The Gendün Chöphel Passion Project explores the fascinating life of Gendün Chöphel, a Tibetan monk who forsook his monastic vows in the 1930s, wanting to learn what it meant to be alive in the modern, rapidly changing world through his travels across India, and through ideas on sexual intimacy.
Drawing from Chöphel’s whimsical, sexually graphic, and progressive 1937 refection on the inner workings of human desire, Treatise on Passion, Soon’s project focuses on a speculative history of Himalayan modernism in the form of lo-f video collages that pay homage to the compositional principles and techniques of reproduction found in printed devotional images. The project’s formal principles are inspired by historical Newa festival woodblock prints, Tibetan photographic portraits of tulkus or reincarnated guru-lamas, as well as animated Tamil Malaysian devotional posters of Ayya and Muni guardian spirits shared on social media.
The video collages, or posters, imagine the artistic or cultural references that Chöphel may have come across during his travels in India and Sri Lanka in the 1930s. Conjured up in equal parts as meditation, reverie, and wish fulfllment, these visuals collide and converge on Instagram, intended as an innate mediation by the viewer through their phone screen, from which a new composite vision of the past and future come into existence.
Commissioned for Kathmandu Triennale 2077. The artist's participation is made possible with support from the Saraf Foundation Grant.