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Bruce H Gundersen
Brooklyn, NY
Neighborhood: Red Hook


ARTIST STATEMENT: For the past eleven years my artistic endeavors have involved photographing and digitally narrating the folklore of Southeast Asia. To date I have worked extensively in Thailand, Cambodia and in Lao with the support of the ACCNY. In 2004 I spent six weeks in Burma shooting a documentary video “Tabaung the loveliest season of the year”, documenting dance at the National School of Dance and Music in Mandalay, three Nat Pwes, Pyin U Lwin, Zeedaw and Taungbyon and a Zat Pwe at the Pindaya Cave Festival. My visual artwork explores complex visual ambiguities, perceptually bridging painting and photography. Being fascinated by the interplay between supernatural and corporeal world, my work is filled with characters vividly depicted through art. It reflects a contemporary approach to an ancient codified language of gesture and storytelling, similar to that of Buddhist monks traveling with silk paintings narrating the life of the Buddha. After intensive research, I travel to Asia with a storyboard of scenes to be depicted. I photograph local actors, dancers and lay people in key postures to represent characters from the tales. Also photographed are architecture, landscapes and other objects essential to the story. Textures are added to create depth to the final project; I photograph a variety of objects such as cloth, paper, mold, or bits of paintings. I use these elements as digital building blocks to be layered into painterly photomontages, softening bits of the images to bring a sense of impermanence, creating an image-based palimpsest. The final presentation is dye-sublimation prints on poly pongee with handkerchief rolled edges. The over all effect is somewhere between photography and painting, paying homage to the indigenous visual folk vernacular. In addition, tension is created by pairing the sense of antiquity each piece evokes with the contemporary techniques used to create it, which include digital photography and manipulation, the concept of sampling, and digital printing. If this grant were awarded it would enable to complete work in all Southeast Asian countries west of the Annamites, those countries that incorporate the influences of Hindu culture. Buddhism in Myanmar has influences of belief systems some of which predated The Theravada School. Myanmar historically had a rich blend of influences including but not limited to Mahayana, Tantric Buddhism and Ari beliefs such as the planetary worship, alchemy and Nat (spirit) worship. Though now a Theravada Buddhist country many of these beliefs remain a rich part of the Burmese collective unconscious. This blending of beliefs gives Burmese folklore a unique quality that lends itself to my visual exploration.

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