Contempt Mandala, Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, CA, 2008
The point of departure for the Contempt Mandala project is Jean Luc Godard's 1963 film Contempt (Le Mepris) which is about the making of a film and the dissolution of a marriage. It simultaneously explores the creative process and the fragility of human relationships.
The project launches Godard's protagonist on an odyssey that takes him from the island of Capri to Jaipur, India and finally Saigon, Vietnam. The character's journey and the artist's is chronicled in sculpture, drawing, painting, video, and in the catalogue for the installation as well.
Godard said "A story should have a beginning a middle and an ending, but not necessarily in that order." The Contempt Mandala installation is non-linear in its structure. One can enter it at any point. It is organized like the mandala, moving from the center outwards and back again into the center.
The Casa Malaparte, the site of the dissolution of Paul and Camille's marriage, is at the center of this installation. The center point is a site of instability, and change rather than a place of rest and return. The cosmos in Contempt Mandala-Capri, Jaipur and Saigon-hovers uneasily between myth and reality, the original and the appropriated, the expressive and the formal, the universal and the personal.
Godard's Contempt is based on a novel by Alberto Moravia, A Ghost at Noon, which is a commentary on Homer's oral epic the Odyessy. Contempt Mandala interrogates Godard's film using sculpture, video and painting. Both the 1963 film and the contemporary installation examine ideas of translation - across cultures, through time, and from one medium to another.
The Buddhist mandala, a cosmic diagram, is the organizing principle of the installation. Every element of the installation proceeds from and returns to the center, a radially symmetrical sectioned table on which is a model of the Casa Malaparte a modernist building where the second part of Contempt was filmed. The installation conflates the personal cosmology of the artist with Godard's film, relocating the characters and narrative from Italy to India and Vietnam.
Contempt Mandala comprises the following components:
Four videos in which excerpts from Godard's film are intercut with images of the installation-in-progress, the Jantar Mantar (an 18th century observatory in Jaipur) scenes from the 1957 film The Quiet American and shots of contemporary Vietnam
A 15' diameter table on which is an architectural model and sculptures
Twenty paintings of the Jantar Mantar and components of the installation done by Harish Chandra Sain in the style of Rajasthan miniature paintings
A 10' x 14' painting based on De Chirico's The Return of Ulysses
Ten plaster sculptures incorporating models of the Casa Malaparte
Two mixed media sculptures that accompany The Return of Ulysses and the mandala table
The Floating City, a kinetic sculpture organized around a map of Saigon, Vietnam
A 10’ x 6’ ink and gouache drawing on paper of the Narivalaya Uttar Gola Yantra, (an astronomical instrument)