The Big Picture

“I always think making art in this world we’re living in is political,” Ms. Monk said. “But I’ve never been a ‘pointy’ kind of artist. Am I supposed to be telling people to call up the guys to not have fracking?”

This quote from Meredith Monk lets us know that her work doesn’t readily reveal her thoughts or feelings. In “On Behalf of Nature,” Monk is attempting to narrate as nature as opposed to speaking about it.

Monk is more interested in creating an experience that distracts the viewer from the difficult world that we are living in.

As a student of Buddhism, she takes on several aesthetic characteristics that are connected to Buddhism such as silence, stillness, flexible time, and presence.

Her use of flexible time is something of particular interest in her work, “Ellis Island.” She refers to time as a “sculptural element, compressing it and extending it. This idea of simultaneous time is something I do a lot in my work.” She also uses color and black and white to portray present and past. Lewis Hines photography of immigrants was of great influence to Monk in use of black and white film.

Lewis-Hine-Italian-immigrants-at-Ellis-Island-New-York-1905 ellis2460x276

Monk’s most famous work, “16 Millimeter Earrings,” was created in a time (1966) prior to vast technological advances. In this piece, Monk was able to create perceptual imagery through the use of her creativity. Layering prop, multiple audio tracks, lighting, framing, projections; all very simple elements, was able to create synaesthetic optical illusions.



4 thoughts on “The Big Picture

  1. When you mentioned her Buddhist beliefs and ideas, I could easily see that in her work. If she made work that was “pointy”, what she wanted to achieve would just be perceived as a reaction thusly undermining it. In “Behalf of Nature” when they all were singing “dah dah” with the symbols behind, it made me think of the beauty of rain and the organic power behind it. The dancers didn’t have to do anything too explicit for me to feel something.


    1. I find the music in “On Behalf of Nature” so hauntingly beautiful and the xylophone melody in the background reminds me of the music my little guy listens to. It’s like the innocence of the physical planet swarmed with the negative energy of its exploitation.


  2. Hello Danielle,

    I just wanted to say that I completely appreciate the time and dedication that you put in this blog site. Through your blog site I have gain so much insight of who Meredith Monk is. Through your own personal research and videos, I have seen how she work, how she internalize Buddhism through her work metaphorically. Through all the given information I am interested more into her background. Who her parents were and what made her become a Buddhist because her religion impacted her work tremendously.


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed looking at the site! The template I chose had an “about” section so there is more about her upbringing (parents, etcetera) if you are intested in learning more about her history.


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