Christopher Bono, “The Unexcelled Mantra”
Film written and directed by Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir
©2013 Our Silent Canvas
Icelandic visual artist Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir created a new video inspired by my recent choral work, “The Unexcelled Mantra”.
This is the first of two videos created in response to two new choral works — The Unexcelled Mantra and Unity — both of which were recorded and released in October by the New York Virtuoso Singers led by Harold Rosenbaum on Our Silent Canvas. The next video, by artist Tobias Stretch for Bono’s work Unity, will be available on December 3. In the spirit of experimentation and creativity, I encouraged as much artistic freedom as possible to both film artists, allowing them to create their own personal statements in response to the music.
The Unexcelled Mantra is a setting of text from the Heart Sutra, a sacred text in Mahayana Buddhism on understanding Shunyata, or Emptiness, in order to realize Nirvana. The mantra reads “gaté gaté paragaté parasamgaté bodhi svaha,” which can be translated as “Go, go, go beyond, go totally beyond, be rooted in the ground of enlightenment.”
Of her video for The Unexcelled Mantra, Birgisdóttir says, “In this video I rearranged body parts and made some hominoid- jellyfish creatures floating amidst the Icelandic landscape. They appear, linger for a little while and then float away. They represent the impermanent and transient nature of existence and how we are constantly changing and reinventing ourselves. Although there is a quality of sameness within our being, we are always growing and mutating like the strange, amorphous entities of the video.”
Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir graduated from the visual arts department of the Icelandic Art Academy in 2006. She held her first solo exhibition in the Reykjavík Art Museum in 2009 and has exhibited both in Europe and America. Birgisdóttir has made album covers and music videos for bands such as Sigurrós, Jónsi, Múm, Seabear, Sin Fang, Sóley and many more and released her first film Grandma Lo-Fi, The Basement Tapes of Sigrí!ur Níelsdóttir in 2011. She lives and works in Reykjavík.
The Unexcelled Mantra and Unity, contemplate the search for a modern form of spirituality. Both works explore a path to transcendence or ‘true being’ through union with the cosmos — The Unexcelled Mantra from a Mahayana Buddhist point of view and Unity from the Western philosophical tradition of Plato.
Visual artist DZO Olivier has created original illustrations for the cover art for Unity and The Unexcelled Mantra audio recordings, intimately influenced by Bono’s music and the concepts it explores.