Meditation Altars consists of two sculptures, American Buddhist (2016) and Meditation Square (2016). Both sculptures investigate the use of meditation as a soldier training device by the US Army. Unlike the traditional view of basic training, immortalized most notably by Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket in which American soldiers prepare for combat under the training of a sadistic taskmaster, these new techniques deploy a more holistic approach. American Buddhist displays a video of a soldier meditation session on a US Army base in Iraq. The video is a public domain video sourced directly from the US Army. Around the flat panel monitor are several plush toys of stuffed Buddhas meant for children, garlands of fake orange flowers, and a framed text panel. The second sculpture, Meditation Square features a 60 cm bronze replica of the Saddam Hussein statue in Firdos Square being toppled in April 2003 during the Iraq War. Necklaces of wooden prayer beads are draped around the statue´s neck, an allusion to both the ropes seen in the news photographs and to Saddam’s execution by hanging. Below the statue, on the two lower levels of the altar, are eight framed photographs sourced from various US Army websites, showing images of soldiers meditating, often with eyes closed and in Lotus position as well as one group photograph of soldiers reposing in the aptly named Corpse pose. Meditation Square literalizes the promise of mind over matter, taking it to its absurd but logical conclusion – the soldiers appear to be destroying the bronze statue with the powers of their own optimized, meditation-fueled brains.
2016, wood, bronze, framed photos, monitor, headphones, objects