; 2018; hand cut text collage on reclaimed book pages; 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.64 cm); courtesy of the artist. Right: Table-Top Prayer Wheel (manl ‘khor lo); Tibet; before 1936; copper-alloy, tin-alloy, steel, ink, paper, cloth; Newark Museum; Newark Museum Purchase 1936, Carter D. Holton Collection, 36.323 A-C.

Left: Pierced Handheld Prayer Wheel (mani lag ‘khor); Tibet; before 1927; copper-alloy, steel, glass, ink, paper, bamboo; Newark Museum; Gift of Mrs. J. B. Barlow, 1927, 27.653 A-D. Right: Youdhi Maharjan (b. 1984, Kathmandu, Nepal); Power of Thought; 2018; cutout text collage on reclaimed book pages; 22 1/8 x 30 5/8 in. (51.2 x 77.8 cm); courtesy of the artist.

Monika Bravo (b. 1964, Bogotá, Columbia); Landscape of Belief; 2012; glass, mirror, projector, media player, aluminum, wood, text from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, time-based electronic installation; courtesy of the artist and Johannes Vogt Gallery.

Scenocosme: Gregory Lasserre (b. 1976, Annecy, France) & Anaïs met den Ancxt (b. 1981, Lyon, France); Metamorphy; 2014; interactive installation; courtesy of the artists.

Alexandra Dementieva (b. 1960, Moscow, Russia); Breathless; 2012; interactive light object with production by Cyland MediaLab, VGC (Vlaamse Gemeenschapscomissie) (BE), and Adem vzw (BE), support from iMAL asbl/vzw and Flemish Ministry of Culture, programming and engineering by Aleksey Grachev and Sergey Komarov, and breath detector/Interface-Z construction by Peter Maschke; courtesy of the artist.

Installation view

Left: Avalokiteshvara; Central Tibet; 14th–15th century; pigments on cloth; courtesy of the Stephen and Sharon Davies Collection. Right: Wind-Powered Prayer Wheel (mani rlung ‘khor); Tibet; before 1920; metal, ink, paper, bamboo, string; Newark Museum; Newark Museum Purchase 1920, 20.406 A-C.

Left: Charwei Tsai (b. 1980, Taipei, Taiwan); A Supplication; 2019; watercolor and ink on rice paper; 59 x 59 in. (150 x 150 cm); courtesy of the artist. Right: Charwei Tsai (b. 1980, Taipei, Taiwan); Spiral Incense; 2019; natural herbs/herbal medicine; diameter 39.4 in. (100 cm); courtesy of the artist.

“We may not think of our intentions as sources of power; however they are the driving force behind each of our actions. This exhibition invites us to change how we think about power and consider that we can use our own intentions to empower ourselves and create change for ourselves and others,” said Elena Pakhoutova, curator of Himalayan Art and organizer of “Power of Intention.” She added, “Commitment, considered an integral component of an intention, powers a person to carry the intention into action, however small it may be. Then, a conscious positive action replaces what might have been a habit or mindless act. Prayer wheels are a symbolic reference point for visitors’ experiences of the contemporary works of art in the exhibition, where each work relates to a specific notion that helps reinforce our individual intentions and spark positive action.”