This 12min video performance installation provides a ‘crossing of the threshold’ from the ordinary busy mental noise into an intense and introspective headspace that centers on the concept of here and now. The clips and audio have been stitched together in a web of sound and moving pictures to illustrate the “monkey mind,” a Buddhist term describing the seemingly ceaseless chatter of mind. Duckworth sits in meditation facing the audience for the duration of the video as the image is projected on top of and around him, a visual illustration of centering amidst the noise. AWAKE is a mirror of Duckworth’s ongoing mindfulness meditation practice, a practice that ultimately informs daily decisions and choices, leading to new awareness and a deeper understanding of himself and his environment.
ROOM 2: PARADOX & CONFUSION
The Guardians of Truth
After exiting the AWAKE performance video in Room 1, each guest is instructed to switch wireless headsets to Zone 2 for an original ambient composition by Grammy and Tony Award winning musician Duncan Sheik, serving as the soundtrack to the next five rooms. Upon entering the room visitors encounter two identical compositions, painted in opposite colors, facing each other on opposing walls. Giant wall-mounted vinyl closeups cover the entire wall behind each painting. The effect acts as an immersive passageway. Inspired by Zen temples in Japan, where one will often encounter two fierce, demon-like figures at either side of the entrance referred to as the guardians of truth and named Paradox and Confusion. The temple represents each individual’s interior mind, where truth can be found only after passing beyond paradox and confusion.
ROOM 3: NATURE
Understanding Ceaseless Change
Visitors then proceed to Room 3, where a series of nine large Landscape Abstracts were installed. The photographs read like paintings, that move and float with an internal rhythm. Through the ongoing, decade-spanning creation and production of this series of photographs, Duckworth has developed a deeper awareness of the rhythms of nature. This work conveys our natural surroundings with a meditative aspect derived from both process and subject matter. Nature is ceaselessly changing, and upon further observation one can realize this ceaseless change is reflected in ourselves. “Nature is not something external, something outside of us," Duckworth explains, "We are nature, and understanding this fundamental interconnectedness evokes our natural tendency towards non-harming, of ourselves and our environment.”
ROOM 4: INTO THE VOID
Wisdom is Unknowing
Following "Nature" visitors step "Into the Void". This installation is composed of two giant wall mounted vinyl photographs, installed on an existing 10x11' elevator shaft in the shape of a three-dimensional cube within the space. The spacial arrangement within each photograph (one of a giant sculpted Buddha head and one of a cypress tree in a swamp) is that of a cube the same exact proportional dimensions as the actual elevator shaft, creating the illusion of interior depth. The idea is an attempt to visually demonstrate the notion of “beginner’s mind.” Practicing this view cultivates the ability to approach life with an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” - Shunryu Suzuki
ROOM 5: LABORATORY
Practicing Curious Anticipation
The Laboratory contains seven paintings, and three large framed works on paper. This work expands upon John’s exploration of a cross-cultural dialogue between Eastern contemplative practices and Western contemporary culture, while experimenting with varied techniques of screen-printing and painting. It is in this series where Duckworth’s work shifts both visually and conceptually. Continuing his practice of ‘curious anticipation,’ he has embraced the unknown, allowing the work to illustrate his inner explorations. These works at once investigate themes of media excess, artificiality and biology, life and death, and the disorderly and orderly. Many of the multi-layered paintings visually shift and reveal alternate content depending on proximity to the work.
ROOM 6: INSTRUCTIONS
Inspiration Through Process
As you enter the room there are six large paintings to the left, and 42 works on paper cover the entirety of the right wall of the room, mounted directly to the wall in a close-knit grid. Duckworth creates these “sketches” to flesh out preliminary ideas for the larger, more fully realized Buddha paintings in the next room. Their placement provides a singular glimpse at the component parts that make up the Buddha series of paintings. The multitude of layers, repetitive imagery, and sheer volume of pieces indicates the tenacity and consistency of Duckworth’s practice and investigation - displaying the depth and interconnectivity of content, technique, and on a greater scope, the synergy between his artistic practice and daily life. Duckworth says, “I don’t wait for inspiration to bloom, I’ve found it arises naturally from my daily creative practice: inspiration comes out of the work.”
ROOM 7: BUDDHA CHAPEL
All as One
Culminating in the center of the gallery, visitors encounter the Buddha Chapel, where they are encouraged to remove their headsets to listen to Zone 3. This audio is played through house speakers located in this room only, and is an endless loop of a dynamic percussion track composed and performed by Quentin Baxter, Grammy nominated jazz musician & producer. The 16 Buddha paintings in the Chapel are embedded with Eastern spiritual and art historical iconography and text, juxtaposed with imagery from contemporary Western culture and nature. Embodying these thematic concepts, this body of work evokes questions of identity, purpose, and perspective. In this intimate quasi-spiritual space, the large, content and color-rich paintings surround audiences to create a highly subjective experience that encourages understanding, reflection, and contemplation.
ROOM 8: WITNESS
Awareness, Choice, Perception
The exhibition is bookended by a second video installation, offered as a moment of contemplation of the exhibition experience. This room contains two 15-minute videos projected side by side, one is clouds, and the other of water. Viewers are instructed to put headsets back on and switch to Zone 4, an original musical score by composer Lee Barbour. The videos, entitled "Be Like Water", are inspired by a translation of a Tao Te Ching concept "water is fluid, soft and yielding. but water will wear away rock which is rigid and cannot yield." Duckworth is drawn to this idea of embodying easefulness and grace, while still containing immense power and strength. This room offers the opportunity to sit and observe, to embrace the ‘witness’ within us and practice watching our thoughts pass as momentary as clouds in the sky or ripples in the water.