This morning, mumbling my way into the day, the words Lost Buddhas percolated in my consciousness. Art Gallery of NSW I thought. A show perhaps about to close, I'd better go. I went. It has only just opened, so was full of earnest lumpy bodies of Sydneysiders seeking - what? Satori? Beautifully staged and lit, if a little self-consciously theatrical. Won't try to say what the images are like. Their straight-backed unworldliness a rebuke to my own lumpy earnest body, their serenity a thousand years away from my desiring, never silent mind. After a while the press of people was irritating, the overheard fragments of conversation a distraction. I went out and across the hall to look at the Otto Dix Krieg that was displayed in the gallery there.

As I had with the Buddhas, I somehow failed to follow the images in the order they are in the exhibition, coming in and out of sequence in a random fashion, trying just to look, trying not to read the wall texts, to remain uninvolved in the debate they constructed between ugliness and beauty, observation and interpretation. It was clear anyway that the album is made up of things that OD had really seen or remembered seeing. Some I had seen before; some cannot be forgotten, no matter how hard you try: as if it might be better not to look, not to see. Too late:

I was not distressed or alarmed, after all I was in a gallery, I looked, saw and passed on. There was hardly anybody in there. In a dark back room, some footage from the first world krieg, soldiers eating in that speeded up way of old film, amazed to be granted this strange immortality, a small dark man with round glasses and a brief moustache, blasted buildings, old windowed obelisks of ruin in some European city. Then I went back in to see the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas again. The abhaya mudra, dispelling fear, the varada mudra, munificence: would they have changed, would I?


No comments: